“…something that they can’t steal…”
Begun in mid-1999, “…something that they can’t steal…”: Jazz as a Foreign Language was a project to investigate jazz as Black music, rather than the ‘Black–white fusion’ political correctness or incorrectness has historically dictated—in other words, to explain the Black perspective to white people, who I don’t believe have ever yet been exposed to it.
     Why? Well, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know”—and I never had to ask!
     I was looking for an Afrocentric definition of the word ‘jazz’—we all know the conventional wisdom on this matter, but what did it really mean? I researched and researched. And I wrote a lot. I found that ‘jazz’ (from the Wolof—jasi: ‘to act out of the ordinary’) was a verb, not a noun—an activity, not a style. But everything seemed so interrelated that I couldn’t find a way to structure it all—I couldn’t even write a synopsis!
     And then along came Wynton. It seemed to me that, as the “megalomaniacal ‘arbiter of good taste’,” as Anthony Jackson called him, I’d have to deal with him first, before I could hope to convince anyone of my own opposing findings and opinions. But I soon found I simply couldn’t take him and his revisionist/nationalist/fictional/self-promotional rewriting/sanitization of the music’s history (as promoted in Ken Burns’s television series Jazz) seriously, and my writing quickly developed into parody—in the form of Wynt-o-Mania. As it did, I changed my mind about the entire premise of “…something that they can’t steal…”; jazz, it now seems to me, works because it isn’t defined, not because it is. 
     End of!
“We are going to get a
big band started.
We are going to create
something that they can’t steal,
because they can’t play it.”

JAZZ AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE Thelonious Sphere Monk wynt-o-mania