Ellery Eskelin, Andrea Parkins and Jim Black played some great tunes earlier this week at La Dynamo, in the northern outskirts of Paris. Earlier this month, Sylvie Courvoisier, Susie Ibarra and Ikue Mori were heard playing amazing music at Le Triton, also uptown Paris. Well, in the great land of Seine Saint-Denis, to be more precise.
In a much discussed article, Marc Ribot recently expressed concern about the failure of downtown NYC experiments into neoliberal entrepreneurship and “do it yourself” market independence (The Tonic sadly closed its doors in April):
“In truth, our belief that the market could fund new music was always as illusory; European touring, heavily state subsidized, has been the real economic motor of experimental jazz/new music for decades, the light at the end of the tunnel of months of scarce and/or poorly paid NYC gigs. The fact that access to Europe was easier and cheaper for NYC musicians than for their LA counterparts is an important factor in the historical productivity of the NYC new music scene as compared with the West Coast. European public subsidies have funded cutting- edge US music since the time of Louis Armstrong. They’ve been a part of the landscape for so long that US musicians have come to take them entirely for granted, seeing them as natural a part of Europe as the Alps or snotty waiters. Unfortunately, they’re neither natural nor guaranteed. They were created by people through struggle and they are in the process of being challenged and to some extent dismantled by European neo-liberals. The idea behind European public arts subsidies, the reason why NYC jazz/new music artists for at least the last 40 years have played Paris, Cologne and Zurich many more times than they’ve played Hartford (and how many have ever played Des Moines?) is a doctrine called “the European cultural exception”, a set of government policies based on the concept that, even within a market economy, art/culture is to be treated differently from other commodities. This concept asserts that some music deserves to exist even if the market says it doesn’t. That the best string quartet isn’t necessarily the one that plays the most TV commercials. That the best composer isn’t necessarily the one George Lucas picks to score his film. That the best band isn’t always the one most favored by a large radio network’s advertisers.” (from Mark Ribot, “The Care and Feeding of Musical Margin”, All About Jazz, June 5 2007)