Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jazz, Restaurants, and Star Trek

Here's my question:

Given that recorded jazz is so cool, so evocative, so effective at signaling lush sophistication that it's played in virtually every upscale restaurant, how can it be that there's roughly zero market for jazz musicians, jazz recordings, or jazz clubs?

You have no idea how disorienting it is to spend your life plying an art form that's so extraordinarily marginalized - even ridiculed - when that same art form is the unanimous commercial choice for setting a tone of hip urbanity.

Imagine if you were all into Star Trek, and suffered the inevitable taunts, yet each time you walked into a smart restaurant or boutique, you found workers sporting pointy Vulcan ears and making "Live Long and Prosper" gestures.

3 comments:

Wayne Frost said...

When I was younger, and believe me, very shy and introverted, I was really in to listening to Jazz and Blues and at the time we had (unappreciatively) an abundance of venues where live Jazz was performed in the L.A. area. Despite my shyness in engaging in any social interaction, I would force myself to make solo visits to the Jazz clubs and was fortunate to experience artists such as Thelonious Monk at Shelly's Mann Hole, Big Joe Turner at the Parisian Room, Muddy Waters at some joint in Hollywood, Jimmy Smith at his own club, Lew Tabakin & Toshiko Akiyoshi with their big band at what is now known as the Ford Theater and countless other artists at venues such as Donte's, The Baked Potato, Concerts By The Sea and the Lighthouse.

This was at a time when we still had a strong Jazz radio station in L.A. and a concentration of musicians as Hollywood was still a center of the television, motion picture and recording industry. I think this all created a great synergy, those of us in the general public who were aficionados of the art form responded to it.

Times have changed, technology has allowed more people to make and perform music, virtually anywhere in the world. Anyone with a computer and internet connection can become a media producer, computers, the explosion of media channels via broadcast and the internet facilitate virtual performances any time. Anyone's kid can make and distribute his music. Anyone can download their choice of music files and become their own disk jockey. This has all brought music and other arts to more people and in a sense has leveled the field of creative expression and that, in one sense is a good thing. But it also can be a not so good thing if it has dumbed down the skills of performers, allowed a lot of poorly executed creative output to overshadow real artistic creation and expression and dumbed down the ability of the audience to perceive and appreciate true skill and artistry.

I now live in a purgatory of "Smooth Jazz" and Kenny G. Artistry, originality, talent, live performance by truly legendary musicians has been replaced by product distributed by masters of marketing and promotion.

Barry said...

The sad truth is that there's a big difference between the market for jazz as music vs. jazz as audio wallpaper.

Bill Anschell said...

There's jazz as audio wallpaper, and there's also the opposite, equally disheartening.

There was a restaurant in Atlanta (a self-proclaimed jazz club) that made all the musicians play through the house system so they could be mixed down to barely audible. They wanted groups that looked like they were playing jazz more than groups that actually played it well, in keeping with the whole idea that jazz is hip as an image, but totally irrelevant to most listeners as a music.

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