Just because nationalism and its sentiments are the norm in Korea and Japan, it doesn’t make them right nor good nor acceptable. Until the pandemic issue of nationalism is properly addressed, understood and prevented, the proud folks of these countries are in no position whatsoever to pass any kind of judgement or criticism on anything or anyone else. That is just hypocritical. Of course, the standard behavior is just to deny that it even exists, which is near comical.
For jazz musicians, this is actually a part of the job description. The all-important and commonly shared goal and philosophy of ‘finding one’s own voice’ in jazz, dictates that the artist liberates him/herself from false ideological identities. The creators who forged this music that we enjoy today did precisely that; Bird, Diz, Monk, Miles, etc. They stood amidst an ugly world and were capable of speaking and creating a voice that’s not part of it, but that transcends it.
Jazz without philosophy is a table with a missing leg. It’s sushi without wasabi, watered-down kimchi. Even in Korea or Japan, they don’t feed the infants wasabi or kimchi right away, but slowly have them learn to appreciate it, i.e., they are an acquired taste. If you think about it, there aren’t too many things in life that are not. There’s sleeping, eating, fucking and self-defense(?). And pretty much all else are either intentionally or unintentionally acquired, trained & learned, whether self-motivated or impinged/imprinted upon from outside. (Maybe some exceptions can be made for bio-/neurological anomalies such as savants.) But claiming to be a jazz musician and then ignoring, or resisting to acquire the taste for, its most important aspect, the philosophy, is to stubbornly insist on only having sushi without wasabi or kimchi that’s sweetened and watered down. It’s a kid refusing to grow up. Get your shit together. It’s hard- no one said it’s gonna be easy. But on the bright side, shit could be so much worse. After all, today’s jazz population is mainly comprised of middle- to upper class. Success or failure is not nearly as important as giving it a fair go. There’s no respect in not even trying. That’s just cowardly.
If EVERYONE's doing it, I guess you'll never see. You'd be crazy to. After all, it's all about "us". So go ahead, be a Smith. It doesn't take ANY effort, it only does so the other way around.
CJ Kim- Owner/Manager at Cafe52.