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New Orleans—Mainspring or Myth?
he was a genius. piece ... I really don't want to
—Bill Grauer & Orrin Keepnews1* rate that at all. This is a lot of
hodge-podge; I wouldn't even be
particular about listening to that
anymore. —Coleman Hawkins (re Jelly
Roll Morton record, Grandpas
One important conclusion can be adduced from several of these quotations: the musicians, judging these early jazz artists on a purely subjective basis, their minds completely free of any prejudice that might have been instilled by an identification of the performers, were unanimous in their verdict. They did not find this music valuable or even listenable. In sharp contrast the critics have found genius in the creators of these performances and masterpieces in their recordings. The Grauer-Keepnews quote on Bunk Johnson is especially significant; it is tantamount to an admission that nostalgia and cultism were governing factors rather than the audience's ears.
Hodeir's views are most important, since he cannot be accused of a complete lack of sympathy for the New Orleans-style musicians (on the contrary, he has written of the emotion, sincerity and "admirable warmth" of Dodds and his ability to play slow blues solos); what strikes one most forcibly is his capacity not only for observing what is lacking in the work of these performers, but also for analyzing it in musical terms. One of the most absorbing and impressive passages of his book is an analysis of a blues solo by Mezz Mezzrow (a musician who, though not from New Orleans, is greatly admired by some adherents of this school) which he promptly contrasts with a Charlie Parker solo "to show the gulf that separates the musician of limited gifts from the improviser of genius." In contrast with this realistic attitude one finds, among the quotations in the left hand column, a consistently hyperbolic enthusiasm which the authors, unable to speak in musical terms as jazzmen, cannot explain or analyze.
A few critics have attempted to present the musicians' viewpoint; on the other hand, aside from fhe New Orleans jazzmen themselves, very few musicians have supported the critics' side