Big Polyrhythm in the Background

I put a chunk of my response to Ethan Iverson’s Carter post on his current Forumesque comments. I was troubled by his reply:

@James: Thanks for your comment. I’m sure many other smart classical musicians agree with you. I will let the matter rest there except to note that the “big polyrhythm” lurking in the background of any of my comparisons between jazz and classical is race.

Which I take to mean that smart jazz musicians would not agree with me. But agree or disagree about what? I am not sure what part of my comment he is referring to. My guess is that the thing that smart jazz musicians would disagree with is the question of whether some classical musicians – a tiny minority – might also have professional level jazz abilities – whether they have any grasp of what Iverson refers to as the “folk music” aspect of jazz practice.  Maybe the problem is what “professional” means – that what I am thinking of as sufficiently competent to be called professional is far from professional in the judgement of a smart jazz musician. But I still think at least some musicians today are able to engage with a variety of musical practices competently, whether their primary practice is classical or jazz. I haven’t heard Iverson play classical solo piano, but I expect he does a great job.

Although I did not bring up the issue of racism in my comment, I certainly didn’t mean to deny its importance either. Iverson’s point about unequal institutional support for classical and jazz musicians is quite correct.

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