Hey, that Sonny Rollins piece (well, it wasn’t really a Sonny Rollins piece, but you know…) by Django Gold (who said in a comment on a blogpost that that’s his real name) in The New Yorker (on its website, anyway, by way of Gold, who mostly works for The Onion) got a lot of attention, didn’t it?
It made a lot of jazz fans upset, and they chimed in. And it made a lot of people who don’t like jazz, or don’t know jazz but think they probably wouldn’t like it, or are a little scared by jazz, or sort of like some jazz but like to pile anyway on when there’s a chance to put something or someone down and feel good about themselves while doing it—yeah, all those people chimed in too, right?
And all those blogposts and Facebook likes and tweets and online comments, that’s got to mean it was all important. Like the writer was onto something, had something to say, touched a nerve.
Hey, the jazz world should be happy for all the attention, given the paltry sales of jazz recordings. That community is so high and mighty, really, someone needs to set things straight, call them out, no?
Problem with Django Gold was that he picked on one guy. The wrong guy—Rollins, who, well, isn’t known as Colossus for nothing, has a lot of friends (many with regular columns in print and online), and isn’t dead yet (so he can speak up, and did).
Problem with Gold was that he picked on just one guy, instead of just jazz by name.
The above was told to me by Justin Moyer, who wrote a gripping column in the Washington Post’s online Opinions section, with the title “All That Jazz Isn’t All That Great.” (Gripping, as in the slight sweat and tremors you feel when, say, the fish wasn’t fully cooked).
Ok, Moyer really didn’t tell me anything. Never spoke to the guy. But since when does that matter, in the post-Django-Gold discourse about culture? Continue reading “Sonnygate's Spawn”
Sonnygate Redux: The New Yorker, and Rollins' Own Words
I’ll admit to some ambivalence about turning our attention to this matter, especially since it’s no longer breaking news. Yet here goes:
By now you may be aware of a “Daily Shouts” column at The New Yorker magazine’s website, posted last Thursday under the title “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words,” and bylined to Django Gold, who is a senior writer at the news-satire outlet, The Onion.
In 11 brief paragraphs, the celebrated 83-year-old tenor saxophonist made confessions such as these:
I really don’t know why I keep doing this. Inertia, I guess. Once you get stuck in a rut, it’s difficult to pull yourself out, even if you hate every minute of it. Maybe I’m just a coward.
I released fifty-odd albums, wrote hundreds of songs, and played on God knows how many session dates. Some of my recordings are in the Library of Congress. That’s idiotic. They ought to burn that building to the ground. I hate music. I wasted my life.
Only these weren’t Rollins’ words. They were Gold’s.
New Yorker readers might not have known this, since the website made no mention of the fact that Gold made the stuff up in a now-apparent effort to by funny. I happened to be in Maine, with little access to the internet or even cell service when I caught wind of all this. At the time, I’d read only the first three paragraphs on my phone, which ended like this:
Jazz might be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with. The band starts a song, but then everything falls apart and the musicians just play whatever they want for as long they can stand it. People take turns noodling around, and once they run out of ideas and have to stop, the audience claps. I’m getting angry just thinking about it.
I’d considered the idea that this really was Rollins, and that once I had a chance to read on, the text would pay off. After all, Rollins has a playful sense of humor; his statements sometimes do begin with a dodge, followed by a weave, only to make his point stronger (same is true of some of his wondrous extended tenor-saxophone solos).
But once I read the whole column, nothing like that happened. No dodge, no weave, no payoff. Just more of the same: flat, foolish, and obviously not Rollins.
I knew so, but many who were drawn to the New Yorker site by this promotional Twitter feed from the magazine might not have been so clear.
A wave of online confusion followed. Facebook posts, tweets, and online posts wondered: Was this Rollins speaking? Was he misquoted and taken wildly out of context? Who is Django Gold, and did he ever actually meet Rollins? If it was a gag, was Rollins in on it? What did Rollins think? Continue reading “Sonnygate Redux: The New Yorker, and Rollins' Own Words”