Ochs Detractor Remains Anonymous

Posted by: Dave Douglas on December 21, 2009 @ 7:54 am
Filed under: Culture, Music

Anyone following this story about the anonymous Siguenza Festival attendee who complained because Larry Ochs’ music wasn’t jazzy enough will be interested to hear that the plot thickens. The Guardian’s Giles Tremlett has taken on the mission of finding the complainer, whose noise has ignited voices from all corners. This guy may just become jazz’s Joe the Purist. Amazing.

Update: The guy has been found. Now what? Read in the comments for news and links. Very strange story.


  1. […] 2 votes vote Ochs Detractor Remains Anonymous Anyone following this story about the anonymous Siguenza Festival attendee who complained […]

    Pingback by Ochs Detractor Remains Anonymous — December 21, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  2. Well, they found the guy. Wynton insists he meant to keep the whole thing private and meant no disrespect to Larry. Too bad, they don’t know all the great music they are missing. I’m proud to be an impurist!

    Comment by Gary — December 22, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  3. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, it is the unacceptance and intolerance of any musical style that hurts all forms of artistic music. I believe Mr. Marsalis’s actions were disrespectful to the jazz community and its image. I feel that Mr. Marsalis has spat in the face of Mr. Ochs, his band and every other working jazz musician who works hard to have their music heard by a society that has a hard time listening.

    Comment by Nick — December 22, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  4. Right on Nick …

    Comment by Mike Grimaldi — December 22, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  5. Marsalis has been disrespecting other musicians for a long time now, but this surely is a new low. Maybe it will wake up some of the people who take his pronouncements on jazz as gospel and some good can come of this. Hopefully Larry will get some extra work for the band out of all the publicity.

    Comment by Gary — December 22, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  6. This is just like the Moldy Figs who thought the boppers were destroying jazz. The Jazz Police will never die, and expensive Italian suits will never go out of style. But what the J.P. don’t understand is the meaning of Amiri Baraka’s brilliant definition of jazz. Baraka said jazz is the “changing same,” not the same same. The only constant is change.

    Comment by Don — December 22, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  7. It was a while back, but I remember reading in a book “Is jazz dead, or has it moved to another address?” Bob Brookmeyer saying, “Wynton Marsalis is jazzy in the same sense that a sports car is jazzy.”

    Comment by Matt Smiley — December 26, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  8. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I wouldn’t jump on W too much over this. Yes, I think his gesture (or perhaps the gesture of his assistant and/or publicist? who knows…) was ill-considered. I can’t imagine why anyone would try to reward someone who called the cops on a jazz festival.

    But Wynton is a hard-working, busy musician who is constantly developing new compositions and projects, keeping his chops together, and running an enormous organization involved in music presentation, commissioning, and education. Whatever you think of his handling of any of those jobs, or how much you like or dislike his music, this is a guy who is incredibly busy with and dedicated to music at all times. He deserves a lot of respect (and some slack) based on that alone. If everyone worked as hard and with as much focus as this guy, the world would be a better place.

    So I’d ask you to drop the sour grapes here. This is a weird story, for sure. But it doesn’t have much to do with Larry Ochs, the Guardia Civil, Wynton Marsalis, or even jazz, really. It ignites emotions because it dredges up so many of our unresolved issues: over tradition, legacy, and ownership in culture and history, over economics and power, over fame and prestige, and over race. Better to discuss it, if at all, in those terms, I think.

    Oh, and Happy New Year!

    Comment by Dave Douglas — December 31, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  9. I might have joined in with the Marsalis bashing choir above, if I hadn’t read Ethan Iverson’s long conversation with him some months ago. That was quite a revelation to me, and clearly gave me an impression just like what Mr. Douglas stated above. Yes, before making judgment better have a look at both sides first. (In a very old classic of German literature, “Simplicius Simplicissimus”, I recently came across a wonderful sentence: “[…] auch daß sich dannenhero, Doktor hin oder Doktor her, viel vergeblich einbilden, sie seien allein witzig und Hans in allen Gassen, dann hinder den Bergen wohnen auch Leut.” (freely translated: “many pride themselves on being the only smart ones and jack-of-all-trades, but there are also [other smart] people living behind the mountains)
    My wish for the new year is that we look what’s behind the mountains (of our limited view) more often.
    P.S.: Iverson’s Marsalis-interview is to be found here: http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2008/12/interview-with-wynton-marsalis.html

    Comment by Kai — January 3, 2010 @ 6:12 am

  10. OK, I may have to return my Subscriber’s Membership Card and decoder ring for this, but I have to disagree with Dave on this one. I have followed Wynton’s career since he was in his teens, and have formed my opinion of him over decades based on things that he has said about jazz and other jazz musicians. I agree that he is a terrific player and writer, but I do not think that this gives him the right to behave toward the jazz community and other jazz musicians as he has during those decades. Hard work and talent do not give one the right to behave poorly. Even if it was not Wynton himself who made the offer mentioned in the article, but rather someone on his staff, it is still indicative of the kind of behavior he tolerates – a staff member would not have done that without working in an atmosphere that encouraged such behavior. And if anyone is failing to acknowledge that there are other smart people living (and playing jazz) behind the mountains, it is Wynton. I do not claim to be one of those smart people, but I am smart enough to recognize bad behavior when I see it.

    Comment by Gary — January 3, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  11. Gary,
    You don’t have to turn in your decoder ring, just the weapon and badge.

    I thought what you said in your first comment was cool: “they don’t know all the great music they are missing.” There’s a lot of great music to check out behind every mountain.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments.


    Comment by Dave Douglas — January 3, 2010 @ 11:24 am

  12. Dave, I do realize that whatever appears on this site is in some way going to be seen as a reflection on you, so I understand your plea for civil discourse and your desire not to see a fellow musician “attacked” in this blog. I would not want in any way to bring negative attention to you and what you have built here. I stand by all of my previous comments, but will refrain from any further comments on Mr. Marsalis out of respect for your position.

    Comment by Gary — January 3, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  13. Hey Gary… Feel free to post whatever you want. Agree or disagree, we won’t call the blog or jazz police for anyone’s comments.

    Also, thanks for the great idea about the Greenleaf decoder ring. Coming Fall 2010.

    Comment by Jim Tuerk — January 4, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  14. Just came across this quote from an interview with Sy Oliver in the early 1970s.

    “There’s so much romantic nonsense written about music—talking about New Orleans jazz, Chicago jazz, Kansas City jazz. Ridiculous—it’s all of a piece. To say otherwise is just trying to make a good story. Music is never static; guys come along with new ideas constantly. Sometimes they’re old ideas that have been obscured by time—like many rock cliches, things out of ragtime, and so on. But whether the idea being presented is something from the past or something for the future, it’s still filled with change. What happens is: the worth-while things from any fad remain part of the language. The good things in the music of yesterday live and combine with the good things in the music of today to make the music of tomorrow.”

    That about sums it up for me.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — January 5, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  15. Well, you can see the whole issue from another point of view: the positive publicity the festival found. I consider myself a jazz fan and, although living in Madrid (at a mere 130 km from Siguenza) I had never heard of their festival until I read about this issue (and this year’s was the 5th edition!). Now I know about it and surely will attend it next year (unless they seek for Mr. Marsalis’s aproval before deciding next year’s lineup). Not a bad deal either for the festival and myself, I must say.

    And, who knows, maybe playing in Siguenza in front of the cops turns out to be the ultimate proof good jazz performers will endure to be considered part of the elite 😉

    Changing completely matter and talking about unexpected gifts, I recommend everybody to listen to what the Brigada Bravo&Diaz (featured on the second day of the festival) offer. Go to http://www.germandiaz.net/inicio_eng.html, click “Groups” and then “Brigada Bravo&Diaz”. Information at this point is unfortunately only in Spanish, but clicking in “audio” you start an embedded player where you can listen to one of those small wonders you find once in a while.

    You probably will acknowledge the influence of the first incarnation of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra in their music, but will most likely enjoy their fresh and free approach to the music of the antifascist soldiers in the 1936-39 war in Spain.

    Try and enjoy!

    Comment by Suso del Rio — January 5, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  16. The Brigada Bravo & Diaz music is excellent. Thanks for sharing the sounds. What is a “zanfona”? Whatever it is, it sounds great with the guitar and bass.

    Comment by MailCarrierMike — January 5, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  17. Zanfona is a hurdy gurdy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurdy_gurdy), a medieval string instrument.

    Comment by Suso del Rio — January 7, 2010 @ 3:05 am

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