August 2009 Archives
... and beat down the doomsayers.
Here's a missive from Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association, whose idea it is to use Twitter to counter the notion forwarded by Terry Teachout's recent Wall Street Journal piece, that jazz's audience is fading -- and to point out that RIGHT NOW, LOTS OF PEOPLE IN LOTS OF PLACES ARE LISTENING TO LIVE JAZZ.
Myself, I don't Tweet. Never have. Maybe won't ever. But I do know that, for those of you who do, this is a chance to lend real numbers -- not anecdotes-- to counter the statistics Teachout seized upon from a recent survey.
The instructions are simple, says Mandel. Read on. Be a part of a groundswell of response that won't help sway the health-care debate but might just counter the propaganda about jazz being on its deathbed.
I've been trying to put into words what makes me feel alienated and confused, even annoyed, when confronting the new daily reality of Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Haven't quite written that extended essay yet but the subject line of this email I just received strikes me as both funny and not (and no diss to Wolff, who is a fine musician and good guy). It reads as follows:
Michael Wolff suggested you become a fan of Michael Wolff...
"Can Jazz Be Saved?" worries the headline to Terry Teachout's piece in Sunday's Wall Street Journal. Terry cites some new statistics from an NEA survey to bolster what has now become a long-standing trope: The jazz audience is "withering away." I'm not so sure the research and the conclusion are solid. Sure, jazz was but will never be"popular music," at the center of American culture during the middle decades of the 20th century. (Then again, in the newly splintered music world, even popular music isn't as popular as it was just a few years ago).
I wonder how many of the respondents to the NEA's survey share the same definition of jazz, and how many of them may not wish to call what they listen to -- be it Bad Plus or Lionel Loueke or even Ornette Coleman-- as "jazz." Teachout cites the following: "The percentage of Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 who attended a live jazz performance in 2008 was 9.8%. In 2002, it was 13.9%. That's a 30% drop in attendance." Sounds compelling. But, depending upon where those questioned live, this may just be a case of a lack of live jazz to go out and hear. The jazz business and other forms of support are withering, or in need of pruning and other forms of care, much more so than the audience or the music.
...the one I hosted with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, singer Tammy Lynn and Ira Padnos, founder of Ponderosa Stomp, you can see it all on video here.
Back in New Orleans. The humidity is so thick just now that you could cut right through it -- not just with a sharp knife but with the kind of blunt object La. Gov. Bobby Jindal must have taken the state's budget in attempt to prove himself to doubting Republicans. Whether his Draconian cuts, especially to social services and the arts, will restore Jindal's standing as a candidate-in-waiting for the GOP in 2012, they've had immediate effects in New Orleans: I've been here less than two days and already I've met two mental health professionals who've lost their jobs as a result, in a city that desperately needs such services, and a filmmaker whose funding never made it through.
Louis Armstrong once famously called segregationist Ark. Gov. Orval Faubus an "uneducated plowboy." I wonder what he'd make of Creationist Jindal were he alive today?
Armstrong is very much alive in New Orleans this weekend during the annual Satchmo Fest, especially in three days of seminars that delve into all things Armstrong, with speakers including Robert O'Meally and George Avakian. More on that to come...
My own small contribution to the consideration of Armstrong today is this piece in today's New Orleans Times Picayune, based on a trip I took with trumpeter Kermit Ruffins to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, NY. When looking for the spirit of Armstrong, and within it the distilled essence of New Orleans life, Ruffins is a great start. One of the greatest pleasures of my work is to share in moments of deep reflection and fresh awareness with musicians: This visit was one such moment. And for those whove questioned it--No, we really did not realize that it was the anniversary of Armstrong's death. And the trip was all the more intense for that obliviousness.
Armstrong spoke out about Gov. Faubus and Pres. Eisenhower ("The way the they are treating my people down South, the government can go to hell," he said to one reporter in 1957, after canceling a State Dept. tour to the Soviet Union in light of the riots in Little Rock). His sentiment seems echoed by trumpeter Terence Blanchard regarding the Bush administration and the experience of Katrina. "I know they say you're supposed to respect the office, but the office didn't respect us," he told me during a panel discussion at Lincoln Center last month, while explaining his snub of a Bush White House invitation for a Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz event. You can find that and other excerpts of the event on the Journal's wesbite.
Blanchard's own new CD, Choices, stems in some ways from experiencing the ugly choices made by those in power during the Bush years, but also about the inspiring choices made by many of Blanchard's colleagues and neighbors in New Orleans since the flood. It is not just a terrific document of Blanchard's maturity as a player, composer and bandleader, but also a wonderful example of how modern jazz can seem, well, modern (as in relevant and vital) in 2009.