Zac Brown & Ahmad Jamal Are Both Right

Friday, 20 September 2013 09:24 AM Written by 

I found recent news stories regarding Zac Brown's musical viewpoints and those of Pittsburgh-born jazz piano icon Ahmad Jamal reflected some interesting viewpoints.

Zac Brown:

Well, Zac Brown has caught hell for his pointed, uninhibited comments regarding Luke Bryan's current single and its merits, or lack thereof. The target: Bryan's "That's My Kind of Night" from his current immensely successful album Crash My Party.

Speaking to a Vancouver radio station, Brown noted there was "not a lot of the country format that I enjoy listening to." He made it clear he wasn't attacking Bryan personally and, while praising some of his past work, called "Night" "the worst I've ever heard."  The story is at this link.

He added "If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up. There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists.”

Justin Moore, who considers himself an "outlaw" without understanding what the hell that term ever meant in country music, criticized Brown's remarks.  Here's that article.

Moore, whose music (in my opinion) consists largely of mediocre, manufactured, hook-laden songs sung over a musical bed of rock clichés, has every right to his views.  I especially enjoyed the comment, “… I don’t have a problem with people having their own opinions, but where I do have a problem with it is when you call out somebody in your fraternity."

How utterly… Nashville. Don't criticize someone in "your fraternity." That's been the party line there for decades. Note to Justin: one of Nashville's true "Outlaws," the late Waylon Jennings didn't hesitate to criticize other acts if he had something to say.

Brown is one of the few singers today who thanks to his band, has a distinct sound, who has worked to create a diverse, rich music that incorporates a variety of influences, not just barfed-up 80's rock clichés like so many around now.

As for Bryan, I had a few things to say about his Crash My Party album on August 22 when I reviewed it in the PG's A&E Section. Note the upset Facebook comments from fans of another singer I noted as echoing Bryant's problems: Jake Owen.

In case you're wondering, this sort of heated feedback doesn't bother me. I've done this 40 years and angry responses come with the territory. In fact, critics covering any art form, including the PG's fine group of staff critics, exist to offer readers informed viewpoints on the arts, not to simply tell fans what they want to hear.  Some, unfortunately, tend to miss that distinction.

I think Brown has it just about right.   I discussed the rise of manufactured (as opposed to written) Nashville songs in a July posting.

If anyone can be a critic, that applies to Brown, or for that matter, Moore.

Ahmad Jamal:

Pittsburgh-born jazz piano great Ahmad Jamal, appearing at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's "Pittsburgh Jazz Legends Party" on September 28, was interviewed in City Paper this past Wednesday. The interview was quite insightful and demonstrated, among other things, that while Jamal no longer resides here, he has his finger on the pulse of what's going on—and not going on--locally. Click here to read it.

The author's comments regarding jazz radio in the area merit a bit of minor clarification. Pittsburgh Public Media was formed for the purpose of purchasing WDUQ from Duquesne University. It was formed in early 2010 after the University announced the sale, not "in the wake of the sale" itself.

Despite submitting the higher bid, PPM was unsuccessful in buying DUQ, now WESA. But in 2012, the group was reorganized to purchase the 88.1 signal owned by Bethany College. As WYZR-FM, it broadcasts the online Pittsburgh Jazz Channel with plans to reinstitute live programming in the near future, per Adrian McCoy's story.

WYZR's website just went online.

It's no secret their signal doesn't carry into all areas of the South Hills at this point (some areas can pick it up) and they've stressed this is a beginning, not the final goal.

What hasn't been adequately pointed out is anyone with a smartphone, a Pad with Wi-fi or a wired laptop PC with can listen right now.

Here is info about online listening.

This link covers listening on smartphones.

Jamal, one of my favorite jazz pianists along with Burghers Erroll Garner and Dodo Marmarosa, has it right when he asks "what stations play jazz?" WESA's six hour Saturday night jazz is what it is, as is its HD1 jazz format (few use High-Def radios)

Nonetheless, slowly but steadily, jazz 24/7 (which DUQ didn't even do) is back online and slowly, on the air, fulfilling Jamal's comments. One hopes he's made aware of that when he visits.

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