J.Lamotta is a Berlin-based artist and producer who was born in Tel Aviv to a family with Moroccan roots. She has been making music since age 13 and her second full-length album, Suzume is due for release in April.
Paraphrase on William Parker’s title “Who Owns Music?”
Something very interesting happened to me when I moved to Berlin. I graduated from Jazz school in Tel-Aviv and was hiding my musical background, like a person who is ashamed of their heritage. A few years later, something has changed and I began feeling more comfortable with it. I was surrounded by Jazz cats, listeners and musicians alike, and I started noticing how frustrated they can be when trying to preserve and perpetuate the traditional sound. One of my favourite elements in this particular style is the focus on the present. Past and future are not part of this game.
“The golden era of jazz”. This is not a term that I invented and many people who know and listen to jazz know it. It refers to the thirties and forties of the 20th century, the times where Jazz and swing were being played on the radio, in clubs, when people were dancing to it. I was not born back then yet but from what I know, it was the soundtrack of an era. Post World War II in the American society, a time where big things took place. Afro Americans were detaching from the long strings of slavery although it officially ended decades before, times where women became independent and fought for equality. Back then, Jazz represented all those things. It did not happen in Europe, nor did in Africa.
From Blues to Dixieland, Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, Cool Jazz or Free Jazz, from Funk to Hip Hop, RnB and Neo Soul. Some people might disagree with me but this is how I see it. So when I hear someone asking why Pharrell is performing in North Sea Jazz Festival I get edgy. There are no rules to what Jazz is. Isn’t it about the expression or the freedom to simply create in the moment, from your own reality? The reality in the 60s isn’t the same as 2019.
When a woman sang with a Jazz band in the forties, she was “a lady”, dressed in a gown and wearing high heels, because this is what was expected from her. From the moment Jazz evolved into Bebop with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and those guys, it became more niche music. Women today don’t have to apologise for not being “ladies” and the instrumental virtuosity that was a main characteristic in Bebop is overdone. Everyone can practice enough to play as fast as Coltrane or as complex as Parker. That’s why those artists shaped the sound of their time, they surely had their inspirations but they didn’t try to play like them. They were curious enough to experiment, understanding that they won’t be like their idols. For me the real essence of this music is how well it reflected an era, a day, a moment in one’s life.
I don’t like it when people try to imitate someone or have a fixation on “The Greats”. Yes, they were great, they were giants. But instead of glorifying them we can learn what made them so great. It’s not about how clever or skilled they were, it’s about how innovative and contemporary they tried to be and this is what I wanna be, this is what I wanna hear from my fellow musicians. I see myself as a Jazz musician exactly because of that, I try my best to reflect my times through my music and this is what brings people together, they gather around those who can speak for them, translate their feelings into sounds and words. Every generation needs those people.
I cannot tell you who owns Jazz, what Jazz is and what it is not, but I can definitely tell you what Jazz is for me. It is all about reflecting the moment through music.
“If you have to ask what Jazz is, you will never know” – Louis Armstrong