I can’t claim to have followed the debate over The Future of Jazz everywhere for the last few months, but I think these recent posts illustrate a few different ways people are taking it.
Vikram and Matt at Twenty Dollars have compiled a YouTube-supported argument that Hollywood and pop culture portray jazz as profoundly uncool and its fans as a bunch of dorks. I don’t find the post all that persuasive, but it’s worth checking out for the comment section where Vijay Iyer works himself into a frenzy and then brings in the 800-pound themes, asking if the “uncoolness” of jazz has to do with the music’s economic prospects (bleak) and race (black). (In my first post, I mentioned Madavor (“Teddy Bear and Friends”) Media’s acquisition of Jazz Times as a sign of a potential “uncool” (or, really, an insular and distant from the world) apocalypse, but even if Jazz Times starts catering to an increasingly stuffy audience, I don’t think the entire music will follow suit—it’s just going to take new media outlets to spread the word.
Commenter Dave Rohner noted via e-mail that he thought "the key to attracting a young audience is intensity." To flesh out what I think he's saying, if you present any sort of passionately-felt music -- in the correct environment -- the young audience will follow. I like this; I think people are drawn toward any sort of strong musical conviction, whether uptempo, languid, or somewhere in between.I really like what Patrick is saying here and I think it ties in nicely with my last post on booing. The way to build an audience that looks to jazz as a serious contributor to the larger culture isn’t to convince them that it’s “cool”—suave, relaxing, above-it-all—but to show them that it’s engaged in a mad quest to understand, in the words of David Foster Wallace, “what it is to be a fucking human being.” Anyone who has seriously listened to Monk, Mingus, and Coltrane knows that obsession and passion drive their music, not coolness. (My friend Andrew Kambour once shut up a group of jazz dissenters who asked him to turn off a Coltrane record by snapping, “this is a man communicating directly with God!”)
For more on the Jazz Pitchfork idea, DJA (Darcy James Argue, who will likely be mentioned often in this blog so will henceforth go by initials) mentioned this post from non-jazzer FISTFULAYEN that addresses the “how to get the word out” question from the other side of things.
And last, but certainly not least, my good friend, former roommate, and fellow music blogger Will C. White gives me a big shout-out in the wrap-up of his “orchestra” pronunciation poll. (If you’ve ever wanted to hear the varied ways in which Americans from Aaron Copland to Charlie Rose to Larry David say “orchestra,” then this is not to be missed.) Will is an extraordinary composer and conductor and anyone interested in music, whatever genre, should poke around his media offerings. As a start, I’d recommend his tango-tinged “Desiderata,” written for “Two Girls, One Keyboard.”