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TitleWhere the Dark and the Light Folks Meet: Race and the Mythology, Politics, and Business of Jazz
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Table of Contents
                            Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet
Series Editor’s Foreword
Chapter 01: Is Jazz About Music Anymore?
Chapter 02: The Activist Jazz Writers
Chapter 03: Good Intentions and Bad History
Chapter 04: What Gets Left Out
Chapter 05: The Road to Radicalism
Chapter 06: Radical Ideas and Retro Music
Chapter 07: The Biggest Myth of All
Chapter 08: It’s Strictly Business
Chapter 09: Copyrights: Accounting Without Accountability
Chapter 10: Show Me the Money
Chapter 11: Is Everything About Race?
Chapter 12: Tomorrow Is the Question
Books and Interviews Cited
About the Author
Document Text Contents
Page 1




















“What Randy Sandke has to say in these pages is

bound to make you think anew about jazz—agree

with him or not. And he speaks from the heart.”

director of the Institute of Jazz Studies,

Rutgers University, and coeditor of the

Studies in Jazz series

Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet tackles
a controversial question: Is jazz the product of

an insulated African American environment,

shut off from the rest of society by strictures of

segregation and discrimination, or is it more

properly understood as the juncture of a wide

variety of infl uences under the broader umbrella

of American culture? Randall Sandke does not

question that jazz was created and largely driven

by African Americans but rather posits that black

culture has been more open to outside infl uences

than most commentators are likely to admit. Th e

majority of jazz writers, past and present, have

embraced an exclusionary viewpoint. Th e book

begins by looking at many of these writers, from

the birth of jazz history to the present day, to see

how and why their views have strayed from the

historical record. It challenges many widely held

beliefs regarding the history and nature of jazz

in an attempt to free jazz from the sociopolitical

baggage that has so encumbered it. Th e result is

a truer appreciation of the music and a greater

understanding of the positive infl uences between

racial interaction and jazz music.


Randall Sandke has been a professional jazz
musician for more than thirty years. He is the

author of Harmony for a New Millennium: An
Introduction to Metatonal Music (2002) and has
contributed to � e Oxford Companion to Jazz and
the Annual Review of Jazz Studies (2000).

For orders and information please contact the publisher


A wholly owned subsidiary of

Th e Rowman & Littlefi eld Publishing Group, Inc.

4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200

Lanham, Maryland 20706


fax 717-794-3803

Cover image: Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong in

the 1950 MGM fi lm � e Strip. Courtesy of the Institute
of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University.

Jacket design by Allison Nealon

“Genuine research involves the discovery of unknown or neglected materials and their

analysis in ways that yield fresh insights. Randy Sandke’s book meets this standard and

therefore warrants careful attention. It is neither the fi rst nor last book on the subject, but

an important and serious contribution to our deeper understanding of the music we love.”

author of Red and Hot: � e Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union,
1917 �91 and Louis Moreau Gottschalk

“Randy Sandke’s research and documentation are thorough. His insights and opinions are

forthright. His book will infuriate its targets, those in the music world who place myth,

race, nationality, sociology, politics, and commerce above music itself. Everyone else will

fi nd it revealing, thought-provoking, and helpful.” —DOUG RAMSEY,
author of Jazz Matters: Re� ections on the Music and Some of Its Makers

“In this compelling adduction of new evidence and analysis, Sandke forensically dissects

jazz history and shows it, to paraphrase Ralph Ellison, to be ‘ever a tall tale told by inat-

tentive idealists’ where myth and legend frequently obscure a less prosaic truth. It is a

book that needed to be written and seems sure to inspire countless lines of fresh academic

author of Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved to a New Address)

“With a much-needed blend of careful research, common sense, passion, insight, and (at

times) indignation, Randy Sandke sets the record straight about how the divisive racial

mythology of jazz’s origins and nature came to be. One hopes that Where the Dark and the
Light Folks Meet will do as much good as it deserves to do.” —LARRY KART,
author of Jazz in Search of Itself

“Randy Sandke brings his wide range of experience as a jazz musician and composer to a

discussion of jazz history and jazz criticism that is must reading for anyone interested in

the elements—and the people—that have created the canons and contradictions of this

endlessly fascinating art form.” —GEORGE AVAKIAN,
record producer and jazz historian

J a z z H i s t o r y • M u s i c a n d P o l i t i c s

Where Light DJ (LSI).indd 1Where Light DJ (LSI).indd 1 12/1/09 4:16:44 PM12/1/09 4:16:44 PM

Page 2

studies in jazz

The Institute of Jazz Studies
Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey
General Editors: Dan Morgenstern and Edward Berger

1. BENNY CARTER: A Life in American Music, by Morroe Berger, Edward Berger, and
James Patrick, 2 vols., 1982

2. ART TATUM: A Guide to His Recorded Music, by Arnold Laubich and Ray Spencer,

3. ERROLL GARNER: The Most Happy Piano, by James M. Doran, 1985
4. JAMES P. JOHNSON: A Case of Mistaken Identity, by Scott E. Brown; Discography

1917–1950, by Robert Hilbert, 1986
5. PEE WEE ERWIN: This Horn for Hire, as told to Warren W. Vaché Sr., 1987
6. BENNY GOODMAN: Listen to His Legacy, by D. Russell Connor, 1988
7. ELLINGTONIA: The Recorded Music of Duke Ellington and His Sidemen, by W. E.

Timner, 1988; 4th ed., 1996
8. THE GLENN MILLER ARMY AIR FORCE BAND: Sustineo Alas / I Sustain the

Wings, by Edward F. Polic; Foreword by George T. Simon, 1989
9. SWING LEGACY, by Chip Deffaa, 1989
10. REMINISCING IN TEMPO: The Life and Times of a Jazz Hustler, by Teddy Reig, with

Edward Berger, 1990
11. IN THE MAINSTREAM: 18 Portraits in Jazz, by Chip Deffaa, 1992
12. BUDDY DeFRANCO: A Biographical Portrait and Discography, by John Kuehn and

Arne Astrup, 1993
13. PEE WEE SPEAKS: A Discography of Pee Wee Russell, by Robert Hilbert, with David

Niven, 1992
14. SYLVESTER AHOLA: The Gloucester Gabriel, by Dick Hill, 1993
15. THE POLICE CARD DISCORD, by Maxwell T. Cohen, 1993
17. BASSICALLY SPEAKING: An Oral History of George Duvivier, by Edward Berger;

Musical Analysis by David Chevan, 1993
18. TRAM: The Frank Trumbauer Story, by Philip R. Evans and Larry F. Kiner, with William

Trumbauer, 1994
19. TOMMY DORSEY: On the Side, by Robert L. Stockdale, 1995
20. JOHN COLTRANE: A Discography and Musical Biography, by Yasuhiro Fujioka, with

Lewis Porter and Yoh-ichi Hamada, 1995
21. RED HEAD: A Chronological Survey of “Red” Nichols and His Five Pennies, by

Stephen M. Stroff, 1996
22. THE RED NICHOLS STORY: After Intermission 1942–1965, by Philip R. Evans, Stanley

Hester, Stephen Hester, and Linda Evans, 1997
23. BENNY GOODMAN: Wrappin’ It Up, by D. Russell Connor, 1996
25. BACK BEATS AND RIM SHOTS: The Johnny Blowers Story, by Warren W. Vaché Sr.,

26. DUKE ELLINGTON: A Listener’s Guide, by Eddie Lambert, 1998
27. SERGE CHALOFF: A Musical Biography and Discography, by Vladimir Simosko,

28. HOT JAZZ: From Harlem to Storyville, by David Griffiths, 1998
29. ARTIE SHAW: A Musical Biography and Discography, by Vladimir Simosko, 2000

Page 144

Radical Ideas and Retro Music 133

observer, Richard Cook, noted, “At a time when a world of diverse music
was becoming more available to consumers than ever before, a dreadful
homogeny was beginning to sweep through dealings of the major record

A much smaller number of white musicians, such as pianist Benny
Green and organist Joey DeFrancesco, were approached by the majors.
(Green was dropped by Blue Note because, as Lundvall explained, “His
records were selling OK, but not enough to justify the escalating ex-
penses.”39) Older white musicians, Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas being
the prime examples, attracted major label support only in the 1990s, after
years of apprenticeship. Lovano was signed to Blue Note in 1991 at the
age of thirty-eight, Douglas to RCA at thirty-seven. Both of their careers
really took off after receiving the kind of support only a major label could
provide. Strong evidence of the record labels’ intent to focus on African-
American jazz artists can be found by looking at the winners of the annual
Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the most prestigious
talent contest in the jazz world. Winners are selected by a panel of noted
jazz professionals on the basis of artistic merit, yet those offered record-
ing contracts have nearly always been black. Jacky Terrasson, Marcus
Roberts, and Joshua Redman all signed major label contracts, whereas
Ted Rosenthal, Jon Gordon, and Bill Cunliffe did not. Of the young white
first-place winners, only trumpeter Ryan Kisor was awarded a deal (by
Columbia), but he was dropped after only two recordings.

Older African-American musicians also suffered as a result of the new
youth orientation of the major labels. Such renowned veterans as pianists
Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones were ignored by the majors during this
period, as were saxophonists Frank Wess and Jimmy Heath. Middle-aged
trumpeter Jon Faddis had no record deal even though at one time two of
his young students did. The venerable saxophonist and composer Benny
Carter, with seven Grammy nominations and two wins under his belt,
was similarly passed over.

The major labels did, for the most part, select extremely talented indi-
viduals to be the new jazz stars. I happen to be a fan of Joshua Redman,
Branford Marsalis, and particularly Nicholas Payton. But the arbitrariness
of their choices, even regarding young black musicians, was also appar-
ent. Such accomplished players as saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist
Kenny Drew Jr., and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon were all overlooked,
even though their music was just as strong—and, I would say, more indi-
vidual—than most of the over-hyped “young lions.”

Apart from controlling distribution of recordings and churning out
expensive publicity, the majors had other ways of rigging the market
on behalf of their clients. Jazz periodicals were dependent on them for
advertising revenue. Though the jazz press strove to maintain editorial

Page 145

134 Chapter 6

autonomy, the line between feature articles and advertising promotion
grew increasingly fuzzy. And of course any recordings released by the
majors were automatically reviewed and given serious attention.

Record companies were able to manipulate club and festival appear-
ances as well. Promotional expenditures for new artists included offering
them gratis to a jazz venue, or as part of a package with more desirable
and established musicians. With nightclubs, record companies would
simply buy out the room, pay for the club’s publicity, or sponsor record
release parties when the venue would otherwise be dark. Record compa-
nies also worked in tandem with major booking agencies, which, as Stuart
Nicholson reported, “effectively decide musicians’ careers: who’s in and
who’s out, who is on the top and who is going down.”40 All costs pertain-
ing to recording and promotion were then charged against the young
artists’ future earnings. Obviously, musicians without similar backing did
not face a level playing field. Such business practices in other industries
would be considered unfair competition, or even “illegal dumping.” But
in the virtually unregulated music business everything was considered
fair game, and ethical questions were routinely ignored in the jazz press.

The result of all this high-powered manipulation is that an air of ar-
tificiality permeates the jazz world, hanging over it like a thick smog.
Musicians have become either brand names or invisible men (or women),
with very few in between. (Miles Davis’s name was actually trademarked
posthumously by his lawyer.) Without the backing of a corporate record
label, musicians have been largely unable to get bookings and reviews
that translate into name recognition and drawing power. The jazz world
of today is more about who’s been granted a chance than who has the
most to say. Musicians fortunate enough to receive such attention may
have great abilities, but their musicianship has become secondary to their
perceived marketability. We are left with a jazz scene nearly devoid of
creativity and risk-taking, and rife with stale tribute concerts and albums.
And as in the classical world, the bulk of the money goes to a few “stars”
who are endlessly written up in the popular and music press.

Of course major label dominance came to a grinding halt in the 2000s as
Internet downloading replaced CD sales, an outcome I discuss in the final
chapter. However, the distorted musical landscape created by corporate
record departments in the 1980s and 1990s is still very much with us.

Paul Johnson notes a depressingly similar trend that seized the art
world from the 1980s onward. He writes of a

self-reinforcing, self-perpetuating oligarchy, which includes art magazines,
critics, professional patrons and, most important, museum directors. These
work in conjunction with state bodies which dispense public funds to
deserving artists, or the judges who award prizes. . . . The artist becomes

Page 288


Randall Sandke has been a working professional jazz musician for the
past thirty years, performing extensively throughout the United States,
Europe, and Japan. He has recorded over thirty albums as a leader, many
featuring his own compositions. Throughout the 1990s he was a frequent
arranger and guest conductor for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. Mr.
Sandke is the author of Harmony for a New Millennium: An Introduction to
Metatonal Music (Second Floor Music, 2001), outlining a new approach to
composition and improvisation based on the use of non-tonal chords. He
has also contributed articles and reviews to The Oxford Companion to Jazz
and the Annual Review of Jazz Studies.

About the Author

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