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I have focused my creative practice on using local history as the thematic basis for composition and improvisation. The performances are held in non-music venues related to historic significance. The audience is engaged through the compelling stories so I can share some insight on how the abstract music is related. So far, I have had success finding the common ground between audience interest, creative expression, and financial viability.
I very much agree with Christopher Burnett.Jazz studies, jazz relevance, jazz culture take me back to a bad place. At the age of 38 I decided to play bass and became a first time musician. I liked jazz, but after about 2 years as a musician, I was hating jazz.
Every class or band was rooted in the past. "Surrey with the Fringe On Top," "Giant Steps," "Satin Doll," "All the Things You Are." OMG! And the focus always seemed to be on the ability to make the chord progressions. The audience's experience was secondary. Thus, jazz studies became a bootcamp for learning the music theory that blues, rock and disco might never teach me.
And then the ultimate betrayal. I went to see one of my instructors do a gig. She'd jazzified modern tunes. she didn't play anything remotely like "Satin Doll." She put jazz spice on Tom Waits. My blues instructors never pulled that switcheroo. In blues, Robert Cray is just as relevant as Muddy Waters, Shamekia Copeland, or Albert Collins with Johnny B. Gayden slapping the hell out of the bass.
As Christopher Burnett warns, maybe the jazz instructor had paid her dues and was deserving of personal musical expression.
In this discussion, we also have to peel apart several issues. Jazz as something that sells and makes sense to non musicians; jazz as something that inspires musicians to want to play it; jazz as something that is indeed culturally relevant. Some kind of loose definition so that we can measure jazz's ascent or decline; it's presence or extinction.
Why do I buy old Barry White CDs or the newest R Kelly CD? Because they sound great in my car. Why don't I buy jazz CDs? Because I have to think too much. Bassist Ray Brown made a similar point to some jazz students. He reminded them of a time when people used to dance to jazz. Slowly, things shifted to people sitting down and WATCHING jazz musicians. So, the questions are in WHAT do we want jazz to be and clarify what would be missing if jazz were to go away.
Creating and promoting new superstars isn't enough. We don't need a superstar that only National Public Radio, and jazz musicians will respect, and that 100 non musicians will come sit and look at on a Friday night. So, what would a thriving jazz scene look like?
One thing I'd argue is that D'Angelo and Steely Dan are 2 examples of jazz that's palatable to a wide audience. It's not obvious until you look at their song charts and see that the stuff is intelligent and very challenging to learn, and FUN to learn. But also, the music doesn't alienate non musicians by FEELING too smart.
Oz stated: "Why do I buy old Barry White CDs or the newest R Kelly CD? Because they sound great in my car. Why don't I buy jazz CDs? Because I have to think too much. Bassist Ray Brown made a similar point to some jazz students. He reminded them of a time when people used to dance to jazz. Slowly, things shifted to people sitting down and WATCHING jazz musicians. So, the questions are in WHAT do we want jazz to be and clarify what would be missing if jazz were to go away."
While I appreciate and respect everything you posted in context, I think that the above excerpt highlights how "big" the genre of "jazz" really is now.
For me, as an "artist", I have different expectations from my artistry as a performing jazz artist, than another who may be centered upon reaching the widest audience with their work.
My music appeals to people who find the aspects of the harmonic complexity interesting in the music I prefer.
Whereas, another artist who could approach the music in the manner in which I usually do, but chooses to make accessibility their artistic calling, is creating work that appeals to another segment of the population altogether.
Rhetorical question: Which is the correct position? Both.
Thanks for your insights. Cb
Jazz is already culturally relevant in our times and will always remain so into the future.
The music itself has continued to progress, but other aspects in other areas of the music business sometimes hinder the progress of the economic culture that supports the music and the art itself.
Most jazz venues today “book” and “present” as if we were still living in the 1940s USA. Most people who go out to jazz venues today, were not even alive then, nor even were most of the presenters themselves.
Jazz has a rich history of over one hundred years - many branches or styles too. But, the music is no longer simply Bebop or the Blues, and has not been that since the work of progressives like John Coltrane, Andrew Hill and Eric Dolphy during the 1960s.
Not too unlike the manner in which classical music is presented publicly in contemporary society, jazz music will also find a balance within this context.
The effect of Jazz Education has to also be factored in context of a “living wage” scale. You can hire students to perform for a “sandwich” in perpetuity in our age because there is a seemingly endless supply of them enrolled in jazz studies programs everywhere.
That is not a bad thing, it is great, but the jazz market is flooded with competent emerging players with a different motivation than an established artist with a family to support, who can (and willingly do), take the stage for considerably less than union scale.
I submit that the reality we live in today is a solid paradigm where most jazz scenes have enough qualified artists as to present different artists in each venue everyday for at least 6-months of a year at a time. Doing this would address several contemporary issues:
(1) Dispel the illusion that when you learn how to play and graduate, that you will automatically get a gig because you are good and deserve it; (2) Give artists enough time to actually brand themselves with their fan base between concerts by promoting and marketing their artistry over a suitable length campaign (a vital function that benefitted the relatively few with major label and major studio contracts back in the day); (3) Require artists to participate in the contemporary scene building aspects of audience development in their own community, and precipitate their reaching people outside of the group of folks they went to jazz camp or school with, or the professionals they studied with; (4) Presenting all of the qualified artists on a scene would also result in more venues becoming “live music” opportunities because you would not have the prevailing current scenario of - “if I miss so-and-so tonight, I can always see them at the club down the street tomorrow”, as is the case in most of the smaller markets today. (5) Gives artists ownership and makes them stakeholders in their own scene and art.
"Creating Superstars" is not necessarily going to save jazz. We did that during my lifetime, as I recall, during the 1980s with the "Young Lions".
How has that worked out? It has us where we are today, is how it has worked out. Recognizing the music itself as the "superstar" is the solution.
We have so many untapped resources at our disposal today, that those who came before us in the last century could not have even imagined this current paradigm that many artists seem to inherently take for granted in our times. The Internet. Own your own music because you don’t need a record label to reach people. Access to technical information in every formal institution of higher learning. Access to technical information for free online.
Give me a break … we have it great.
In Kansas City, they used to have “cutting contests” back in the day. Most people reading this already know what that scenario means. It’s a fierce competition to out perform other musicians, for the reward of some form of “peer recognition” or “bragging” right of passage.
When live music was one of the only forms of leisure activity in our society, the result of consumers going to music venues to amuse themselves became a primary industry in that regard. However, when you fast forward to our times of today, the real competition musicians should engage isn’t one to determine who has learned to play “Cherokee” faster than Charlie Parker did 70 years ago, but should be to see whose music is more interesting than someone’s game station, or Internet connection , or home entertainment system.
We live in the best time ever in history to be jazz artists and jazz industry people.
We are purveyors of a noble, honest and honorable art form that enhances the human spirit and condition. Modern Jazz.
We simply have to use our minds, while we are off of the bandstand, and be clever enough to figure out how to use all of the determining power we finally have at our disposal.
Jazz is not in trouble. We simply need to get off of our collective behinds and live more in the present, than in the past - when it comes to business.
A very nice and positive viewpoint, Christopher! Indeed, there is certainly a lot of new opportunity now, which I can identify with to some degree. As an example, I've been able to land a good number of gigs over the holiday season into the new year, ranging from duets to full 6-piece bands here in the Richmond, VA area using various web-based marketing tools. As a hobbyist-artist re-entering the local scene, the gigs are a good opportunity not only to earn some money and exercise our performance abilities, but to grow awareness and "brand" ourselves.
To the theme of your conversation with Oz, I'll say that the gigs range from standards to Contemporary to New Orleans Jazz!
thanks for the thoughtful responses here. to an aspiring "eclectic" internet musician, this kind of thread is near priceless...
(The timing of this comment shows how "behind the times" I am!).
For any music form to be relevant, it has to mean something to somebody. It is not the music itself that gives it relevance and meaning, it is the action, attitude, and results that is associated with the music that gives it relevance. An example is the music of Jimi Hendrix - although his music was genre busting, it was the thousands of examples where someone who heard his music adopted/adapted it to their particular beliefs where his music became particularly relevant.
Music goes in "cycles". It is rebellious and only understood by a small minority when it first arrives. However, very good parties are thrown which features this music. Later, the music becomes more popular to the point that a majority of the people are in favor of it. In the US (and probably worldwide), the words in the music becomes about money, girls, and cars because it is much more associated with success. Eventually, everyone gets tired of the music, and it becomes less popular. When this happens, it will be taken over by the academic community. If you want something to "not" happen, just give it to the academic community. An example of this is the pig waste problem in my home state of NC. The major pork producers knew years ago how to "kick the can down the road" and not solve the underlying problems would be to study it to death by the academic community. The academic community specializes in preserving things as they were, and are very good and useful for that. An example is classical music - it was excellent, is preserved by the academic community, but not much new is happening there. The academic community wants things to change a little bit so that new revisions of textbooks are required. However, they don't want to have to write completely new textbooks.
For Jazz (or any other type of music) to become relevant again, the wheel has to spin again and the cycle has to be unbroken. It is left to the reader to determine where he or she believes jazz is in its cycle, but I think it is time to start throwing some really good parties.
I believe the answer to "The Big Question" is yes. There was a time long ago when jazz was contemporary pop. It is difficult to have a historical perspective since most of us were born long after that. As musicians, we define jazz by the steady artistic evolution of the craft that has occurred since. My particular take is not about attitudes, commerce, politics or education. It is just a musical approach. I suggest revisiting, in a modern context, a long lost percussive device: Asymmetrical Back Beats. The art of melodic improvisation flourished when it was part of the popular music of the '20's through the big band era. Kids who were buying records could relate to it physically through dancing. In order to re-awake the public's atrophied ears to our beloved art form, that connection would have to be reestablished. A golden opportunity was missed during the GAP commercial inspired mini swing craze of the mid to late '90's. It got young people swing dancing. The craze ended because people became bored with the music even though the players wore funny hats and twirled their instruments and made every effort to be visually entertaining. Maybe we should be a little scientific about this. Back in the '70's, when dance clubs still hired bands (before DJs took over completely) I had an epiphany while taking a guitar solo with my "funk" band. The dance floor was full but I realized that my solo could be good, bad, or mediocre and it really would not make much of a difference to the dancers. That was because they were dancing to the symmetrical back beats on 2 and 4 of the measure. As Dick Clark's studio audiences on American Band Stand repeatedly informed us - "It has a good beat and it is easy to dance to". I once saw a film of the Benny Goodman band where the camera was looking down on a crowded dance floor from a balcony. As Goodman built his clarinet solo to a climax, you could see the dancers jumping higher into the air. They were driven by Gene Krupa's quarter notes on the bass drum and loud, propulsive, asymmetrical hits on the snare, but people were essentially dancing to the improvised melody. The drumming of Joe Jones with the Basie band is another example of asymmetrical back beats. Unfortunately, none of the swing acts that achieved notoriety during the '90's (Big, Bad Voodoo Daddy, Brian Setzer et al...) picked up on this. The shuffle got old real fast. Strong back beats propel the dancers but a steady 2 and 4 disengages them from the melody. Forget jazz and history and zoot suits and break it down to the sonic essentials of what makes people dance and there may be a glimmer of hope for a fusion with melodic improvisation. Whether people are dancing to Rihanna or Duke Ellington, we know that they like it around 120 beats per minute. What they are dancing to is the quarter note pulse. You can easily take any contemporary dance track, strip away everything but the bass drum, and superimpose Satin Doll. The only difference is that the rhythm of the modern (unimprovised) melodic content is usually defined with straight eighths and sixteenth notes instead of swing eighths. At this point, you may ask - "who cares?" Well, we do, obviously and the marketing and promotional geniuses have not been able to prevent America's only original art form from going down the tubes. Could it be that the music itself needs to be dealt with? It didn't mean a thing without that swing because that was the feeling that connected the dancer and the melodic improvisor. New music can be created with that feeling that connects with today's dancers but it won't swing for long unless the crutch of the symmetrical back beat is avoided.
Interesting musical perspective! The only thing is this - I rarely ever hear jazz drummers playing the snare on 2 and 4 unless it is in a big band setting. Further, the popularity of Fusion and Contemporary Jazz was largely due to incorporation of standard rock and funk elements - namely the backbeat. It was something for the non-Jazz listener to latch onto.
By the same token, I do think that your advice would bode well for a drummer within a Contemporary or Fusion setting to spice things up. As far as the 90s craze, the Squirrel Nut Zippers were my favorite group to come out of that, by far. They were known to have a lot of variety to their songs, rhythmic and otherwise.
Thanks for the reply. You rarely hear jazz drummers play the snare on 2 and 4 because they are playing music for listening, not dancing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I am talking about the function of the back beat as it relates to improvised melody and listeners who are dancing.
"Culturally relevant" has two sides. A public and a private side. Jazz is private- from an individual and their riff to a very small get together in order to let that riff "be a being". Jazz is public.."put a dollar in my hat ....I'm on the subway platform....I'm scatting on the street". But when YOU ARE PROMOTED -it is a game changer. Everybody wants to be the one whos listening to the hottest music but doesn't want to admit the objective reality of being in the second or third wave of "did you here about this one?" Promoters study the time it takes for you to "check the facts" versus many many factors of their artist on their label. Just like the game of reading food labels, they hope that you "just trust the food". Very few times- you SHOULD just trust the food (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, John Scofield). So barring the game of A. Recording and distribution and B. Performing and ticket sales- in order for jazz to be culturally relevant is to sponsor COPIOUS small jazz jams with one leadership-minded instrumentalist each in a city that is open minded to it.Do this DAILY -in the A.M. and in the P.M. Like a barber shop- you can either walk-in or like a salon- make a little preparation. But keep it dead-simple. Boo! -Jay.
Jazz HAS continued to remain relevant, thriving, not just surviving. It is played literally all over the world, in jazz clubs, music festivals, corporate events, wedding receptions, jazz society concerts, music conventions, themed cruise ship trips, on the radio, on TV, in jazz magazines, on the internet, on CD's, and on secondary to college campuses. "America's Original Musical Artform" is studied and performed in middle school, high school, college and conservatory music programs worldwide, jazz artists are brought in as clinicians to mentor aspiring young student musicians, jazz societies and music festivals hold audition competitions to award music scholarships to student players for continued study and performance. With over 26 years of performing as a jazz vocal artist, teaching privately, I am currently pursuing my masters degree in jazz studies. Jazz may not be THE 'pop'ular music of this era as it was in the 30-40's, but it continues to thrive because musicians, fans, presenters, media and educational sources continue their devotion of supporting and growing it, maintaining its legacy while incorporating current musical/social influences that keep it moving forward as a relevant musical artform.
I haven't seen much discussion here about the role and effect of radio. Yeah, I know, it's a 20th Century technology. Is radio even culturally relevant? Yes! Plenty of people listen to the radio; young, old and in between. Radio is ubiquitous. Start the car: there it is. Walk into a store: there it is. One button gets it started at home and it will go and go until you turn it off. Perhaps one reason there's so little discussion of radio in these comments is that there's not much jazz on the radio these days. There are, however, a few intrepid stations out there that dare to broadcast jazz more or less 24/7. And their communities are better for it. In fact, some of the cities with full time jazz stations are jazz hot beds. New York, served by WBGO in New Jersey and New Orleans, served by WWOZ come to mind. Sure, there are other factors, like a legacy of jazz performers and a wide and deep audience. But I think full time jazz radio helps keep the momentum going. OK, I'll confess: I'm biased. I've been volunteering at Denver's jazz radio station, KUVO, for over 26 years now. Seeing it from the inside, however, has shown me the profound effect full time jazz radio can have on the viability of jazz in a community. Denver certainly doesn't have the long jazz legacy of New York or New Orleans, but jazz thrives here. Live jazz abounds. I like to go to live jazz shows, but I can't come close to keeping up because there's so much going on. National acts come through on a regular basis and the town is filled with talented jazz musicians who play regularly.KUVO is a big part of that, promoting the shows, interviewing the musicians and letting them perform live on the air. All of this builds interest and excitement for jazz in general as well as specific performances. As a public station, KUVO must actively reach out to its audience for funding. The station sponsors its own jazz parties that get jazz fans directly involved. We invite station members to attend our live broadcasts from our performance studio. We've been doing a live remote broadcast about once a month on a Saturday night at a local club. Once a month we broadcast a live performance of a local high school or college jazz band from our performance studio. All of this gets substantial numbers of people, many of them young people, involved in and excited about jazz. It's too bad more stations, especially public stations, don't play jazz. It gets back to the cultural relevance issue, however. Most public stations can grab a larger audience, and therefore more money, with other programming. Morning Edition and All Things Considered are money-makers, all right. But how many stations in one market need to run those? Answer: one. Too bad that's not always the case. But I digress. In Denver, jazz is always on the air and in the air. Is jazz culturally relevant in Denver? That gets back to that definitional question some comments have wrestled with. I can say, however, Denver has a vibrant jazz culture and I think there is more jazz in clubs and in concert, more jazz being played by more people, more people making money from jazz and more jazz being enjoyed by more people than if this town didn't have a full time jazz radio station.
This piece and its comments caused me to give the whole matter some thought. I've published an article about the subject on my blog at http://jazzinsideandout.com..., and I hope you’ll take a look. Herewith an excerpt.
. . .The biggest problem jazz has had for years is not a failure of marketing or education. It’s one of definition and identity. The music has become so fragmented and gone off in so many directions that no one can properly define it, much less explain it. Ask an informed musician or critic for a definition, and you’ll wait a long time for a coherent answer. There’s no agreement even on what’s traditional.
You can educate people in the traditions and genres of jazz (some twenty-two are listed in All About Jazz, the largest jazz website), but who’s going to care if the music has lost its public (common) identity? Not only that, but are the aficionados ever going to agree on what constitutes these twenty-two genres, defines them?
Finally, you can’t market something unless you know what you’re selling—the features, benefits, and everything that makes your product different from the competition. The marketing is post hoc.
Some days ago Michael Ricci, AAJ’s founder/publisher, wrote a piece to solicit comments: “Can Jazz Become Culturally Relevant Again? If So, How?” If you sign in and read the thirty-plus comments, I think you’ll find most of them enlightening. You can ignore the fatuous self-serving remarks of Mort Weiss.
Some commenters questioned the premise of the question, and rightly. Of course jazz is culturally relevant. The question is why has it lost its popularity and appeal. Some think the record business killed off the audience, which is a little like saying that Ford dealers killed off the Edsel. . . .
You pose an interesting theory that bears thought. In practice, "genres" of music are marketed far less than the bands and musicians that make them up. One exception would be festivals. Incidentally, Jazz festivals seem to still have a large draw, and more are cropping up all the time, regardless of opinion on whether they feature what one considers true Jazz to themselves.
There is arguably wide diversity in most all successfully selling musical genres. The job of more narrowly defining a core genre for purposes of distribution and sales seems to be in the hands of those that sell the content, both now and historically. I would propose that there is strength and opportunity in musical diversity. It seems that music consumers now more than ever care less about genre labeling and more about judging the music on the full experience they receive.
In my opinion, defining Jazz is somewhat like holding grains of sand. The tighter you grasp to bring it together, the quicker it will slip through your fingers. Better to hold it in your open hand and marvel at its sparkling variety.
One factor that all the "CD Sales" figures always seem to neglect is the fact that most jazz artists treat physical CDs as either "merchandise" to be sold at live shows and other events, or promotional vehicles for radio play. I'm not aware of any jazz artist who factors online or in-store CD sales as their sole accounting method for "CD Sales", nor have I ever met a jazz musician who reports their "merchandise" CD sales numbers to the RIAA.
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I wrote an article with similar themes earlier in the year. I even submitted it to AAJ, but I know that Mr. Ricci stays busy and the piece wasn't ready much in advance of Miles Davis' birthday, which the article is tied to - http://ejazznews.com/?p=21450 . Also, it is probably not that great of an article!
In it, I also lamented the lack of sales and popularity reflected in Jeff Winbush's comments pasted in Mr. Ricci's blog entry here. In my article, I put much of the onus upon the musicians, as well as noting the important roles of the recording and live event industries. Some remarks in these comments by @Eileen Howard and @Brian Ross echo some of my sentiments at the time. It struck a chord with some AAJ forum members, but also seemed to ignite a lot of anger among many who are perfectly happy with where Jazz is commercially, and took umbrage at any accusations of a lack of creativity (See http://forums.allaboutjazz.... ) . I certainly respect the musical creativity that can still be found in Jazz and will admit here again that I unfortunately don't have a catalog-like knowledge of Jazz from the past couple of decades. The forum community will be more than happy to open your ears to new material that you are unlikely to encounter without some digging. I recommend utilizing their expertise!
There is another common theme appearing in the comments here, which is relying upon education to raise the popularity of Jazz. As an American artform, I certainly believes Jazz deserves its place in the education curriculum. At the same time, I don't believe that this will significantly increase popularity of new Jazz any more than elementary schoolers listening to Beethoven's 9th will increase sales or concert attendance for new classical artists. Then when it comes to post-secondary Jazz education the focus should be on turning out successful musicians, while still offering the Jazz Appreciation course to the general student body.
A final and very important theme shown in these comments and only touched upon briefly in my article is that of marketing and economics, which @cathomatic1 and @Brian Ross hit upon quite nicely. Music is popular when it is marketed and sold. In any genre, be it Pop, Jazz, Rock, R&H, Hip Hop, etc., the best musician or music is obviously not necessarily the most popular. The question is this - will Jazz sell? In my humble opinion, the answer is yes - if marketed effectively to the right potential audiences. Even in my own personal experience, I've been surprised with the ability of the band I am playing with to absolutely pack a small venue, along with the restaurant's support (Emilio's, Richmond, VA). It is a spot that is know locally for a long history of live Jazz, yet many groups performing there seem to have a somewhat tepid turnout. What it takes is a concerted and integrated marketing effort on behalf of myself and the band, via a number of different methods, be it online, on the street, or one-on-one with personal contacts and acquaintances. The venue is able to then pay us based on the business we bring in.
What I see in the current Jazz landscape is OPPORTUNITY. The opportunity for creative and flexible musicians and businesspersons to reach untapped new listeners and to reconnect with veterans. That is my hope, anyway.
Hope I won't get my head cut off, but here are my thoughts: 1) Jazz performance has become too codified (eg: audience must clap after every solo, every instrument must take a solo.) It's become like classical music where there are rules of behavior that constrain an audience from just responding naturally to what they enjoy. 2) a lot of instrumental jazz music is just too discordant and jumpy for most people. Okay, fine, follow your bliss. but don't complain that you have a dwindling audience. I can't tell you how many people I talk to say "oh, I don't like jazz". What they are thinking of is avant guard instrumental jazz where the solos go on forever and the audience can't ascertain any melody. They can't relate to it. That may be heresy, but it is the truth.3) I would echo others who have said it needs to be more fun. The players need to be having a blast and need to invite the audience to have a blast. Many instrumentalists create no connection with the audience. This is ENTERTAINMENT. Be entertaining. Engage with the people who are listening. So many players are up there having their own little musical orgasm and disregard whether they are actually bringing along the audience for the nice ride. ;-)
Yes, but first, it's a poorly worded question. Jazz is relevant to millions of people all over the world. It's just not popular in America, its birthplace. There are several reasons for this, that have nothing to do with music in schools, but with our culture as a whole, and Jazz marketing.
A Japanese gentleman wrote a very profound piece a couple of years ago that put forward a simple explanation of why the music does well overseas and not here: Lyrics. Most pop music is entirely lyric driven and the lyrics tend to be very simple. That, or they go to techno clubs where the instrumental music is driving beat to which they can dance. Everything else? They avoid. Why is it different overseas? Most people who don't speak English as a first language are used to hearing music, even with lyrics, as effectively instrumental. They can't understand the lyrics, so the vocal track is merely another instrument of sound.
Jazz is a more cerebral music. 3% of the world is natively super-intelligent and "gets" anything. Much of the music has moved away from getting people drunk on bathtub gin in the bootlegging prohibition era of the 1920s to its artery-hardened, institutionalization in colleges and conservatories. It's deep. It's real, but seldom is it FUN. The only time we've seen FUN out of Jazz are with swing bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Setzer Orchestra that were pushing the swing dance revolution. Gordon Goodwin and Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove have made huge strides in redefining the big band in a more profound way while still keeping the fun in it, but we have a long, long way to go to reach the majority kids who want to tune the brain out when they listen to music.
On radio and web we hail the great players of the "golden" age like Gods and give short shrift to the living breathing masters of today. We're always in the rearview mirror instead of marketing what's in the now. If John Coltrane were alive today, he might be lost in this mess instead of becoming the visionary that he is because we'd be falling all over some other past phenom and largely ignoring his genius. Don't believe me? Let me introduce you to dozens of amazing musicians with whom I work every day and see how many of them hold the same level of reverence and esteem. The problem is US, dear jazz afficianados. We have to recognize what Jazz IS, and move forward. What is Jazz?
I had a wonderfully shocking conversation with a Jazz professor when I asked: "What is the foundation of Jazz?" He started in on a very intellectual, historically grounded sermon and I stopped him with two words: Bars and whore-houses. Jazz was NAUGHTY. It was FUN. It was the music people listened to when they played and partied. Rock became NAUGHTY, and Jazz lost that mantle. Jazz went looking for the edge of reality. Rock served up "She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah" and with a love like that, you know that can't be baaad (for sales).
Modern Jazz musicians laid down and took it. The music aged around its "name" stars, and the generation behind it was delighted to play with people who could still tour, rather than striking out on their own against the Rock onslaught.
The majority of today's Jazz musicians are amazing players, but horrible marketers. They ran and hid in academia when Rock and Roll invaded and, unlike Country, were often too purist to find a middle ground. They know how to talk to the Greatest Generation audiences, who are dying off, but they have a hard, hard time knowing how to talk to people who were not raised on the music.
Can this be reversed? Absolutely. Jazz musicians have to reach out to younger audiences. They have to develop a new generation of vocal music that provides some level of entry, and they have to listen to the sounds of the world around them and incorporate some of it, at times, to provide a "hook" to get people to listen to more of the cerebral stuff.
Millennials are hungry for new experiences. They'll eat blow fish. They can listen to Jazz.
Trombone Shorty, whom many in the Jazz world, especially in New York, like to hold at arm's length and poo-poo as if he was Yanni or Kenny G. or Mindi Abair. Shorty's work is landmark, though, listening to his town, New Orleans, and incorporating bits of the hip-hop, rap, and Jazz scenes into something that is current, authentic, and relevant, today's buzzword question. He brings in big names like Lenny Kravitz to do vocals and play. He is a gateway artist and should be thanked, not condemned by the snobs in the Jazz world and, oh my yes, we have plenty of those.
Personally, I think if many of those top artists of their day would be the first ones to remind modern Jazz musicians that the audience comes first. Monk is famous for having disdained the audience, but even he saw Jazz trend off in a bad, bad way back in the day:
"At this time the fashion is to bring something to jazz that I reject. They speak of freedom. But one has no right, under pretext of freeing yourself, to be illogical and incoherent by getting rid of structure and simply piling a lot of notes one on top of the other. There’s no beat anymore. You can’t keep time with your foot. I believe that what is happening to jazz with people like Ornette Coleman, for instance, is bad. There’s a new idea that consists in destroying everything and find what’s shocking and unexpected; whereas jazz must first of all tell a story that anyone can understand."
I work every day on changing that perception, and opening the doors to kids to listen to the music. We need to put more young players up on a pedestal. Kids like to see their peers succeed. Rock and Roll came to the fore because young people played music for other young people. That's the essence of pop, which runs with kids of its own generation, and shlock and shock take a front seat to musicality.
Jazz could elevate that conversation a whole lot, by making its music cool again by leading those millennials to see another "tier" of cool beyond the thunder of Electronica or the latest Miley Cyrus controversy. Let Cecille McLorin Salvant blow them away, as she does wherever she goes, and set a higher bar. We did it back in the day with Herbie and Wynton. We have to do it again now, or, my friends, this music will die in the country of its birthplace, and that will be a tragedy of epic proportion.
It's not who plays, boys and girls. We have enough of those coming through schools right now. It's who LISTENS to those new players in THEIR AGE brackets. Music is not the NFL. You don't have to pick a team. The popular crowd isn't the enemy, nor are we theirs. We need to show them what is amazing and beautiful about this music, and they will come. Yes they will.
My shiny two.
Yeh Brian -lengthy but nice--"Jazz Musician's HAVE TO"??????? Really?without even starting-I rest my case-you Win! the class of 65 has alredy won- and George Santyana's statement prevails! M
This commentary has begun, been erased, begun again and again erased many times. Where to begin when so many seemingly disparate, yet ultimately connected factors, come in to play?
Will jazz ever again become relevant music? Probably not. It seems that public education in this country and the level of education for jazz musicians are on two opposing trajectories. Arts education in public schools is being eliminated with frightening regularity. I understand budgetary concerns in any level of enterprise, but for any society to be rich and vibrant, it seems that an appreciation of the arts should not be reserved for the 1% of the population. As public schools cut music programs, some students are deprived of the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument. But more importantly, all students are deprived of any sort of music appreciation class. If this seems unimportant, just attend any rock ‘n roll concert. For over twenty years now, the “mosh pit” mentality prevails and has spread to the rest of the seating area as well. The music is irrelevant. It has been reduced to background sounds for whatever physical antics constitute a fun time. Why? Because people no longer know how to sit still and listen to music. Not knowing how to appreciate the structure of music and its contributing components reduces it to just a “vibe” or feeling for the ensuing party.
Jazz certainly doesn’t fit this paradigm. As jazz has evolved from a medium where aspiring cats learn their craft primarily upon the bandstand to one where cats now graduate from university music programs with degrees in performance, composition and theory, the music has become all the more cerebral in nature. For the average person who can’t relate to or understand the comparatively simple structure of rock ‘n roll music and to sit and listen to that, they will be hopelessly lost when confronted with the complexities of modern jazz.
But obviously this is not the first time that this dilemma has confronted jazz. Swing, whether or not you view it as “real jazz”, was all about physical activity, dancing, related to music, as well. The Be-Bop revolution, to oversimplify, was about talented musicians whose skill level surpassed the demands of the danceable charts of swing. Many jazz fans were left in the dust by this revolution. But at least at that time, public schools still had music programs and as Be-Bop and Hard Bop flourished, there was still an adequate fans base of those hip and educated enough to dig the music.But now, the jazz scene has so many exceptionally skillful cats, whose music makes the complexities of Be-Bop seem pedestrian, that only those who can afford private schools which still have music programs, and additionally splurge on private lessons, have a chance of understanding or appreciating jazz today. A composition with alternating bars of 7/4 and 6/4, no matter how compelling the melody or how much the mixed meter swings, is going to sound alienating to those unequipped with an understanding of the music’s fundamentals in their listening “tool belt.”
Personally, I love the current jazz scene and will forever appreciate the way that Tony Williams and Elvin Jones revolutionized the role of the drummer in a combo. But for most people, this meant that they were now lost, as they had no idea where to find the beat. And the disciples of Tony and Elvin, on the current scene, have expounded upon this style at the expense of the average Joe. Let’s be honest, most adult listeners can still appreciate a Dixieland band, where the polyphony of the out chorus is actually cacophonous. Why? Because the drummer is still the anchor to the music and keeps the beat right in the listener’s face so that they don’t feel lost. In no way am I implying that we roll back jazz’s sophistication to that of eighty years ago. But it seems that as long as we, as a society, are willing to make arts education exclusive to the privileged and not something important to society as a whole, then we will never see jazz be anything other than a niche market, with diminishing relevance.
Nice to see all'a ya cats from Academia-Talkin all dis s*** about somethin- that they mess with with after their 9-5 slave- but in the PARLANCE of the the comments laid out here-ammmm -any a U cats ever pay the rent -put food on the table- and buy your kids new clothes for the school year playing jazz-pure jazz? Camon now-dont mean you garage band cats that dabbled -while living with mom and dad -with access to the refrigerator Or you cats that TEACH???? music in some kind of structured orderly :) place like a SCHOOL-and work a country or yacht club on weekends with all of your electronic devieces (that hastend the dimise of the music) and try to sneak a chorus or 2 of "Donna Lee" when no ones dancing --it's over ladys and GENTS- IT'S BEEN GREAT FUN BUT---------- THINGS. And why am I still recording records with some of the heaviest cats in the business? Well, I just happen to be Not only theVERY BEST in what I do-but as Michael Ricci's has said to me "Mort, Most people aren't like you." And I happen to resemble that remark! M
I'm not as eloquent assome of you, but I'd like to make my comments. I'm a jazz singer of about 45years, and have been a professional for most of those years. I'm an educator aswell, and very much into a higher level of appreciation of jazz.
I’m enjoying yourcomments. A thing that stands out forme, is, what is relevance? And what has been relevant? When I look back at thehistory of relevance, it seems to me to be reflected by two things. One isfinancial, which I think in jazz, pretty much came out of what was consideredpop at the time...during the Ella and Frank period. And then many of the heroesof the time were relevant to jazz fans, and is that really the relevancy we'reall talking about here? As time progressed, the same examples applied. Smoothjazz brought fans to jazz and financial gains. And, Sting used Branford and Kenny and Tain, and so brought awarenessand appreciation into the public. ECM remained popular with fans. Modern edgy jazz is growing in popularity,even with the younger fans. But isn'tthat what happens in general, in all of life? The ebb and flow of life doesthat.
It twists and turns, grows and dies, always changing and evolving. Right?
Yes, I've observed thatmaking a living as a jazz performer is not easy if you're not in the limelight.But that is not what frustrates me personally. What frustrates me mostly is nothaving a large audience for live performances. And although I believe if mymarketing skills were better, the audiences would be better (and I do believethere are people out there already that would love what I do)...what you areall talking about, is relevant to that…bringing in an audience, which reflectsin all the aspects of the career.
Introducing all the manygenre styles to the public is crucial to engaging audiences, because of course,there are many tastes that people have. I see no problem in the manydifferent genre styles. All music hasthat. But, again, I think that ifmarketing skills were better, the genre would become more known and desired.
Also, marketing skills arecrucial, which includes getting into the new social media skills of reaching anaudience. Because it's no longer enough to be a great artist. It justisn't, and anyone who resists this is totally kidding themselves. As a broader reflection of this, all of lifekeeps changing…the focus of the ages has shifted, through the industrial,information and now into spiritual…anyone who has to hold to the old and cannotadjust and create the new will not survive in a good way. To me, this is more thecrux of the matter.
We will never give upcreating for creation’s sake, will we? Iwon’t. I don’t believe any artist wantsto. I think those who do, do so becausethey are let down by things outside of themselves, such as low public recognition,bad club owners, etc. OK, that is sad insome cases, but some people go on and on, blaming the “environment” for theirown lack of success. With “I just wantto create!” as a justification for their giving up the work that it takes.
News flash: everything in life takes work. The more personally dedicated one is, themore rewards you get. If you’re notgetting the kind of rewards you desire, there’s a good chance you’re not doingthe kind of work it takes for you to get there. I see it as a personal, spiritual thing.
Perhaps I am not seeingthe full picture that I should see, perhaps there could be serious groupefforts to change society’s viewpoint of our dear genre. But I’m a pretty active person in thecommunity. I do go out there and createa lot of things; gigs and workshops. Maybe, if people like me were introduced to a real path that led to ahuge goal, like changing society’s viewpoint of us, we could make greatinroads, and as a group, help the genre to succeed.
I agree that we are conflating or confusing the issue of cultural relevance. I'm assuming that we aren't necessarily equating "cultural relevance" with it's place in the popular culture. If that is the case, then not much has changed. For most of the past century, jazz has been a niche art form loved by a small percentage of the population. It's cultural relevance is partly determined by its place in the institutionalized culture and jazz has done fine in that regard (I won't rehash the arguments made by others) spurred on by institutions and educational systems. Jazz music is acknowledged as a major part of the musical heritage of this country and it is played (and celebrated) around the world. I'm not at all worried about jazz's cultural relevance.
Does that mean everything is fine? The obvious answer is no. Even if you doubt those numbers and they are very hard to believe, it's clear that jazz sales are dwindling as fast or faster than the rest of the music industry. It's also apparent that jazz clubs are closing around the country (yes, there are exceptions) and it is harder and harder for jazz musicians (excluding the few who can play concert halls) to tour in North America (especially after Jazz festival season). If you sell a paltry number of records and have few options to play live, then your livelihood is going to be severely compromised.
I'm not very optimistic about the idea of a jazz savior. If you recall, Norah Jones (a winner of the Thelonious Monk piano competition) sold over 20+ million copies of her debut album (not that long ago) on the Blue Note label. Yes, it wasn't conventionally a jazz album and her later work moved even further away from jazz. But the association didn't do much for other jazz artists. I think successful crossover artists are treated as an exception and do little to impact the medium or livelihood of other artists who do not crossover.
The good news is there is no shortage of great artists across jazz subgenres and of variable vintages (from 20 to 85). If you read the pages of AAJ, it is clear that there are ample excellent recordings released every year. In addition, the more successful artists (not signed to a major label) are those who use social media effectively. But I appreciate that social media by itself is not the solution to the "commercial" viability of jazz. There is no obvious answer. In the 1980s, adventurous jazz had a growing appeal among young folks connected to the indie music scene--folks who appreciated more experimental and improvisational forms. Unfortunately, seems to have diminished considerably. But artists need to find a way to gain exposure or access to audiences beyond their immediate sphere without dramatically changing the music they play. Social media can help.
Jazz has not been a popular art form in my lifetime, but I am old enough to have seen it ride a few peaks and longer valleys. We are way overdue for a peak. The peak will not necessarily go further to affirm the genre's cultural relevance, but it will serve to sustain the many fine artists (young and old) commited to the art form.
What is "jazz"? What is "culturally relevant"?
Beauty still is in the ii's---dig? m
Firstly, those figures quoted for Jazz sales are ridiculous and simply don't make sense.Secondly, can Jazz become culturally relevant again? But It always has been and still is ( why else would Ken Burns choose to do a documentary series ( admittedly a poor effort) to join his other iconic American subjects?)..and it always will be given its rich history and successful migration across the planet.
Jazz however will remain a minority music simply because within that four letter word exist a myriad of styles which unfortunately confuse and frighten not only the consumer but also the advertisers and money men.I couldn't live without Jazz in my life but there are some styles of Jazz which I cannot listen to.Jazz is simply too fragmented to become mainstream and that fragmentation is only increasing given the cross mixing of styles and sounds, especially heard in other countries. Jazz's strength is also its weakness.The cake is only so big...and suggesting that Jazz needs a superstar to introduce it into the mainstream is naive...It'll never happen, it could never happen.Witness the packaging of Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum as examples of two artists packaged for mainstream..the result to these ears is "bland" music and only limited success.
To highlight another creative industry,the film business...there's a reason why Hollywood films in the main are so appalling and independent and foreign films far more interesting and challenging.It's the same reason why pan European TV commercials are so poor.The reason? They have to appeal the masses,to as many people as possible.. which means they have to be bland and predictable to succeed. Of course there are a few exceptions and there always will be... but the fundamental truth remains.
I well remember when London had its first 24hr Jazz station..it was incredible but its listening figures remained relatively poor and advertisers stayed away.Catch 22 and all that...the solution? They converted to "smooth " Jazz and hey presto, all was ( relatively) well.It's now a bland music station to go with err... all the other bland music stations.
Which leads to the other BIG question and frankly the one which this column perhaps is really about..will Jazz ever be commercially viable? Again...a definite no unless you're at the top of the apex and then probably not.The cake is only so big and the competition ( both from other artists and the consumers/advertisers spending alternatives) is ever increasing.
Interestingly,the arrival of the digital revolution has witnessed an explosion of releases from Jazz artists as production and distribution costs have dramatically fallen and to these eyes and ears it would appear that there are more Jazz musicians than ever across the globe...but has the product been better? I would suggest not.
It's the same with Jazz venues...they come and they go with each one suggesting they've discovered the secret to commercial success.But there's no secret..it's all down to economics and sadly for most the economics simply don't add up...and never will unless you're fortunate enough to get a patron or grants or public funding.
So the answer to the question and other questions about Jazz's future and survival? There isn't one... other than accept, celebrate and revel in being an important minority music style which is never going to die and will always enrich peoples lives.
Yep! Guy and you got it also! Hell I can remember when Bobby Blue -wasn't even bland-Oh yeh! M
Plucked from this: http://news.allaboutjazz.co...
As for Lady Gaga, she is on the record as being committed to jazz, and if her words mean anything, she will pick up the torch and do her part to expose young audiences to the music. Let's face it, as noble and as tireless as Jazz at Lincoln Center and other jazz institutions are, they simply don't have the candle power or influence that Lady Gaga does among the world's young. This isn't a knock. These institutions do as much as they can.
Let me guess. These comments come from men. With nine years as a jazz programmer/announcer to my credit, I know what a boy's tree house jazz is. (Female singers don't count.) How did I manage to do it? I was lucky. But the NPR station I worked for cut 8 hours of jazz from its daily schedule and "disappeared" it on weekends. Any musical genre dominated by middle-aged (and older) white men has a problem.Jazz education is the latest salvation mantra and it's about as unconvincing as most education fads. The emotional and erotic energy that once propelled jazz has diminished; so has melody and rhythm.
Yes jane re Jazz-You (sad to say-and maybe not) GOT IT! m
Jan makes a VERY good point here. Too many young women aren't made to feel welcome in jazz from the high school jazz band to the venue bandstand.
Is cultural relevance a binary concept? Surely there are degrees of cultural relevance. Jazz is not as culturally relevant as it has been, but it still holds some cultural relevance, at least for some people.
McCoy's sales figures make no sense. A fall from 3% to 1.1% doesn't seem to match a fall from around 18000 to "fewer than 12000". Assuming that "fewer than 12000" jazz-genre albums were sold in 2009 and assuming that AAJ's annual album review tally of around 1000 jazz-genre albums represents every such album released annually (I know it doesn't, but stick with me) then the average jazz-genre album sells 12 copies. Really? Twelve? Billboard's 2012 music industry report puts jazz genre album sales at 8.1 Million - fantastic year on year growth if McCoy's 2009 figures as reported by Jeff Winbush are even remotely correct. Am I missing something? A few zeroes perchance?
Anyway, since when was cultural relevance measured solely in album sales? Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Parker, Coltrane.... Not many Platinum Discs awarded, but they each added something to culture.
Very interesting comments so far. To me, the question when jazz ceased (supposedly) to be culturally relevant seems to be equally important as the question what cultural relevance means in the first place. Or to merge the two questions: In which way has it ever been culturally relevant? In my (optimistic) world view jazz has actually never ceased to be culturally relevant insofar as it continued throughout its history to incorporate the values of openmindedness, curiosity, spontaneity, collaboration, and freedom, combined with some serious hard work, while at the same time providing (in general) a sane distance from the trends of commodification that prevail elsewhere. Maybe the 'stage' is not as large or impressive as it was back in the days when jazz was more directly linked with social movements in the 60s that embodied those very values. But from this perspective, the 'relevancy crisis' of jazz may turn out to be not so much about the music but more about the general question of what constitutes social progress that has to be answered before we can talk about 'giving it a voice'. I mean, what 'large scale' relevance can we expect from an artform in a time when we have to seriously ask about the political relevance of politics itself (and sociologists talk about "post democracy" in Europe and the US)? So jazz's relevance is and perhaps has to be 'small scale', more on a local or even niche level to avoid becoming a symptom of the large trends of commodification and social disintegration instead of being (part of) the cure.
I've been around much longer than most of the cats writing and reading this single Q and a lot of A's- and while I was- and have been strolling along (boots on the ground) in my life of almost 80 years of which has found me going from an entry level to amongst the top of the food chain of JAZZ. I've lived through and played and recorded the complete genre E.G. dixieland - swing- bop -post bop-modal- Free-fusion and stream-Ive paid my rent and raised a family either playing jazz and or being VERY CLOSLY AFFILIATED with same- so given those credentials and my very High I.Q. and (up very close and personal) observations - should & will trump any and all thoughts on this topic that have been said and or WILL be said.
First, Life! It's really all about eating isn't it? -that equalizer my friends brings everyone to the same level point of reference on the playing field of life-dig? what I'm going to condense here -I go into GREAT DETAIL in & on my manny articles "The Mort Report" @ All About jazz - so if your familiar with my thoughts and outlooks about the craft that i've devoted my life to--Well, go mow the the lawn or watch a Twilight Zone or sumphtin-I'm not a preacher and I don't particularly like Choirs.
ALL art forms are reflective of the societal time that the artist finds him self living, and makes statement's through his or her craft using the discipline that they know and excel in. Jazz as ALL of the arts strive's to speak to your visceral self being and to assuage any & all needs that you might need in that area-of thought-feelings or just being on the "Sunny side of the street." As (so called civilization grow) new technologies are answering that Clarion call from our ID and deeper parts of our phycie-thus eliminating our need to dance -strut our stuff -twerk, and toe tap and smile---cause it FEELS so good! Yes Godfather thank you for all of those WONDERFUL MOMENTS!!!!!! But now as our personal comforts are being more & more assured there is NOT the nervous energy that MUST be released in a work of art -"YOU PICK THE DISCIPLINE! ERGO the elimination of venues that used to provide these peak moments of wonder-enjoyment and the feelings of a greater power that just elude us -antill we hear OHHH- SAY A Sonny Stitt trading 8'ts with Diz and or you fill in the blanks! What are my feelings about what I've just written ?- -FUCK IT! Mort Weiss
Jazz has gone through so many incarnations that it confuses listeners. When you say "jazz" do we speak of small combos from the 1920s, big bands, vocalist centered work, be-bob, post-bop, fusion, etc...? Each genre (period) has their admirers in the jazz community with some overlap from sub-genre to genre. I do think those listeners outside the community who would love the tin pan alley and swing tunes are alienated by long-winded soloing interpretations of the bop and post bop musicians when they play the standard canon. If you say jazz and people only remember what they *DON'T* like - it's hard to get them to listen again when you say "I sing/play jazz".
Also, new compositions reinvigorate the canon. Yes Esperanza Spaulding is bringing something new, but she is writing much (if not all) of her work. Rene Marie is a much less lauded singer (unfortunately) who has an album of original songs called "Black Lace Freudian Lip" that is in turns funny, tuneful AND speaks to women very much. She is a great songwriter and singer - regardless if it's jazz or not...
Finally, most people are passive listeners. How many people listed to the Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart standards albums bought them and thought there job was done saying "I own jazz albums now."? Other people go on to explore the jazz canon from these commercial gateways. Music lovers explore music whether it's classical, pop, or soul. If we need to educate, we need to educate music lovers from kindergarden to 4th grade and then let that education take them into teenage years & adulthood...
First thought: Jazz is a special in the moment spiritual and aural expression. The improvisational aspects of jazz itself may have the best chance of being valued in a mainstream way. The spirit of jazz and improvisation can be freed and valued apart from the wonderful jazz forms of specific time periods, specific popular instruments, writing habits, concerns and language of a specific time. If "Jazz" is 1940's-60's era music form only, then we are talking about preserving a music from a certain time period in conservatories similar to how classical music has been preserved.
I'd like to see preservation but would more prefer growth. Classical has survived in a beautiful and relevant but certainly not mainstream way. The word Jazz can mean horns and Art Blakey to one person, and Robert Glaspers cutting edge experiments to another. To a third it can mean an improvised spiritual expression in many new yet to be fully explored aural and perhaps visual and experiential forms. So, one thing to clarify is this: When we talk about bringing jazz mainstream...are we talking of the "JAZZ" of a previous generations time, technologies and place? Or are we talking about opening the definition of Jazz to lean towards that improvisational spirit which it has cultivated and explored for so long? The classics can still be called jazz but there is also a new Jazz, it can look and sound totally different than 30,40,50 years ago. It has to spring from a current relevant living time and place and express meaning derived through living in it's contemporary culture. I don't know what it will look like but time does not repeat itself. It probably won't come out of murky bar rooms in 1940's NYC etc. That was a moment in time. Un-repeatable un- emulateable and why would you? Your alive NOW! In this time!
Second thought: Maybe the word Jazz will be used to define a specific style and time period of music or perhaps usurped by something more relevant and "now" than even the "Jazz" word itself ( which was once synonymous with "relevancy and the now moment".Or maybe its history and weight will lend towards a revival of this word. If "jazz" "the word"broadens it's umbrella to include improvised music of all sorts... The word Jazz will revive in a modern context. Jazz in how it is expressed in spirit is alive and well in my world. Jazz as in 5 piece horn bands forming in every neighborhood, and hearing swing bands on the radio like in the 1940's... That Jazz was a moment in time. I don't know if that Jazz will come back as more than a strongly referenced, revered and preserved art form like in conservatory classical music?
The music problem might be addressed better if linguistically that word itself (jazz) Is used as a metaphor for freedom of expression, human growth, the exploration in time, heights of creativity, triumph, defeat, direct felt experience. If the word is used as a living thing describing a style of music and ALSO used as an analogy of human life and beyond. If that is the music called "Jazz" then it will be and grab more of the modern imagination and maybe bring it's aurally recorded musical historical past with it.Peace.
Up to around 1981 if a jazz record sold a thousand copies, it was OK, but because of the huge overhead and the money making in pop and rock, record companies wanted the same from jazz. That's what Miles Davis attempt was to fuse both pop-rock and jazz. Was it successful? Maybe, but it changed the way record companies wanted from their artist. The along came Wynton, the so-called savior of jazz and for the last 40 years the same questions have been asked, will Jazz survive? Is Jazz dead and so on. The truth is, it's all about money. Without it Jazz will not survive, but the money has to be invested in education in the schools. From pre-school through high school. Kids have to learn about and listen to it when they are young. But that means an organization that goes into public schools with teaching artist have to convince the board of eds around the country to invest in this art form without going broke. Colleges around the country can make music education mandatory which would include all kinds of music, but they have to be convinced. Somehow the money people have to get involved. Ads far as an art form, Jazz is already there and it will always be part of our culture.
Yes Dom! M
To my way of thinking, jazz will be as relevant as jazzmusicians want to make it. The discussion of relevance usually centers around acceptanceand commercial viability, concerns about external social and economic forces.Unfortunately, there’s no hope of musicians doing anything to change it if that’sthe case. Even if the viewpoint is adopted that jazz’s relevance is determined byeducation and exposure to it, factors which are controlled by music majors withteaching certificates and indifferent record companies who manipulate internetregulations and copyright laws, lobbying and lawsuits will never resolve it.The only thing that can save the music is the music.
On December 7, 1941, Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” begana 9-week run as the Billboard #1 best-selling record, and after selling 1.2 millioncopies, was awarded the first-ever Gold Record on February 10, 1942. But by 1969,McCoy Tyner was reportedly driving a cab to make ends meet--he denies this, butthe fact that the urban myth has survived this long means something. Jazz hadgone from the most popular music in the country to obscurity. Endless numbersof articles and books have been written about why it happened. But none of thetheories are very important.
What is important is that the game-changer was Miles Davis’sBitches Brew, released in the spring of 1970. Miles has beenassailed for it ever since, of course. What had he done? Aside from being acharismatic, larger-than-life bandleader, he had made the consciousdecision to play something the audience might want to hear--for the first timesince the end of the Big Band era. It went so well that Bill Graham got him andhis band to play the Fillmore East and West--much larger venues than the dark little 50-seat clubs they were used to. The bands that came out of it—TonyWilliams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Weather Report—wenton to create a revolution. They filled stadiums. You would never believe that enthusiasticRTF fans actually knocked down the fences in Central Park if you hadn’t been there to seeit. But it happened. Jazz was relevant.
It could happen again. Back then, the competition was theBeatles. Now it’s Beyonce. Fine. It’s time for some new music.
Well, we could go into a whole discussion about - What does "cultural relevance" even mean... Does it mean appealing to a mainstream audience? Which culture are we talking about? Should relevance even matter?
Asking whether something is culturally relevant sounds to me like an appeal for validation... not sure it's required in this case. i personally believe Jazz will always be relevant, Jazz is bigger than charts and record companies and superstars.
Should we instead be assuming as a given the relevance of Jazz beyond "culture" and think from there?
On the lines of what Mr. Winbush talks about in his last paragraph there... would we be better served talking about finding new creative ways of growing audiences in existing "markets"? Should we be thinking about how to reach new audiences/musicians who lack the access, exposure and venues? Perhaps we each in our small ways do things which help us share the music we love so much with those who are yet to discover it!
HI Michael I think that its going to take something other than new superstars in jazz for Jazz to thrive and survive. I think one of the main reasons Jazz is surviving is due to the jazz musicians who love it, play it, write it, record it, and teach it! And I believe Jazz Education will play an increasingly larger role in helping it to eventually thrive. I don't think celebrity-ism or even the recording industry is going to be that much of a factor. But teaching jazz in schools starting out even in Elementary schools introducing children to jazz in innovative and creative ways will garner more jazz lovers and fans than anything else. Another factor is that the recording industry is limping along on its last leg with the rise in society of a "freebie" mentality where the majority expects music to be free to stream at any time. Music has become devalued as a commodity and its getting difficult to even give it away! But there are enough jazz musicians who can teach it to others one on one in public schools and privately to keep it alive. To help make it thrive the entire jazz community is going to have to play a role and do their part by supporting one another. This means purchasing jazz recordings, sheet music/charts, and attending "live' jazz concerts. I heard a quote that has stuck with me,"We are the ones we are waiting for". There's an old spiritual that contains the following lyrics, "Everybody put your shoulder to the wheel" and I think that definitely applies here. Nothing new or magical is going to pop up and change everything. It will take all those who love jazz and that are passionate about to keep it afloat.
Like today's composers & classical musicians (read any issue of Chamber Music America); education and community involvement are crucial for the survival of jazz, classical music and living composers. I started my 501(C)(3) for that very reason: www.emitseries It takes a little effort, but it has opened many doors and provided work for over a hundred local musicians in my area, in addition to many outside artists.
Short answer to this is that there are over 120 American universities that offer degrees in jazz instrumental and vocal studies. Average annual cost of college in America for a 4 year institution is about $30,000.Thats a lot of cheddar spent by hella young folk to learn how to become proficient in an ''irrelevant'' art form. Most of them will end up teaching in high school and university programs. Average starting salary for an Ass't Professor of Music in the country is $45,000. How irrelevant' jazz is to the millions of social media-centric teenyboppers who define current mass culture pales in comparison to the living wages it pays thousands of middle-class adults working in jazz education and other jazz-support industries. Jazz is Grownfolks music whose core audience and practitioners tend to be people who aren't interested in prolonging adolescence. They also tend to be folk who aren't repelled, as most Americans are, by musical abstraction and the absence of lyrics and lead singers.