garthsj

Jazz and the Black Audience

80 posts in this topic

Here is a report from the New Orleans Essence Festival which I thought makes some interesting points abut the lack of a black audience for jazz today . Is this true, and if so, why has this happened? Is it the fault of hiphop, or the increasing "elitism" of modern jazz? Comments, please.

http://www.artsjournal.com/listengood/2007...obama.html#more

Edited by garthsj

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on the Benny Powell concert I attended last night in Hartford's Bushnell Park, I would say that there is an audience, but like the rest of the jazz audience it may be ageing. Other than those that choose to actually play the music, I don't think the music is appealing to younger people overall, including the black community. I think another consideration is the style of jazz being played. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Vision Festival in NYC. For whatever reason the more avant garde music does seem to appeal to a younger audience as well as old heads, but I have personally observed less black non-musicians in the audience at these performances. I don't know the reasons for all this, but I would say at least when it comes to a younger audience, it was not much different in the late eightees when I was first starting to listen to the music I attended a lot of concerts and I often was one of the younger people in the audience and also one of few, if any blacks.

Edited by relyles

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a report from the New Orleans Essence Festival which I thought makes some interesting points abut the lack of a black audience for jazz today . Is this true, and if so, why has this happened? Is it the fault of hiphop, or the increasing "elitism" of modern jazz? Comments, please.

http://www.artsjournal.com/listengood/2007...obama.html#more

I think "straight-ahead" jazz and African American popular music have been drifting apart since at least the late 60s. It's not the "fault" of hip hop.

Guy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on the Benny Powell concert I attended last night in Hartford's Bushnell Park, I would say that there is an audience, but like the rest of the jazz audience it may be ageing.

That matches my own very limited experience in Bloomington & Indianapolis--it still retains a following, but mostly among older listeners who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s.

Also have very limited radio-demographic evidence to back this up, but there seems to be more of an African-American audience--younger, anyway--for smooth jazz rather than straightahead/classic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a report from the New Orleans Essence Festival which I thought makes some interesting points abut the lack of a black audience for jazz today . Is this true, and if so, why has this happened? Is it the fault of hiphop, or the increasing "elitism" of modern jazz? Comments, please.

http://www.artsjournal.com/listengood/2007...obama.html#more

I think "straight-ahead" jazz and African American popular music have been drifting apart since at least the late 60s. It's not the "fault" of hip hop.

Guy

I think that's right, though I'd put the crunch date in the mid-seventies.

The main venue for jazz that formed a part of black popular music were the organ rooms. These died out during the seventies. I think there are three important factors.

1 Blaxploitation films. In the late '60s/early '70s, I understand that the only cinema audience that was growing was the black audience. It's not clear which was cause and which was effect, but once started ("In the heat of the night"?) a feedback loop developed. This was one big lot of competition for black entertainment spending.

2 Disco. It seems clear that the development of discos drove a lot of organ rooms out of business. Bob Porter has also mentioned (sleeve note to "The scorpion") that, in Newark, the organ rooms were closed by a new Mayor on account of drugs. This may have been something that happened across the US. More competition for limited spending.

3 Suburban housing. The Civil Rights movement is said to have made it easier for at least the more prosperous to get out of the ghetto. Out in the suburbs, other venues were available. Removing the most prosperous people from the immediate vicinity of the organ rooms had a disproportionate spending effect.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The disappearance of organ rooms was something I thought about as well--but I'd put the beginnings of the split all the way back to the jump blues of the late 1940s. I think one has to be very careful not to stereotype ANY audience (in this case the African-American audience), but I would say that said audience has always seemed, to me, anyway, more ready to move on to different, newer kinds of music than the "white" audience (which often follows later). In general, though, the challenges jazz faces today cross all racial boundaries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The disappearance of organ rooms was something I thought about as well--but I'd put the beginnings of the split all the way back to the jump blues of the late 1940s. I think one has to be very careful not to stereotype ANY audience (in this case the African-American audience), but I would say that said audience has always seemed, to me, anyway, more ready to move on to different, newer kinds of music than the "white" audience (which often follows later).

I think that's true. But Soul Jazz has kept up - even into the eighties and the beginning of the development of Smooth Jazz, which equated to the Anita Baker/Sade etc school of Smooth Soul. What seemed to happen mainly in the seventies was the live venues going.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on the Benny Powell concert I attended last night in Hartford's Bushnell Park, I would say that there is an audience, but like the rest of the jazz audience it may be ageing. Other than those that choose to actually play the music, I don't think the music is appealing to younger people overall, including the black community. I think another consideration is the style of jazz being played. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Vision Festival in NYC. For whatever reason the more avant garde music does seem to appeal to a younger audience as well as old heads, but I have personally observed less black non-musicians in the audience at these performances. I don't know the reasons for all this, but I would say at least when it comes to a younger audience, it was not much different in the late eightees when I was first starting to listen to the music I attended a lot of concerts and I often was one of the younger people in the audience and also one of few, if any blacks.

Could it be that the avant-garde appeal is a development from the punk ethos, or music that by and large is made by disenfranchised white people. The interest in improvised music is a natural exploration from that starting point, ie the Sonic Youth millieu who move onto and into musics with a direct lineage to jazz and black expression. Whereas older people committed to those expressions have stayed alert to its development, although perhaps as you've said may be mainly musicians themselves.

Is there a connection between MG's point about the socio-economic factors in terms of music being learn't and absorbed on the bandstand, within community, and jazz being colonised by academic institutions. I'm thinking of the fact that academic music might usually fall within the realm of tradition yet the post-punk ethos associated with progressive white creativity follows a development more in line with rock learning, ie let's form a band, experiment with our instruments and see what happens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one has to be very careful not to stereotype ANY audience (in this case the African-American audience), but I would say that said audience has always seemed, to me, anyway, more ready to move on to different, newer kinds of music than the "white" audience (which often follows later).

I don't think this is true. Just look at rap. It's been around for almost 30 years now and has been mainstream for at least 20 years. And yet that's what young kids, black and white but especially black, tend to listen to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But I'd say, look at the historical patterns. And maybe it's not just jazz that has problems which cross all racial boundaries now--it might be popular music in general. I know Jsngry puts some faith in the underground dance music he listens to as a cultural movement that dissolves the boundaries. I haven't listened nearly as much or as closely as he has, and maybe there's something there. (So far I'm still a bit skeptical that much will come of it outside of the ever expanding-mutation of musical forms, which is certainly not a bad thing in and of itself.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there a connection between MG's point about the socio-economic factors in terms of music being learn't and absorbed on the bandstand, within community, and jazz being colonised by academic institutions. I'm thinking of the fact that academic music might usually fall within the realm of tradition yet the post-punk ethos associated with progressive white creativity follows a development more in line with rock learning, ie let's form a band, experiment with our instruments and see what happens.

I think there's something in this, too.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one has to be very careful not to stereotype ANY audience (in this case the African-American audience), but I would say that said audience has always seemed, to me, anyway, more ready to move on to different, newer kinds of music than the "white" audience (which often follows later).

I don't think this is true. Just look at rap. It's been around for almost 30 years now and has been mainstream for at least 20 years. And yet that's what young kids, black and white but especially black, tend to listen to.

I have a strong feeling that the control that the major record companies have been able to exercise over what's played and what's therefore popular, the expansion or increased intensity of which is a feature of the last couple of decades may have a lot to do with why popular music of all kinds seems to be standing still.

Innovation has always come from indies, at least in America.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Innovation has always come from indies, at least in America.

I definitely disagree with this statement.

Guy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on the Benny Powell concert I attended last night in Hartford's Bushnell Park, I would say that there is an audience, but like the rest of the jazz audience it may be ageing.

That matches my own very limited experience in Bloomington & Indianapolis--it still retains a following, but mostly among older listeners who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s.

Also have very limited radio-demographic evidence to back this up, but there seems to be more of an African-American audience--younger, anyway--for smooth jazz rather than straightahead/classic.

I've made this observation many times in Indy.

m~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Innovation has always come from indies, at least in America.

I definitely disagree with this statement.

Guy

Good.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "break" started in the early '40s.

BTW, thanks for the post Clem.

Blakey had a "pat" speech in clubs where he said "Thank God for white folks" and went on to talk about audience support.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "break" started in the early '40s.

BTW, thanks for the post Clem.

Blakey had a "pat" speech in clubs where he said "Thank God for white folks" and went on to talk about audience support.

At what stage of his career did Blakey start saying that in between mentioning that the next the tune would feature ... no one in particular?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

re: undie innovation

I definitely disagree with this statement.

Guy

how the fuck so, Guy & respectfully, how well do you really know the history of the American record biz? we can name a handful of exceptions-- Dylan's evolution on Columbia, the Ramones on Sire (which had been indie)... & what else? distribution deals do NOT count!!! Prince? fine, keep going. (& don't tell me Duke on Victor or any such hogwash... the assimilation of the record biz into greater pop cult machine is the worst godamn thing that ever happened, then & now. edc knows it, you should know it too.

MG's original statement (which you deleted) said:

Innovation has always come from indies, at least in America.

This is quite clearly false. As you stated yourself, Dylan on Columbia and Duke on Victor (and Columbia) are major exceptions.

Sticking to jazz, two of the most important jazz innovators in the past half century (perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT) did much of their most important work for major labels -- John Coltrane on Impulse!, Miles Davis on Columbia. I'm sure we can come up with other, less significant innovative recordings by other artists for major labels.

(Was Decca a major label when they recorded the Basie band?)

If we're going to talk about rock, besides Dylan (already mentioned) we have the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Santana, the Band, the Velvet Underground, and Frank Zappa. I'm sure there are other examples.

Guy

Edited by Guy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But... the cultural implications of those artists were mostly played out on the independent labels.

Same goes for jazz.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

re: undie innovation

I definitely disagree with this statement.

Guy

how the fuck so, Guy & respectfully, how well do you really know the history of the American record biz? we can name a handful of exceptions-- Dylan's evolution on Columbia, the Ramones on Sire (which had been indie)... & what else? distribution deals do NOT count!!! Prince? fine, keep going. (& don't tell me Duke on Victor or any such hogwash... the assimilation of the record biz into greater pop cult machine is the worst godamn thing that ever happened, then & now. edc knows it, you should know it too.

MG's original statement (which you deleted) said:

Innovation has always come from indies, at least in America.

This is quite clearly false. As you stated yourself, Dylan on Columbia and Duke on Victor (and Columbia) are major exceptions.

Sticking to jazz, two of the most important jazz innovators in the past half century (perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT) did much of their most important work for major labels -- John Coltrane on Impulse!, Miles Davis on Columbia. I'm sure we can come up with other, less significant innovative recordings by other artists for major labels.

(Was Decca a major label when they recorded the Basie band?)

If we're going to talk about rock, besides Dylan (already mentioned) we have the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Santana, the Band, the Velvet Underground, and Frank Zappa. I'm sure there are other examples.

Guy

Impulse wasn't a major label. In the sixties, the criterion for major label status was that the firm had to own its own distribution network. ABC didn't.

I'm not an expert on Davis. The story I heard was that Columbia did Prestige's manufacturing and the boss of the pressing plant told his boss about how many Miles Davis records he was manufacturing, so Columbia hired him. Sounds to me like Prestige did the legwork, Columbia took over a ready made star.

Prior to WWII it's quite difficult to tell which were the major labels. From 1926 to 1938, for example, Columbia clearly wasn't. It went bust in 1926, after nearly 2 decades of financial problems during which it had continually had to sell off bits to keep going. It was then acquired by its former UK subsidiary, then sold to an engineering firm called Grisby-Gronow or something like that, then sold to ARC, who closed it down in 1934. It wasn't reopened until CBS bought ARC in 1938, shut down Brunswick and Vocalion and restarted Columbia and OkeH.

Nor am I an expert on rock. However, Zappa (and Velvet Underground?) started up on Verve. As for ABC, MGM, the owner of Verve, wasn't a major. Not sure how innovative these other bands you refer to were but in any case, we're talking about black music here.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on the Benny Powell concert I attended last night in Hartford's Bushnell Park, I would say that there is an audience, but like the rest of the jazz audience it may be ageing.

That matches my own very limited experience in Bloomington & Indianapolis--it still retains a following, but mostly among older listeners who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s.

Also have very limited radio-demographic evidence to back this up, but there seems to be more of an African-American audience--younger, anyway--for smooth jazz rather than straightahead/classic.

Yup, based on my probably even more limited experience in the UK, that's where I think it is. In terms of people shopping who've I've talked to. It is kind of depressing when you get some black guy(or gal) in the Jazz section and then all they're interested in is smooth. I'm just wondering if the smooth Jazz listening is kind of the obverse of Rap in that (for me) one is the music of the hopeless ghetto and the other is the music of people who want to block out and think everything is fine.

The thing about the avant garde appealing to young people, I think has to do with the chaotic world we live in, and a desire to find a way through the chaos. See, I think the avant-garde of the 60s is the music of a society in flux - the black society on the cusp of (semi-)inclusion. And, then, it's about (on some level) the myriad different ways that society might go forward, only it's couched in sound. Now we're in dead trouble across the world - stuck for ideas as to how the world is to go forward.

My view is that this music (the avant-garde) allows, in some sideways and deep way, people to think about these ideas, to find new ideas - and that's why it appeals. Especially to young people, who need to think, to set themselves on the right (or a right) path through the chaos.

I still intuit that rap coupled to Ayleresque playing would have real meaning.

Simon Weil

Edited by Simon Weil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Or else a chaotic world demands chaotic music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Or the opposite: an insecure world embraces comforting and/or reassuring music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I still intuit that rap coupled to Ayleresque playing would have real meaning.

The meeting of Ayler and the spoken-word occurred forty years ago during that melding of politics , poetry and avant-garde jazz known as the Black Arts Movement . Arguably , that movement wouldn't have had the meaning it did without the political foundation . By contrast , for whom would contemporary Ayleresque rap have 'real meaning' , given the lack of a galvanizing , unifying , political consciousness today ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.