But this situation is not just a result of the White establishment alone. It’s also a result of what many Black people have allowed themselves to become. It’s sad that I even have to make this appeal for an artist of this caliber. In the past, jazz flourished because musicians promoted one another. Back in the day Jimmy Heath would have told a promoter or club owner, “If you like me, you’ll also like a guy by the name John Coltrane. You need to check him out.” Jimmy would do that in the name of jazz, because he recognized that by promoting jazz, he was also promoting himself. Thelonious Monk even went to jail for Bud Powell to prevent Bud from being barred from playing in New York, because Monk knew that Bud was good for jazz. But today the attitude seems to be, “I got mine, so you’re just gonna to have to struggle like I did.” Many even go so far as to HIDE possible connections - and then we wonder why our traditions are disappearing. So the very last thing we should want is for someone like Rita Edmond to be a secret, because she’s not just another singer; she’s without a doubt one of the most significant jazz divas alive in the world today.
As Black people, we’ve got to start recognizing our priorities. This is our CULTURE we’re talking about here, and the failure to promote it whenever, and however, we can only serves to diminish it. Yet, many Black people fail to support the very best in who we are. Rita has only one stumbling block - when it comes to the Black culture, the American media has conditioned us to fixate on only one thing, the booty-shacking frivolity of entertainment. I’m not criticizing entertainment, but a culture has to be recognized for more than just shaking their booty to gain and maintain the world’s respect. It was the dazzling technical abilities of people like Dizzy, Bird, Monk and Miles that made the world begin to recognize that there was much more to Black people than the slow-minded Stepin Fetchit-like people in which we had previously been portrayed. Thus, it was the seriousness of jazz as an art form that brought the Black culture into the modern world, and musicologists at universities and conservatories all over this planet are still scratching their heads and trying to figure out what Bird was doing over 60 years after his death.
In that regard, people in nations as far flung as Russia and Thailand have thrown flowers at Rita’s feet, fans have come to Thailand from as far away as Japan just to hear her sing, and when she was leaving Russia people met her at the train station with roses, and a young piano prodigy (whose father brought him to several of Rita’s performances) ran up and hugged her. These people gave her that kind of love because they recognize and appreciate excellence, and they know that Rita is a part of a great tradition. But most importantly, these people haven’t been subjected to the Hillbilly mentality of America’s attitude towards Black culture. So they see this woman for what she is - a world-class talent. Rita Edmond is not just an entertainer . . . she’s an artist - and one of the world’s greatest. Check her out for yourself:
Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
Rita Edmond and Phil Woods Protégé
Jazz Great, Robert Anchipolosky
Rita with the former Australian Ambassador,
Ireland Ambassador, and the
PS: Something just happened that made my blood run cold. I didn't know whether or not it was appropriate to mention it in the context of this article, but it was such a coincident that I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't say something about it. As I was writing about the kinship of the music of Dexter Gordon and Rita Edmond - before I posted - I received a contact. It was from Dexter's wife, Maxine Gordon (or as Dex would call her, "Lady Gordon"). She sent me a friend request. My last contact with her was over two years ago, so that was one hell of a coincident . . . or was it?
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.