Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Trayvon, Emmett and America’s Unfinished Business

Brothers forever bound together in blood.

When special prosecutor Angela Corey announced George Zimmerman had surrendered to authorities and would be facing second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin my immediate thought was simple.  Good. One less criminal roaming free on the streets.

Was I happy?  No more than Trayvon’s parents were.   The only thing that had been resolved was finally Zimmerman would have to answer for their son’s death.   There was no satisfaction and if there is such a thing as closure we’re a long way off from that.    A young man would still be dead and nothing could ever change that.

A few weeks ago after going ballistic on some poor dumb bastard for saying about the case something that angered me (and I’ve been in an extended state of smoldering anger for a while now), I got an e-mail from a guy asking me why.

I know you’re not going to appreciate this, and I assume you’ll just tell me to fuck off, but your responses to people lately have been filled with an anger and rage disproportionate to anything that has been said by them.

I’d really miss you, but that’s where you’re headed—and, very much on purpose, it seems.

What’s up with that?

I answered: Well, now that’s going to require you to make a choice. Do you want the answer that makes you feel good or the answer that might piss you off?

The thing is, I didn’t want to explain why I was filled with anger and rage. It didn’t seem disproportionate to me in the least.  If anything anger seemed they right response to the way  Zimmerman’s defenders had tried so diligently  to justify killing Trayvon.

More than that, I wasn’t interesting in trying to legitimize the anger.  Why do Black people have to shout before they are heard?   Why do they have to constantly remind their countrymen they have the same expectations of life, liberty and happiness even if their skin is darker?

I respond poorly to being talked down to, cavalierly dismissed and attempts to “handle” me. under normal circumstances.  The circumstances of Trayvon’s death were anything but normal.  Bearing witness to how Trayvon was transformed from a sympathetic victim into a caricature of a bad boy who had it coming enraged me.   I have been told in no uncertain terms if only he had been more “polite” to Zimmerman he might still be alive. Another malicious little turd wrote as the attempts to dirty up Martin by the scummy likes of Matt Drudge and Michelle Malkin intensified, “If what we’re learning about Martin now is valid it’s very likely he’d have been killed at some point by another Black.”

George Zimmerman mug shot: 2012 edition

That’s kind of hard to blow off with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. Now amplify that with the professional talking heads like Geraldo Rivera, Bill O’Reilly and George Will railing about the high number of Black men who die at the hands of other Black men, co-signed by good Negroes like Shelby Steele and what began as a Hispanic man with a Caucasian-sounding surname gunning down a Black teenager evolved into the none-too-subtle subliminal message that it’s really not such a bad thing Trayvon got shot because if George hadn’t done it, some other hood rat would have.

Sunday night I placed a long-distance phone call to ream out another friend who took me to task after NBC fired a staffer for manipulating an audio tape of George Zimmerman’s 911 calls and how it was so awful and terrible that Spike Lee had mistakenly Tweeted the address of the wrong Zimmerman and Black thugs were beating up White people and yelling, “This is for Trayvon” and wasn’t I happy I was finally going to get the race war Jackson and Sharpton were trying to start and what kind of parent lets their child out at 3:00 a.m. to buy candy and ice tea anyway?

Who needs to hear that kind of crap repeatedly yet be told if you don’t put up with it, you’re the one with the problem?   Why is it an Angry White Men are to be taken seriously and an Angry Black Man have to explain WHY he’s mad at the world?

It’s taken something out of me exerting this energy trying to set people straight on why Trayvon was the only victim that night, why he had every right to expect he could go buy candy and ice tea without some vigilante wannabee demanding he explain where he was going and why life doesn’t work like CSI or Law and Order and everything wraps up neat and tidy in the last five minutes.

I could not defend Trayvon Benjamin Martin from those whom wished to destroy him in death as George Zimmerman destroyed him in life any more passionately or fiercely than if he were my son. I get it when I’m asked, “When are you going to let this go and write about something else?”

Truth be told, this story has been a welcome reminder that even though I write this blog in the hopes others will read it, the idea never was to only write about things others wanted to read. The saying goes, “better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self” and it’s absolutely true. When I stop writing about what moves me and start thinking, “Uh-oh. My page hits are way down. I’d better lighten things up.” that is when I’ll know I’ve gone from being honest to simply pandering.

Which while this is not about to become a Trayvon-Free Zone, it won’t be as Trayvon intense as it has been. This blog did not drive the story into the mainstream. The tireless efforts of the Martin family did, but to whatever small way something I wrote helped that effort, I feel I’ve made a contribution beyond signing an online petition.

This story is about to enter a new phase and one that should take it where it should have been in the first place: into a court of law and out of the court of public opinion.

After a month of spin, scenarios, second-hand hearsay treated as the gospel truth, experts, eyewitnesses, spokespersons, talking heads and the dead body of Trayvon Martin batted back and forth along political and racial fault lines, I find myself ready for the story to recede from the headlines.

If I don’t hear anything more about Geraldo Rivera, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Pseudo New Black Panthers, neo-Nazis, John Derbyshire, the friends of George Zimmerman and those two ambulance chasers that were his attorneys for a few months, I’ll be a happy man.

The networks have been full of “experts” second-guessing whether Angela Corey should have gone for 2nd degree murder and whether she can make it stick. Of course, she has one huge advantage over them: she’s seen the evidence and they haven’t. Prosecutors often are ambitious with the charges they initially file knowing they may have to settle for a conviction on a lesser charge instead.

The story should cool down considerably as the legal proceedings grind slowly on. This should be all be welcomed by the same conservatives who never wanted any part of all this Trayvon talk in the first place. It’s not the sort of conversation they are comfortable with as it brings up issues about race and justice in America, two topics many of us would rather not discuss in the first place.

This was always supposed to be about finding justice for Trayvon and the arrest of George Zimmerman was the first step in the long process of getting it. Him behind bars isn’t the end of the search, but it’s a damn good first step.

But don’t tell me the system worked. It didn’t. The system failed Trayvon and it almost failed his family.

If it had worked as it should have when an armed man kills an unarmed teenager, George Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged over a month ago. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin wouldn’t had to go through all this hell trying to convince America their son was worth fighting for and we all wouldn’t have needed yet another reminder why race remains both America’s original sin and the most divisive wedge issue of them all. .

There is one often repeated phrase I have resisted repeating here. At least until now.  “Trayvon Martin is our Emmett Till.”   There is a long chain of broken and bloody Black bodies that link Emmett to Trayvon and as Emmett was a martyr and catalyst for the modern Civil Rights era, so too is Trayvon a martyr and a reminder of the nation’s unfinished business.

A small bit of justice, but a long ways to go for peace.

Did John Derbyshire Write the Most Racist Rant EVER?

Meet John Derbyshire. If you're Black, he probably hates your guts.

Before Twitter and Facebook the two things that flourished most on the Internet were porn and racism. Both are still going strong with the most repellent and toxic forms of racism banished to hate sites and forums where bigots can gather in their little communities and rail against the Kenyan in the White House and applaud the dead teenager in Florida.

Beyond the knuckle-dragging, white-hooded, deep-fried racism of White supremacist websites, there is the genial, polished and sophisticated racism by educated, articulate intellectuals who are just as full of hate for Blacks as the two losers in Tulsa who went on a shooting spree killing three people and wounding two more for no other reason than they were Black.

The Tulsa police have downplayed any racial angle to the shootings.  Nothing about this so far screams “Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman” but it is safel to wonder if that controversy spurred this crime?

This brings us to one John Derbyshire.  Unless you are a conservative whose reading habits takes you beyond the internet and talk radio and Fox News, you probably aren’t familiar with the name of  Derbyshire, a columnist for The National Review.

But If you are Black he is quite familiar with you. Derbyshire knows all about Blacks. He knows how violent we are. He knows how stupid we are. He knows how much we hate Whites and can’t resist any chance to intimidate, assault or kill them.

Derbyshire wrote the most overly racist screed I have ever read outside of of a White supremacist website in response to “the talk” Black parents often feel compelled to give their kids on how to interact with the police.

Derbyshire describes his take on “the talk” as the “Non-black” version Whites (and Asian) parents should give their children as how to conduct themselves when they interact with Blacks. It is long, rambling and disgustingly extreme in its contempt for Blacks. Here are some notable excerpts:

(6) As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to black convicted murderers or to black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences.

(7) Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions.

(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.

9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.
(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.
(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.
(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”

Racism is readily recognized when it looks like this...

Derbyshire’s rant did not run in the National Review, the publication that gave him whatever notoriety he enjoyed, but after criticisms from other conservatives, editor Rich Lowry fired him with a message on the website.

Anyone who has read Derb in our pages knows he’s a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer. I direct anyone who doubts his talents to his delightful first novel, “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream,” or any one of his “Straggler” columns in the books section of NR. Derb is also maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.

Kicking Derbyshire to the curb was the right thing for the National Review to do, but his racial views were always prickly and problematic. There is a necessary skill required to be a successful racial arsonist and to take the worst stereotypes and deviant behaviors of a given group, then magnify them into critically considered commentaries while provoking nevertheless pushes all the usual hot buttons.

Everybody knows what racism is supposed to look like. It looks like the Ku Klux Klan, the original boyz in the hoodies, It’s the sophisticated racists that are much more difficult to spot. In a moment of weakness Mr. Derbyshire permitted his hood to slip off and expose himself as the raving bigoted beast he truly is and always has been.

It’s easy to spot the redneck trailer trash types.  They go out of their way to expose their own ignorance.  It’s the quieter and more subtle bigots that are harder to spot.   By going too far Derbyshire in expressing his hatred and loathing, Derbyshire effectively outed himself and got fired for it.  Don’t think for a minute though that his sentiments were expelled from contemporary conservative thought with him.

...less so when it sports a suit and tie.

THIS Is Why We Can’t Have A Post-Racial America.

The writing--and the racism--is on the wall

The updates to the blog have come sporadically this week, but I’ve been on grand jury for the past two weeks and protecting society from the various reprobates, dirty rotten scoundrels and ne’er do wells keeps you busy.

The cliché is a prosecutor can get a jury to indict a ham sandwich.  I can assure you that is true and they’ll throw in the cheese and mayo as well.

Which is why I am convinced if Angela Corey, the special prosecutor named by Florida Governor Rick Scott to head up the state’s investigation into the Trayvon Martin shooting wants to indict George Zimmerman she will have no problem getting a grand jury to give her that authority.   Whether Corey does or not will go a long way in determining if the facts ever come out.

While everyone waits for the state and feds to wrap up their deliberations of what comes next, the case has become the dominant story in America trumping the Supreme Court hearings over healthcare reform and a visit from the Pope to Mexico.  it comes as no surprise at all that the Martin case has divided the nation along the usual political and race fault lines as an analysis from the Pew Research Center reveals:

The Trayvon Martin shooting is the public’s top story for the second consecutive week. But interest in the teenager’s death is deeply divided along partisan, as well as racial, lines. These differences also are apparent in reactions to news coverage of the incident: Far more Republicans (56%) than Democrats (25%) say there has been too much coverage of Martin’s death.

African Americans are far more likely than whites to say they are closely tracking news about the Florida teenager’s death. Fully 58% cite news about Trayvon Martin’s killing as their top story, compared with 24% of whites. Moreover, 43% of whites say the story has received too much coverage, compared with just 16% of blacks.

Democrats, regardless of race, are following Martin’s death more closely than are Republicans. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38%), including 31% of white Democrats, say the killing of Trayvon Martin is their top story; just 19% of Republicans are following this story most closely. More than half of Republicans (56%) say the story has been overcovered, compared with 25% of Democrats, including 33% of white Democrats.

Overall, 37% of the public say that news organizations are giving too much coverage to Martin’s death; about as many (40%) say the coverage has been about right. Just 14% say the story has gotten too little coverage.

Most Americans would concede there’s been the healing process between Blacks and Whites has come a long way from slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the Civil Rights Era, but every so often a story like Trayvon Martin comes along and tears off the bandage revealing how raw the wounds still are. Corey can take a big step by indicting Zimmerman, but will she?  There is so much that depends on what she does.

Special prosecutor Corey can put the wheels of justice back on track, but will she?

The progress made toward racial reconciliation by people of good will is always threatened by the animosity from people of bad will   Ohio State University joined other campuses where people gathered to peacefully protest the failure of the Sanford Police Department to arrest and charge George Zimmerman.

The sincerity of the students who gathered to seek justice for the slain teenager may have sparked a backlash from someone in disagreement.  The morning after the demonstration the administrators of the Frank Hale Black Cultural Center found the words “LONG LIVE ZIMMERMAN” spray painted on the side of the building.

It’s okay that Zimmerman has his own supporters.  His family has even set up a website to ask for funds for his legal defense (and no, I’m not going to offer a link).   One of his attorneys offered a new (and novel) justification for Zimmerman shooting Martin.

Hal Uhrig, a lawyer and former Gainesville, Florida, police officer said on the CBS Morning News that due to injuries suffered in his fight with Trayvon, Zimmerman had suffered—wait for itShaken Baby Syndrome!

“We’re familiar with the Shaken Baby Syndrome. You shake a baby, the brain shakes around inside the skull. You can die when someone’s pounding your head into the ground.”

You know what one of the problems with trying a case in the public instead of a courtroom?   A lot of absurd, self-serving, erroneous and just plain wrong ideas float to the surface like crap in a toilet bowl, but this is a whole new level of bullshit.

Imagine you are the parent of a child that died because of Shaken Baby Syndrome and then imagine how furious that parent should be because of some ambulance chaser offering up one of the most absurd defenses since Dan White claimed overindulgence in Twinkies and junk food caused him to kill Harvey Milk.   If this is the best defense Daddy Zimmerman’s hired guns can buy Boy George,  he’s got some serious problems.

They can also offer up Restless Leg, Dry Mouth and Uncontrolled Flatulence as possible defenses as well and hope they can find 12 jurors dumb enough to buy it.   Don’t dismiss the possibility they can.

The cold corpse of Trayvon has been turned in a pinata where everyone can take their turn swinging at and bashing away to extract what they need from him.   Every last hardcore racist and casual bigot has exploited Trayvon to pump up their message that young Black males are potentially dangerous and permanently suspicious until they are proven otherwise and its okay to kill them.  Safer too.

My diagnosis is George Zimmerman suffers from being an Inflamed Asshole Syndrome and the plan for treatment should be 20 to 40 years in one of Florida’s nastiest prisons trying not to bend over for the soap.

The Wrong Guys For the Right Reason?

The return of J&A's excellent adventure?

Even tragedies can present opportunities and the killing of Trayvon Martin is no exception.  The mainstream media took their sweet time in discovering what Black bloggers and media was already reporting, but now they have made this the biggest story in America.

It’s been great for ratings.  And it’s been great for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as well.  Instead of trying to bite off Occupy Wall Street or some other topic in the news, the two former unofficial presidents of Black America are back on their favorite beat, marching, demonstrating and protesting and all in the name of Trayvon Martin.

I have a colleague whom I used to work with at a newspaper and we get together to shoot the breeze. His problem with Jackson and Sharpton are their claims that they are “Black leaders.”

That sets my friend all the way off.  Who made THEM “Black leaders?” Did you vote for them? I know I didn’t! Where’s MY ballot?

There is something to that. Why are Jackson and Sharpton considered Black leaders? Why do Black folks even need leaders?  Who are the leaders of Latinos? Who speaks for lesbians? Who’s the great leader of Asians? Who’s the greatest White leader? Or does even posing the question seem ludicrous to even ask?

The last great Black leaders were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  They became leaders the hard way.  They earned it and they were killed for being leaders.  You could not find two more different men with different approaches than Martin and Malcolm.  Jackson and Sharpton on their best day couldn’t touch them on their worst. Neither one of them are worthy heirs of King’s mantle of civil rights advocacy.  Neither one of them are as bold and willing to face White supremacy the way Malcolm X did.

What keeps J&A on the front pages is the passionate hatred they provoke from right-wing critics.  Jesse and Al are considered by the Right as race hustlers who stir up trouble, shakedown businesses, show up wherever there’s a controversy and a camera and are generally unscrupulous, unprincipled, con men.  Some of this criticism is both verifiable and irrefutable.

Any honest critique of Jackson and Sharpton must take in account their pros and cons.

Once giants walked among us.

Positives: protecting civil rights, keeping a spirit of activism alive, bringing attention to issues and stories that would go unnoticed and unaddressed otherwise, ticking off the right-wing something fierce.

Negatives: attention whores, lack of identified achievable goals, unwilling to get off the stage so younger leaders can emerge, egotistical, poor tacticians, dubious personal conduct,

The biggest negative is neither Jackson or Sharpton will confront and criticize Democrats and liberals when they come up short or sell out the interests of African-Americans.  A true Black leader has to be willing to be bipartisan in their criticism.  Jackson has mildly criticized Obama and Sharpton flaunts his connections to the White House. Can you imagine J&A publicly and vocally breaking with a Democratic president the way Martin Luther King, Jr., broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Viet Nam war and poverty in America?  With Jackson and Sharpton beholden to the Democrats, they can’t be truly independent.

Martin and Malcolm may have created the template for Al and Jesse, but what sets them heads and shoulders above Sharpton and Jackson is they never craved the spotlight.  King was a reluctant convert to political activism and X transformed himself from a small-time hustler, pimp, and convict to the most powerful and charismatic spokesman for Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam until he broke with him.

Neither Martin or Malcolm were wealthy or sought the spotlight the way their would-be successors have.  You can’t fault them for finding a way to turn a buck off of being a political gadfly, but it leaves them open to charges that they are chasing publicity and dollars, not justice.

I was too young to march with Martin Luther King or listen to Malcolm X, but their authenticity was above reproach. . They were the real deal and they both got taken out for it. Al and Jesse? I think they believe what they say, but I don’t need “leaders” any more and I don’t want to be “led.”

Obama has proven you can be a leader through obtaining political legitimacy.  Jackson and Sharpton both mounted presidential bids, but they never seemed fully committed.  If conservatives really want to make J&A relics of a previous time, they need to stop trying to demonize the pair  That gets them nowhere and only makes Jackson and Sharpton even more beloved, and why not?  Pissing off the Right has a considerable upside.

Conservatives could neutralize J&A, but what it would take is something they have shown little interest in.   Make Dr. King’s dream a reality and they’re both out of business.

That would require the Right to give up their fear and loathing of uppity Black men.  But since conservatives like the Koch brothers like their Negroes docile and childlike (Where’s my mint julep, Herman Cain?) and hate to be reminded racism still exists that seems unlikely.

We are going to have to learn to live with Sharpton and Jackson, warts and all.  Reservations aside, Trayvon Martin needs champions to find justice for him and while they are no Martin or Malcolm, this is the right cause even if they are the wrong men.

The right men for the right cause?

Esperanza Spalding Can’t Save Jazz (and shouldn’t be expected to).

If Spalding is supposed to save jazz, then jazz is in a lot of trouble.

When you’ve been invited to perform for the President of the United States, turned heads as the bass-playing beauty in the Academy Awards house band, toured with Prince and beat out teen dream Justin Bieber for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, you’re having a very good run in the spotlight—and it could turn your head.

From time-to-time an artist gets dubbed as the new savior of jazz. Usually this title is handed out by publications with only a cursory interest in jazz. It’s possible Spalding neither sought nor seeks the responsibility, but with success comes expectation and the expectation is that Radio Music Society, Spalding’s fourth album and her first since her Grammy upset, will be popular in a way few jazz albums have, at least since since guitarist George Benson and saxophonist Kenny G were at their commercial peaks.

The problem with Radio Music Society is it’s only okay as jazz and is tentative as pop music. Spalding is a musician, songwriter, lyricist, arranger and producer and while she does all of this adequately, she does none of it spectacularly.

Everything that has ever been wrong with Spalding is still wrong on Radio Music Society. She’s competent on bass without being exceptional. Her voice is thin and her range limited. The earnestness of her lyrics is overcome by the lumpiness in the delivery. For an album polished and created with maximum airplay in mind, Radio Music Society is noticeably missing a key component of successful pop music: a killer hook. There are multiple vocalists, a choir, a huge horn section, strings, drummers and rappers all over this sprawling record, yet Spalding’s arrangements are sparse and lacking in energy.

“I Can’t Help It,” a Stevie Wonder composition that was performed by Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones for Jackson’s Off the Wall (Epic, 1979,) was then a sweet and soulful little slice of pop heaven livened by Jackson’s energy and affinity for the material. By contrast, Spalding just plows through with an indifferent interpretation that squanders a tenor saxophone solo by Joe Lovano.

Much more successful is “Black Gold,” the stand-out which is an ode to black youth remaining positive in the face of criticism and skepticism. It features an effective duet between Spalding and Algebra Blessett’s stronger vocal abilities. Despite a meandering conclusion, it’s a pretty lead-off single that will doubtlessly play well with younger listeners attuned to Spalding’s neo-soul stylings. “Cinnamon Tree” benefits from Olivia DePrato and Jody Rednage on violin and cello respectively and a soaring guitar solo from Jef Lee Johnson.

Those that bother reading liner notes will notice the familiar names of veterans such as Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, Billy Hart and Jack De Johnette as well as vocal contributions from Lalah Hathaway and Leni Stern and assume there will be enough serious jazz to offset the pop aspirations. They may be taken aback once they hear the clunky and heavy-handed environmental message in the lyrics Spalding penned for Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species.”

Radio Music Society is Spalding’s first all vocals/no instrumentals record and was conceived with maximum airplay in mind as the first track, “Radio Song,” practically declares. For those digging on Spalding’s girlish but limited range, they know exactly what to expect; but clocking in at over six minutes in length, wafer-thin vocals, knotty shifts in tone, and lacking a chorus to sing along with, “Radio Song” isn’t likely to give Adele anything to worry about when it comes to airplay supremacy.

Two years after its release, Chamber Music Society (Telarc, 2010) was still riding high as the sixth best-selling album on Billboard’s 2011 jazz chart and there is no reason to think the more overtly commercial Radio Music Society won’t perform even better. Despite the fact that it’s unfocused, messy and seems to go on longer than its nearly hour long playing time, this will easily be the biggest jazz album of 2012 (which is absolutely not the same as saying it is the best jazz album of 2012).

The deluxe edition includes a DVD with 11 videos (only “Endangered Species” doesn’t receive one). It’s a mixed bag because the songs that don’t really work on the CD, like “Vague Suspicions,” don’t work any better because there’s a visual to go along with the audio. Spalding is pretty, but she’s not a convincing actress and some of the story ideas are corny, embarrassing or both. The DVD includes bonus material including a 16-minute “making of” the videos.

Radio Music Society aims high and when it succeeds it achieves its ambitious, audacious agenda. A lot of this hinges on Spalding’s big goals, big talent and big hair. She is till a work in progress and even when her ambitions exceed her accomplishments Spalding is still one of the most interesting artists working today. It remains to be seen if she’s really “the One” or the latest in a long list of would-be jazz “saviors.”

Not that jazz necessarily needs one.   All the genre needs is exposure, airplay and some respect.  Jazz has had supposed saviors before.  Kenny G.’s snooze saxophone and Wynton Marsalis’ straight ahead approach taking jazz back to the roots were both hailed as “gateway artists” whose success would surely draw new listeners to jazz.  Has it really worked out that way?  It’s possible, but it doesn’t seem like its worked out that way. 

This review originally appeared at All About Jazz.com

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