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Article: Can Jazz Be Saved?


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craigtrumpet
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:45 am    Post subject: Article: Can Jazz Be Saved? Reply with quote

I found this article, it's kind of depressing but worth the read:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204619004574320303103850572.html
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jadickson
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll say this but it won't be popular. A lot of jazz, bebop in particular, is considered by many to be art music, not popular music. Too many jazz and even classical musicians seem to be so elitist about their music, like greatness is defined by how many people don't understand our music. Then we look down on the ignorant masses for not attending our concerts. I'm not saying everyone has this attitude, but I've heard too much of it.

And then Norah Jones comes around and sells 20 million albums, crooning and playing piano like Bill Evans. I guess it's because that is what people want to hear. Not people like us trumpetherald jockeys... people like my mom. People who go to wine tastings and own too many sets of dinnerware.

Anyway, this is why music education in schools is so important. Do what Maynard does -- bring your jazz or classical ensemble to any school that will give you half an hour to play for the kids, and do it for free if you have to. Raise hell when they try to cut music programs from schools. Etc.


Last edited by jadickson on Mon Aug 10, 2009 8:05 am; edited 1 time in total
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veery715
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What the article doesn't say is what has happened to the attendance for any genre of live music performance in the past 10-15 years. The coming of age of the internet has made it possible for people to experience in their own homes what used to get them out of the house, and at a lesser expense.

My guess is that, with the probable exception of country music* (!!!), most other forms of music perfomed live have suffered audience attrition. Factors having little to do with the nature of the music or its performers are at play here, big time.

veery

* along with auto racing and pro wrestling this, IMHO, is not really much about art .
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bg
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is reprinted from a post on my blog:


The Devil and Ernie Krivda or: Why People Hate Jazz


Several years ago, Cleveland sax master Ernie Krivda shared this thought with me and with the other members of his group: Imagine, if you will, a scenario of a swinging big band playing to a packed, enthusiastic ballroom. 500 people dance wildly as a crowd of music lovers gathers around the bandstand to cheer. A beautiful girl singer stands center stage, dressed in a spectacular sequened gown. The band is dressed smartly in tuxedos, with choreographed horn flashes highlighting the driving riffs. From the side of the bandstand emerges a man dressed in a beret and goatee. He leans over to the pianist and whispers in his ear, -- Go ahead man, stretch out - express yourself!" Jazz went wrong at this moment. The musicians began playing to impress this one guy, and to impress each other. They forgot about all of those people in the audience. AND: In reality, the man in the beret was none other than BEELZEBUB, the serpent from the Garden of Eden. (Although, I remember Ernie retelling the story once and identifying the man as Bill Milkowski)

Is jazz art or entertainment? The Swing Era was the last time in which jazz commanded mass appeal. During the bop era, an attitude developed among musicians that they were creating art music. While bop had little to do with the decline of big bands, it also did little to hold on to their audience. This may have been conscious, or it may have been unintended. Some modern players--Dizzy comes to mind-- made real attempts to entertain, but found the gap between the complexities of the music and the tastes of the masses difficult to bridge. Dizzy's audiences always got a great show, but why wasn't he more popular?

Promoters of modern jazz have often embraced its limited appeal. Joe Segal, Chicago's premier presenter of bop for 60 years, often tells the audiences at his concerts: "You're going to hear some great music. If you find it entertaining, that's your problem!" It's a joke, but then again, is it? Bassist Mike Barnett has a favorite phrase he likes to use with his fellow band members at the end of a jazz club set-break: "Shall we impress them with our expertise?" he says sarcastically, "them" being the club patrons who have come to talk and drink, not to be impressed by skillful playing.

Trying to turn bop into a show has its pitfalls. Promoter Norman Granz, who came up with the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concept, hoped to engage the audience by turning the concert into a cutting contest, with each player receiving cheers from their fans following dazzling solo turns. While this presentation was great at the time, long term it has had the horrifying effect of conditioning the audience to applaud after every jazz solo, whether they liked it or not, and whether it's appropriate to interrupt the music for such an obligatory, often meaningless courtesy. Usually today's club patrons pay no attention to the stage, carrying on conversations at their tables. From the front of the club, BEELZEBUB knows it is traditional for him to applaud after the bass solo. The other patrons hear him applauding, and momentarily look up to see what the fuss is about, joining in the applause for 3 seconds before returning to their conversations. They have had the live jazz experience. Hooray for art!

Today's jazz musician calls himself an ARTIST. He trains diligently, learning to navigate the complexities and traditions of his honorable lineage. He's not a real player until he succesfully negotiates "Giant Steps" in 7/4 with all the requisite patterns and earmarks that show his fellow players that he has arrived. Hipness is valued over expressiveness, style over content. The musicians are often didactic with their audiences, instructing them on tradition and history. We are told that Jazz is America's greatest artistic gift to the world and it must be treasured. Is it good for you, like SPINACH? Do you HAVE to like it? Are you a bad American if you prefer something else? If I don't enjoy your playing, must I pretend to?

Ernie once made an album titled "Satanic." This was in the 1970s, a period of his career he now disavows as "misguided and self-indulgent." It is a great recording: real, timeless art. At jazz camp several years ago, one of the students brought a copy of the original LP for Ernie to autograph. Ernie refused and instead told the student, "You shouldn't be listening to that, kid."

Will jazz ever be popular again? In the early 1990s I was touring with the Woody Herman Orchestra. We were playing a dance in Grand Island, Nebraska. Paul McKee and I were standing together, talking during a set break. A lovely couple, who appeared to be in their 80s, approached us. The woman said," It's so great to see young people playing this music that OUR generation grew up with. Do you think the big bands are coming back?" Without missing a beat, Paul responded, "Nope. Dead. Been dead a long time. Gonna' stay dead. Never coming back." With that, he turned and walked away, leaving me with the couple in uncomfortable silence.
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richardwy
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Craig, Veery, and Brad, yup, 'tis so.

Brad, your pinpoint via EK's story when things went south is spot on.

More Aristotle and less Nietzsche says I.
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tommy t.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This post does not necessarily express my opinion. In fact, I have trouble sorting out my feelings on this.

But here goes:

Is Baroque dead? Is Classical dead? Is Romanitic dead? Is Serial dead? is Minimalism dead?

Is Opera dead? Is the Broadway Musical Comedy dead?

What does it mean for a music genre to be "dead?"

Does it matter if a music genre is dead?

Did any of those genre last more than 100 years?

Is the whole problem with jazz merely that we need to recognize that jazz is dead and should come up with a new name for 21st century improvised music?

I like what Dave Douglas and Steve Evans are doing. Most of the time, I don't worry about whether it is "jazz."

I'm a jazz trumpet player in almost exactly the same sense that the organist down at Trinty is a Baroque organist. I play reasonably well in a musical tradition called "jazz." Specifically, I play reasonably well in a style known as "West Coast Cool" from a period centered on the 1950's, either sticking pretty close the changes in well-known songs or more freely improvising over modal patterns.

I can define my music and argue that it is "jazz" even though I am not pushing any frontiers or playing anything that hasn't done many times. Just like the "classical" pianist who does not improvise his own cadenzas in the Mozart concertos.

Does any of this matter?

Does anybody care?


This post does not necessarily express my opinion. In fact, I have trouble sorting out my feelings on this.

Tommy T.
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oliver king
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Education is the key.
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tommy t.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

oliver king wrote:
Education is the key.


Who is going to teach whom the beauty and harmonic sophistication of a tri-tone substitution and how will that generate public interest in jazz?

Tommy T.

(I promise not to just ask a question in response to every comment, but "education" seems to be a real red-herring to me. The appeal to the human spirit through "art" exists only in that realm where reason and analysis fails. Education can teach the history of an art, the techniques of an art but education cannot, yet, teach why a particular impressionist painting moves me and another does not. What does education have to do with the fact that I really think the MOPDTK is pretty hot and a lot of trumpet players on this forum think that they are garbage.

If most new improvised music is not speaking to the spirit in most people, I submit that education of the audience is not going to help.)
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veery715
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps if we make a concerted (agh, puns again!) but likely-to-fail attempt to KEEL JAZZ, that will assure its survival in the Nietzscheistic sense, that what doesn't keel you makes you stronger.

We need to dedicate ourselves in every performing opportunity to thees: KEELING JAZZ, WE MUST KEEL IT DEAD, IMPROVISE LIKE DEAD LABRADOR DUCKS, KEELING IT HARDLY WITH OUR SONG, KEELER JOE MUST GO, MAKE ITS LAST TWEET LIKE A CAROLINA PARAKEET, DOMINANT SEVENTHS BECOME SUBMISSIVE, ROOL OVER AND PLAY DEAD!!!!
A return to the days of yesteryear when squealers where frowned upon for the tattler's they are, pedal tones were played with the feet, and cup size was something of true interest!

V
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richardwy
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tommy t. wrote:
If most new improvised music is not speaking to the spirit in most people, I submit that education of the audience is not going to help.)


Tom, the guy who wrote the WSJ article says the same thing:

But I do know this: Any symphony orchestra that thinks it can appeal to under-30 listeners by suggesting that they should like Schubert and Stravinsky has already lost the battle. If youíre marketing Schubert and Stravinsky to those listeners, you have no choice but to start from scratch and make the case for the beauty of their music to otherwise intelligent people who simply donít take it for granted.
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oliver king
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was an arguement in a movie (Mo Betta Blues) where one faction argued for the purity of the music and the other was for playing what the people wanted to hear.

If we go back to basics and took a page from the grand book of the rules of jazz ... taking the popular music of the day and giving it a treatment, I think there would be more buy in from audiences.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants, it's the way of the world. We should absolutely honor the music of Fats, Louis, Roy Eldridge, Earl Hines, all of the royalty, and presidents. They knew that the music was bigger than they were though. I have a responsibility to those that did it before me to KNOW what they were doing and how they went about it. I owe it to myself to play that music well. I owe the bank, so I should be prepared to play anything someone willing to pay me wants.

Education, the red herring IS the key for audiences and musicians.
In many states, the public education system does not offer individual instruction on a student's instrument, its the responsibility of the parent. So NOW, its not just a matter of the public school system not being able to meet the need of the community it becomes an economic issue as well.
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rockford
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

People like jazz if it's well played. What they don't like are rambling, incoherent solos on tunes that are also rambling and incoherent. Sax players rattling off endless Coltrane style patterns one after the other gets really old for any audience including those of us who like jazz. Trumpet players who blast out of tune high notes while people are trying to chat or eat during a dinner set give us all a bad name. We do it to ourselves.
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thomasmarriott
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know some great musicians who are terrible performers.

"Jazz" has been segregated from other types of music for a long time. Jazz is played in jazz clubs, written about in jazz magazines and played on jazz radio stations. People are intimidated by that and when they do venture in, they don't hear any songs they recognize and they see guys wearing tuxedos or suits on the stage.

Let's face it, "Bye Bye Blackbird" was a pop tune in my grandmother's time. How irrelevant to play a "jazz" version of a pop tune nobody remembers as a pop tune except the geriatric among us?

Maybe if they legalized marijuana?.........
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MikeyMike
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

oliver king wrote:
We all stand on the shoulders of giants, it's the way of the world.


Great thought. But I wonder if those who did (or tried to) stand on the shoulders of giants have been replaced by those who couldn't find a giant with a GPS and a stepladder. Boatloads of drums, guitars and saxes fly out of stores from coast to coast. We're surrounded by Ipods, internet radio and satellite delivery. There are books, DVD's and training aids the old guys never dreamed of. But the music isn't getting better.
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ChopsGone
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Bye Bye Blackbird" only for the geriatric? Miles (and the spoof by Rahsaan Roland Kirk) aside, and only wishing I'd seen Ann-Margret sing it:

If this is geriatric, I don't ever want to grow young.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfANFQOLGKA&feature=PlayList&p=2A3F69A5ACFBF638&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=77
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thomasmarriott
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How old is she now?
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khedger
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think comparing today to the heyday of big bands and swing is really the way to contextualize this question.

-big bands and swing music were the popular music of the day. I mean, at the time, people had few options - symphonies, opera, country, and big bands and small group jazz were about it. At that time the music wasn't just about music, it was a social activity. People dressed up, went out, had fun and socialized.

-bebop came about for two very general reasons: jazz musicans were creating a music for their own artistic reasons and the whole face of the music industry had changed because of the war. No resources for dance halls, things moved to small venues, no dancing laws, and a crapload of people were in Europe and the Pacific kicking ass.

-then the British invasion happened in the 60s and rock and roll took over. Why? simple -- it appealed to youngsters because it was simple, it was rebellious, and it was made by youngsters!

Today. Forget about it! First of all, nobody leaves the house to go to nightclubs that much anymore. When I came up in the 70s it was common for bands to play in local clubs (I'm talking about all kinds of idioms here, not just jazz) for week long stints. Now you can hardly FIND a band in a club.

The average person's musical sensibility is totally corrupted by the time they are 5 years old. Bad music flooding repeatedly out of radios, tvs, elevators, you name it. Then there's little to counteract this phenomenon taught in school. Add to that an education system that generally does everything it can to DISCOURAGE any creative thought or curiosity...why would we ever expect anybody to be interested in hearing anything OTHER than what the corporate infoscape shoves down their throats???

On top of that -- everything today is about immediate gratification and entertainment. How many people can stand to sit through a movie in a theater these days?? I know I have a hard time doing it...even if I do find something I want to see, people are so ignorant and rude that it makes it impossible to enjoy anything in a thoughtful way. Same thing with clubs -- if you do find a club that books something interesting (and even may have chairs and drinks!) there's the inevitable few parties who just sit and gab and laugh at the top of their lungs, totally missing the point of the whole event.

I say jazz is NOT popular music, will never BE popular music and thank God for that!

keith
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khedger
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeyMike wrote:
oliver king wrote:
We all stand on the shoulders of giants, it's the way of the world.


Great thought. But I wonder if those who did (or tried to) stand on the shoulders of giants have been replaced by those who couldn't find a giant with a GPS and a stepladder. Boatloads of drums, guitars and saxes fly out of stores from coast to coast. We're surrounded by Ipods, internet radio and satellite delivery. There are books, DVD's and training aids the old guys never dreamed of. But the music isn't getting better.


this is the REAL tragedy as far as I'm concerned. The reason is that the few (statistically) talented people who decide to pursue this music inevitably do it at one or more schools like Berklee, NTU, whereever. Schools are great (I went to Berklee) and they can teach you things to make you a very facile musician.
But they can't teach you how to be a creative musician or even how to develop whatever inherent creative potential you posess. For that you need a community in which you can function and grow as an artist. A community in which you can constantly play, develop, groom an audience, and mature artistically.
THAT in addition to their own individual genius, is why we had a couple of generations of great players. I don't think we would have ever heard of Diz, Sonny, Monk, Bird and all of the others if they hadn't live at a time that offered them the opportunity to come up through the ranks, learn from old masters, get heard by audiences and play, play, play. Don't get me wrong, I'm not romanticizing here....I know these guys paid heavy dues and the world wasn't a rosy place...but they DID have the context within which to really develop and it wasn't at university, it was in clubs and studios.

keith
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connicalman
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:29 pm    Post subject: delightfully tacky, yet unrefined Reply with quote

Jazz will regrow itself. It may not perpetuate from what we know. There may be much fumbling in that analog resurrection, post-digital network apocalypse.

From some person from out beyond the web of internet and digital cable, some local system of notes will seed and germinate. This sound might just come from some place like the Redneck Games, which no doubt will never, ever die. FWIW, note the excellent post quoted below for my inspiration, and chill b/c I grew up on a farm, off a dirt road, even tho that area is on the map as part of the 'elite northeast'. We had rust. And dust.

Could well be that some local will spin a black lugnut onto a spiral section of still-house copper pipe and blow a harmonic. Plaintive, a bit martial, it will charge the crowd and maybe make them laugh. And make them follow. Then someone will do him one better, with a bigger fatter tube. And someone else will go higher on smaller one, too.

Ignorant of the shoulders of giants, my guess is the sound will rise again. Perhaps in a manner not altogether too far from a place which SHOULD have live jazz, a place where their pride is fetched via being: "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined."

veery715 wrote:
What the article doesn't say is what has happened to the attendance for any genre of live music performance in the past 10-15 years. The coming of age of the internet has made it possible for people to experience in their own homes what used to get them out of the house, and at a lesser expense.

My guess is that, with the probable exception of country music* (!!!), most other forms of music perfomed live have suffered audience attrition. Factors having little to do with the nature of the music or its performers are at play here, big time.

veery

* along with auto racing and pro wrestling this, IMHO, is not really much about art .

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Billy B
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check out the research and make your own assumptions.

http://www.nea.gov/

It is obvious the public school liberal arts experience no longer includes the arts. Not sure how that works.

I will post more later on how I have stopped wringing my hands and started doing something about it.

www.synergyjazz.org
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