Sunday, October 12, 2008

Complaining About the MacArthur Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows program has continued in its hallowed tradition of haphazardly awarding $500,000 to random jazzers with a lot of press (God knows they need the money now); occasionally this award helps people who have no money make music (Ken Vandermark, for example) or even helps genius underground tycoons keep clubs and record labels in existence (John Zorn's "The Stone" and Tzadik). There are other times when they encourage people who desperately don't need encouragement; the best example I can think of of this particular phenomenon is Stanley Crouch. Did he need a MacArthur Fellowship? He didn't need the money, what with his lucrative position as Wynton's Rove-esque right hand man at Lincoln Center, nor the encouragement as he's made a habit of trash-talking Bill Evans in public.

Occasionally their choice is simply perplexing. They could give it to anyone. Anyone. Possible (jazz) candidates for a MacArthur Fellowship include Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Marc Ribot, Anat Cohen, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Mehldau, Nels Cline, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Avishai Cohen (bass), Jason Lindner, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, DAVE DOUGLAS, Uri Caine, Chris Potter, Mathias Eick, Jenny Scheinman, Christian Howes, Esperanza Spalding, Tyshawn Sorey, Ron Miles, BILL FRISELL, Matana Roberts, Steven Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Matt Wilson, Aaron Parks, Walter Smith III, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jaleel Shaw, Eric Friedlander, Lage Lund, Mike Moreno... you get the point. And that's only musicians. When you add writers you wind up with everyone from me (I'm all about potential, baby) to Howard Mandel.

You can see for yourselves which contrived composition writing, look-at-what-I-can-do improvisation-creating jazz musician got $500,000 to keep on keeping on instead of Dave Douglas or Bill Frisell, or any of those other people. I know, I know, the MacArthur fellowship is all about potential, and I suppose the guy who won has the potential to, you know, write and play completely different music and find a way to incorporate his folk songs and polyrhythms into a jazz idiom in a way that grooves or makes a statement or both (Like, you know, Vijay, Rudresh, Steve, Lionel... okay okay enough).

No comments: