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Jazz and Race
were rolling down my cheeks-----I went up to a dressing room
and stood in a corner crying and saying to myself why the hell did I come out here again when I knew what would happen?
"Man, when you re on the stage you re great, but as soon as you come off, you re nothing. It's not worth the glory, not worth the money, not worth anything."
Despite the willingness of Eldridge to admit the fusion of white and Negro styles, there remains among certain critics and fans a persistent legend that jazz still must be the subject of a dichotomy in every analytical discussion. Continental jazz writers, even those who in other respects are thoroughly reliable and well informed, cling to the racial labeling of musicians. Ironically, the belief of the condescending white southerner that the Negro has instinctive musical gifts (which in the southerner's mind places him in a class with the well-trained poodle) is shared by many foreign jazz audiences; this has resulted in an attitude diagnosed, in an acute monograph by Barry Ulanov, as "Crow Jim." According to this theory jazz, as the property of the Negro, can only be played by whites to the extent that they have assimilated the "Negro idiom." As recently as 1953 it was impossible for any white American musician (even Benny Goodman) to win a French jazz poll. The height of impudence was reached when one French critic, in a book of biographies, branded as "of the white race" those few white musicians who .vere considered worthy of inclusion, while the Negro musicians were unidentified by race-a reversal of an equally obnoxious racial labeling that still obtains in some parts of the United States when crime stories involving Negroes are reported. (In the United States edition of die book these racial labels were removed.)
The automatic assumption of the Negro's supremacy may, indeed, smack of poetic justice; it can easily be understood why many jazzmen, visiting France and other countries where this attitude is prevalent, have decided to take advantage of it by making their homes there. But to the more mature musician, who would rather be accepted as a man than lionized as a Negro, it is uncomfortable to observe some of the manifestations of Crow Jim.