Negro Bass Player Charlie Mingus is a talented, successful and angry manso angry, in fact, that he planned to leave for an island in the Mediterranean and never return to the U.S. Mingus changed his mind, but the anger remains. It is shared in some degree by many Negro jazz musicians, and its major cause is anti-Negro prejudice in a field that Negroes regard as their own. Its result is the regrettable kind of reverse segregation known as Crow Jima feeling that the white man has no civil rights when it comes to jazz.
To Mingus and others, jazz is far more than music. It is a shared heritage, a symbol of achievement, a language in which to tell what Negro Drummer Max Roach calls "the dramatic story of our people and what we've been through." It is also a private language. Through jazz, Negro Pianist Billy Taylor points out, the Negro has always been able "to say many things musically that would never have been accepted by a white American had he verbalized them."
"He Plays Like a Negro." What embitters Negro musicians is that they share so little in the management of the music they created. Negroes control no major company making jazz records, no major booking agency, few of the top jazz rooms. Rarely is a'Negro jazzman given a choice engagement on television. Moreover, many Negro jazzmen honestly feel that white jazzmen cannot "feel" the "soul" music that the "soul brothers" and "soul sisters" are producing these days. The highest praise that a Negro jazzman can give his white counterpart is that "he plays like a Negro."
There is also resentment of the easy acceptance of such white jazzmen as Brubeck, Kenton, Mulligan and Shearing. In fact, notes Dizzy Gillespic, "colored musicians are simply resentful of the fact that in every sphere of American life the white guy has it better." The resentment is too often expressed in the refusal of Negro groups to hire white musicians. It has presented the jazz world with a critical problem in an already critical timethe number of jazz performers is increasing more rapidly than the number of jobs available.
Loudest Notes. As long ago as the '30s, Negro musicians resented the "theft'' of swing by white combos. According to Pianist Mary Lou Williams, the Bop era of the '40s began when Thelonious Monk decided: "We're going to create something they can't steal, because they can't play it." But the real problems of Crow Jim emerged in the '505 with the big-money success of West Coast jazz under the leadership of Brubeck, Mulligan, Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manneall of them white. The new jazz put more emphasis on sophisticated arrangement and composition, avoiding the traditional African-born aspects of hard swing.