Europe, Taxes and All That Jazz


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Reading about the impending demise of the JazzBaltica festival, and noting the European allusion in Matt's recent posting, it struck me how unexamined is this business of European jazz subsidy-and how seemingly anomalous. What's actually behind their willingness to lay out tax spondulics? The meager explanation we've been fed all along is that Europeans are simply “more cultured" than we Americans, care more about the arts, etc. Come on, people, does this 19th century explanation ring true to you? Not to me.

Yes, there is a long history here. James Reese Europe's Hellfighters made a big splash all the way back in WW I (they liked his name or his music?). Louis, Bechet and others cut a wide early swath. Europe acquired a reputation as a less racist environment and some small percentage-especially black musicians, have chosen to stay there. It was the French who created serious jazz criticism and historiography. No doubt, there's a certain amount of hubris inhering in all that for Europeans. Whether it's completely justifiable or not-well...

All that's on the one hand.

On the other, I've been over there a lot as, no doubt, many readers of this blog have. I played music in the streets, subways and clubs, hung out, did some recording, etc. and I just didn't see or experience much difference between the way Europeans relate to the consumption or production of music and the way Americans do.

If you're looking at aesthetics, the devil knows the popular music over there is at least as bad as ours is-maybe worse. Bravo to them for taking more lunch and vacation time to chill, but like us, people spend most of their time thinking about food, booze, sex and money (the order varies).

This is not just idle speculation. The foundation is cracking and we need to do some real analysis before the edifice simply evaporates.

Why did this tax trickle-down happen for so long? What fed the machine and greased the wheels? The weight of history may have played some part, but what kind of business/government linkages were necessary and how were they forged? If national self-image was a driving force, how do jazz promoters leverage that in US marketing? If movable feasts seemed preferable to permanent Temples of High Culture, how did the money flow to one and not the other?
Good answers are hard to come by, but they can only come after the right questions have been unearthed and asked.

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This story appears courtesy of Brilliant Corners, a Boston Jazz Blog.
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