What Killed Jazz and When (Part 3) - JazzWax

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August 08, 2008


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Bob Olhsson

Gene Lees (I think it was) probably offered by far the best explanation I've ever read.

He wrote that the demise of amusement park dance pavilions in the late 1940s killed both the ability of up and coming jazz musicians to earn a living playing dance music and exposure to live jazz for young people.

Alan Kurtz

Marc, thanks for "What Killed Jazz and When (Part 3)." Judging from your opening paragraphs, I obviously expressed myself poorly last June in commenting on Part 2. "I don't think being snubbed at the doors of backstage dressing rooms," you write, "played much of a role in jazz's fading popularity." That's certainly not what I had in mind. I meant to suggest that what fans saw and heard ON stage alienated us, not what transpired before, between or after sets. Plus, of course, the jazz-related racist rhetoric of such black-separatist firebrand intellectuals as LeRoi Jones. Admittedly, though, your socially sanguine interpretation of the mid-1960s is far more comforting than anything a hard-bitten realist like me could offer.

Still, I am chagrined at your aloofness. "By definition," you write in summarizing today's blog, "fine art isn't meant to be consumed by everyone, only by those who can feel the artist's message, understand its point, and be transformed by it." This is unadorned snobbism. By extension, the finest art of all would be consumed by no one. Since only the artist would understand its point (if any), such art would have no transformative power whatsoever. Bottom line? Neither cheap technology, misogyny nor anti-drug crackdowns by law enforcement eradicated jazz's popular appeal. Elitism did.


Blaming the drug use of the 1960s and beyond on record company executives is a joke I've never heard before. Good one.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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