Thanks for the Minstrel Show

I’m sitting at work, watching Diane and Charlie on Good Morning America learn a new dance called the “Harlem Shuffle.”

Perfect timing. I caught some of Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary on PBS last night. The segment I saw was about the rise of “hard bop” pioneered by drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers in the ’50s and ’60s. Blakey, and pianist Horace Silver, started a “University” at Birdland in Harlem that graduated such musicians as Donald Byrd, Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Chuck Mangione, Woody Shaw, JoAnne Brackcen, and Wynton Marsalis.

One of Blakey’s primary motivations for inventing this new form of modern jazz was to create something that white people could not steal. His idea was that he could create a form of music so “Black” in heart, soul, and swing, that white people would not be able to appropriate it (as they have with most other Black styles) without it looking like a minstrel show.

So now I have Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson jerking their bodies along with a couple of kids from the Harlem Dance Performers, looking like a couple of, well, boring white people at their highschool reunion. Nice, guys. Totally excellent minstrel show you treated me to. No really…thanks.