Interview with jazz critic Greg Thomas

An interesting recent piece brought to my attention by Daniel Garrett: An Interview with Greg Thomas: On Culture and Canons, On Jazz and Being an African-American Male – A lengthy back and forth in Compulsive Reader with critic Thomas.

Sample: “I don’t use the phrases ‘high art’ and ‘low art.’ Fine art, pop art, and folk art have more utility as academic, pedagogical distinctions among various genres and levels within an art form. But it’s inaccurate to think of these analytical frameworks as totally separate. Each feeds into the other, and we usually start with the most basic–the folk level, for instance the blues. Popular connotes widespread reception by the public, and, last, the fine art level is produced by masters of an idiom, who, to paraphrase Albert Murray, extend, elaborate and refine the folk and pop levels into masterpieces. Here are two examples of fine art musical masterpieces: one, Whitney Houston’s fantastic version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the 1991 Super Bowl during the Persian Gulf War, and Donny Hathaway’s interpretation of ‘For All We Know’ from Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. I’m moved every time I hear these. I mention these two examples outside of the realm of jazz–which is a fine art–to indicate that masterpieces can be found in other musical genres too.”

One thought on “Interview with jazz critic Greg Thomas

  1. Belated thanks: Thanks for posting the Thomas interview, which covers his life and career as a music and culture critic, and also touches on the history of African Americans in the U.S., and writers such as Albert Murray, Susan Sontag, E.M. Forster, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and jazz and pop musicians such as Wynton Marsalis and Stevie Wonder, among other topics. Thank you.

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