July 23rd. 2001
Looking at my server stats I notice that occasionally people find a way into a directory that I thought was completely cut off from my site....in other words, I don't link to it anywhere. In that directory is a response I wrote to an article posted on the web comparing jazz to Linux. It was a rather nasty reply and I regret writing it. Essentially, it portrayed the image that jazz is a superior art form and demands respect. I whole-heartedly apologize to any of you who read it. Allow me to explain.
Ever been to Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco? It's a small jazz club that serves dinner and drinks while you listen to a live band. They're a "stuck up" business. A friend of mine went into Pearl's one day and asked if he could stand in the back and listen to the music for a while before he decided whether he wanted to pay to see the show or not (Pearl's is a two drink minumum club). He explained that he was a jazz musician and didn't have much money. The host was quite rude and told him he had "two minutes" to decide. He came back much sooner than his said time.
My friend constantly explains to me the importance of getting rid of the smugness around jazz. Clubs and musicians that scold their listeners for talking are really only injuring jazz as a whole. Attitudes like these are essentially suffocating the music. New listeners are going to be turned off by this smugness and huge egoism that clubs and certain jazz musicians have. Young people are certainly not likely to go to a jazz show if it has an asphyxiating aura about it.
Also, if we want this music to survive, ticket prices need to lower. It's a trickey situation because many jazz musicians make a decent part of their income by touring but I believe lowering prices is absolutely necessary. The same applies to live classical music. I was at the symphony a while back. The tickets were hideously expensive. The hall was filled and there were no young people in sight. What's going to happen when the older audience ceases to exist?
I'm seeing more and more jazz musicians implementing a pop-like element into their music now, leaning more towards smooth jazz. Players who were once reknown for creating progressive jazz music are now toning it down and trying to draw in a larger audience in this manner. I don't know whether this is for better or for worse. I can't think of a single person who began pursuing jazz through smooth jazz. So, in that sense, I don't believe that these "sell out" jazz players are doing much good for the music. They simply pursue that which fills their wallet. Certainly, I don't judge them or think less of them. I just sigh, dissapointed.
These words are testimony to a deteriorating music. In closing, I'd just like to reiterate the importance of keeping jazz a friendly, inviting music. The types of musicians and clubs described above need to stop suffocating the music. Jazz must breathe in new life.
However, I don't believe the future is all gloom for jazz. I hear of more and more young people playing the music in schools and with increasing efficiency. Perhaps the music will gain vigor with the upcoming generations.