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mjzee

Can Jazz Be Saved?

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What I can't understand is the continued success of jazz programs in colleges and universities. In such an environment, what are they preparing these future jazz musicians for? Get people prepared for careers as music teachers for a new generation of future music teachers?

Maybe Free can explain what his music program teaches and what his students have to look forward to.

I figure it's to give them a few delusions and dreams rather than point out their future at band camp...

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I don't believe that, in 2002, 10% of adult Americans attended at least one

jazz performance -- I just don't believe it.

Neither do I; that's absurd. If we're talking distinct individuals rather than total attendence, I'd have trouble buying 1%.

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This thread and its subtitle seem strange to me. I have never thought of jazz as anything more than a minority interest. There have been times through the years when that minority who listened to jazz was larger than at other times (mid-to-late 20s, mid-to-late 50s, and especially mid-to-late 30s), but even at those times, most of the audience was responding to the more peripheral aspects of the music. I mean, I don't know how many copies of "Doggin' Around" Count Basie sold, but you know that it wasn't nearly as many as Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade." And during the heyday of the big band, it was still the vocal chorus that often sold the record or brought the audience to the bandstand.

On the other hand, I have never seen any signs that the audience for jazz shows any sign of disappearing completely. Jazz has always existed at several levels of sophistication at the same time. In the 20s you had "hokum" groups with washboards and kazoos along side the highly developed music of Henderson, Armstrong, and Ellington. In the 60s you had Albert Ayler and organ trios. These days you have straight-ahead mainstream jazz, Anthony Braxton, and The Claudia Quintet. To me, that's a good thing. The audiences for different types of jazz overlap somewhat (I like Baby Face Willette and Albert Ayler), but the audience for more "demanding" jazz has always been pretty small, and probably always will be. I can't see a time when musicians stop creating jazz, even if they know that their music won't have mass appeal.

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What I can't understand is the continued success of jazz programs in colleges and universities. In such an environment, what are they preparing these future jazz musicians for? Get people prepared for careers as music teachers for a new generation of future music teachers?

Most do this to get into academia. They know that they have to earn a living teaching, and maybe playing sessions. Depending on where they settle and how good they are, they may end up playing jazz or pseudo-jazz on a semi-regular basis, but may not be any better or may not earn more than other solid, serious musicians who may have majored in something other than music.

It is interesting that most of the people who have made a name for themselves in jazz over the last several decades did not go through these jazz programs. There must be exceptions but I don't know of them. Feel free to correct me on this.

The main artistic advantage to going the academic route for jazz is for composers and arrangers. There are undoubtedly more opportunities in universities to do challenging arrangements for oddball configurations of instruments than you'll find in a real world setting these days.

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One facet of the solution must be alcohol. Listen to all those classic live recordings of the '40's - '60's - they were recorded in clubs (i.e., bars), and the crowds were whoopin' it up and getting into it. In a sterile environment like a concert hall, it's hard not to have a respectful distance from the music; jazz is being "appreciated" to death. We need audiences viscerally involved in the music. Alcohol helps.

Or as Art Blakey intoned at that great bar, Birdland, "If you feel like pattin' your feet, pat your feet... and if you feel like clappin' your hands, clap your hands... and if you feel like takin' off your shoes, take off your shoes... we are here to have a ball. So we want you to leave your worldly troubles outside, and come in here and swing, ladies and gentlemen."

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It is interesting that most of the people who have made a name for themselves in jazz over the last several decades did not go through these jazz programs. There must be exceptions but I don't know of them. Feel free to correct me on this.

I believe it was at William Patterson College that Eric Alexander first encountered Norman Simmons. Marcus Roberts came out of the Florida State music program, also spent time at another school in North Florida whose name escapes me at the moment.

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One facet of the solution must be alcohol.... Alcohol helps.

And drugs, sex, and fried chicken. :)

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Also (with apologies to Chuck), Duct tape, WD-40 and a hammer.

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I was in Paris in 2006 and looking for a place to hear some jazz. I picked a place called Le Caveau de la Huchette (or something similar) out of a tourist guide. I got to the place and saw that a sax/piano/bass/drum quartet was playing. The jazz club was in the basement and is one of the coolest places I've ever been to for jazz. There were tables on the sides of the room, a huge center area that was surrounded by benches and some more tables and off to the back in what was probably some old wine cellar were more tables. My then girlfriend and I picked a table in the back area, ordered some biere and wondered what the heck was up with the big area with no tables. I surmised that it was an area for people to stand. Seemed like a waste given that not all of the tables were filled.

When the band started playing I quickly found out. Dancing. I was dumfounded. I have to say I felt stupid for not thinking of dancing, but I have to say that was the furthest thing from my mind. I had never seen dancing at a jazz club. There were dozens of people dancing. And the band was totally grooving. They were very good as well. They played hard bop standards and swung like crazy. I couldn't tell who was enjoying it more - the band or the audience. While I didn't dance, I have to say I had a very memorable night. Lots of fun.

Which brings me to another point - which echoes some already made. I really dislike the concert hall presentation of jazz. Way too sterile, formal, controlled. Back in the day (late 80s early 90s), there was a club in Buffalo called the Blue Note. It was an old club, no frills, small, tons of atmosphere. Organ combos were the mainstay, but some very good guitar and sax led groups played there as well. Jazz was palyed Wed through Sunday nights. The place was usually packed, the audience lively and responsive and the bands interactive. Man, I wish there was a place around here like that today. These days in Buffalo, some of the only national acts that appear here perform in the auditorium of our local Art Museum. The sterilization and classicalization of jazz has in many ways left me cold and turned me off.

I like the comments of mjzee above - jazz is being appreciated to death.

Edited by Ed Swinnich

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>> LONG Digg thread<< linking to the same article as post #1 in this thread.

Haven't had the chance to read it yet myself (the original article, nor the long Digg thread), but since Digg is such a general audience (not just music people, and certainly not just JAZZ people), it could be interesting to see what people are saying there. (Or, it could well be total nonsense -- like I said, I haven't yet read it myself.)

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I prefer Black & White movies to color....but that's never going to come back into fashion as the "norm". So I enjoy what I can from the golden age and the rest of the time I do with what's available.

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I bet (young) people party and at Reptet gigs.

We had the people dancing at the Old Town Jazz Festival on Friday. :)

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Not my problem.

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I don't think adults today are as interested in music as they used to be.

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I hate dancing audiences, but that's just me. I always find the dancers annoying and self conscious.

Of course, these days I hate everyone, so I may not be the most reliable witness.

On the other hand, here I am chomping at the bit to get a real band together for the first time in 10 years, I'm actually practicing and composing, and here comes Terry Teachout to let the air out of my balloons.

And though those numbers may be off, I think his basic point is sound - to a point - because I do think it's time to take the music in newer new directions - but you know what? The biggest obstacle to this, in my experience, is not audiences, but musicians, who waste their time on crappy gigs and real book jam sessions and never see more than about 2 days ahead. The audiences are as bored as the musicians look.

This is all just one angry and tired man's opinion. But the questions persist:

why can't singer's sing in tune?

why do horn players have trouble playing in the key of E?

why do piano players get upset when I call rhythm changes in Ab?

answer those questions and you will restore jazz as a viable art form.

Edited by AllenLowe

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oh and by the way - I find this sinking state of jazz hilarious because, according to the official arts world propaganda (and Ken Burns), Wynton and Lincoln Center brought it back after its near-death experience. Somebody must have accidentally kicked the plug outta the wall-

Edited by AllenLowe

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Marcus Roberts came out of the Florida State music program, also spent time at another school in North Florida whose name escapes me at the moment.

Marcus Roberts went through the "classical" program at Tallahassee. When I was at UM, which was a "jazz" school, I remember telling fellow students that there was a blind guy at Tallahassee who will knock your socks off. They all rolled their eyes, and said, "If he were a REAL jazz musician, he'd be at UM." I guess he got the last laugh.

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Everyone is accepting the statistics in that NEA study:

http://www.jazz.com/jazz-blog/2009/7/7/ugl...e-jazz-audience

as sound when IMO they are extremely dubious. In particular, I find it very hard to believe that 17.5% of adults 18-24 attended a jazz event in 1982 (this being the base-line figure that the study gives us). Do you know how many Americans were in that age group in Nov. 1982? No less than 29,917,000:

http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/v...916/p25-916.pdf

So that means that some 5,235,475 people in that 18-24 age group (17.5% of 29,917,000) attended a jazz event in 1982? (Remember, that's only 18-24 year olds, which means that 5,235,475 people would have to be a good deal less than the total jazz audience in 1982-- and also that's people who went to actual "events," not people who just bought records or only listened to jazz on the radio). Well, no matter loosely one defines jazz, I think that's an absurdly large figure, especially when you recall what 1982 was like on the jazz scene. And if that base-line figure is absurd, why trust the other figures? Remember, we're talking about trends that are not merely anecdotal but supposedly have a rock-ribbed statistical basis.

BTW, while I'm at it, a digression: As you can see, there's only one category in the NEA study where median age and attendance shows almost no drop off from 1982 to 2002 -- art museums. OK, let's accept that as fact for the moment. Why would that be so? What are the art museums doing right that everyone else is doing plumb wrong? Are art museums, for instance, doing OK because they're reaching out to young audiences in hipper, more attractive, or energtic and effective ways than everyone else is? Well, I'm sure they're trying, we've all seen evidence of that, but enough to account for that supposed big difference? Nonsense. It's that the loose-limbed forms of entertainment/amusement/enlightenment that art museums offer to young couples is ... well, art museums are relatively cheap casual-date places with pleasant trimmings and full of stuff you can talk about if care to. You can do things if you're in charge of a museum that will drive people away, like filling the galleries with hot-steaming offal and charging $100 to get in, but otherwise you're going to be OK; a good museum is like an indoor park, and what's good about it in 1982 isn't going to be, or need to be, that much different in 2002, 'cause Renoir and Rembrandt and Velazquez and Vermeer tend not to go out of style. No great lessons there, and in particular no endorsement of the need to engage in great gobs of "outreach" to youth or whomever as a form of solution/salvation.

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nobody's dancing to anything but rock 'n roll

If I called bullshit on JackChick25/Carole, then I must equally call it here.

No energy for detail right now, but let me ask you this - why would anybody take the word of a "jazz musician" as to what people are or aren't dancing to? That's kinda like asking a vegan who's making the best steaks in town.

Edited by JSngry

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nobody's dancing to anything but rock 'n roll

If I called bullshit on JackChick25/Carole, then I must equally call it here.

No energy for detail right now, but let me ask you this - why would anybody take the word of a "jazz musician" as to what people are or aren't dancing to? That's kinda like asking a vegan who's making the best steaks in town.

Point taken. But I still agree with my friend that whoever is or is not dancing to what music these days, that "certainly

isn't the fault of jazz" -- if only because, as I think Jim would agree, it isn't in the power of "jazz" these days to remedy that "fault" in any significant manner.

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Looks and sounds like a heck of a lot of fun, and maybe a good deal more than that, but it happened over there and not here for what reasons do you think? That is, is it a function of their virtues and circumstances, or of our scenes' failure to be in a certain way? And is it over there a response to recorded music that already exists, or is it interacting with music that is being made by musicians over there right now?

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