Sunday Wax Bits - JazzWax

« Interview: Lisa Simone | Main | Hank Garland: Jazz Winds »

March 29, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



Michael Steinman

Dear Marc,

I agree that the future of jazz as a public art form with commerce breathing down its neck is precarious. But I think it was ever thus. Radio threatened jazz musicians: why pay to go out when you could hear an Ellington broadcast? Television and the entertainment tax (to say nothing of the baby boom) made many of the hepcats and bobby-soxers of the Thirties stay at home. Records were both great ways to promulgate the sounds and to make for competition with the real thing. Now, we have YouTube (I plead guilty here, both as watcher and as purveyor), downloads, the iPod, and more than I can imagine. BUT if jazz "dies," it will cease to exist in the same way Bach has vanished. Musicians will always find joy in improvising, and even if the audiences are small, the musicians will play for their own pleasure. And just when I begin to despair, I meet a teenager with a guitar who loves Django. "All things fall and are built again," wrote Yeats. "We'll always have Paris," and jazz-lovers have more Paris than almost anyone else.

Yours in the name of pragmatic good cheer -- did you expect anything else from an optimist who named his blog JAZZ LIVES?

John Herr

The demise of jazz & classical CDs has been predicted for the last 2 years now, but artists & labels keep issuing them, & collectors keep buying them, even as the pop audience turns to downloads. I think jazz & classical fans want their albums as discrete objects to select deliberately for listening in a set context, not hear randomly.

As for jazz in clubs & comncert halls, it has been dying on its feet for decades, like that other fabulous invalid, Broadway, yet lives on. Me, I drove down to NYC Thursday to tour Walker Evans photo & postcard exhibition at Met. Later, I ate dinner at Sofia's on W 46th St. The restaurant was crowded with theatre-goers listening to Larry Ham Trio playing in front window.

At 7:30, I hopped a taxi down to Small's, where I caught an hour-long set by silky Harry Allen on tenor playing hand-in-glove with pianist Ehud Asherie. Stayed for 1st set by an impressive new hard bop 5tet led by deep-toned tenor player Ken Fowser & vibist Behn Gillece, w/ David Hazeltine on piano. Club was packed by then. Finally, I walked around corner to Village Vanguard for 11:00 pm session by a Frank Wess 5tet w/ Scott Robinson on tenor & bass sax & trumpet (& showing great chops on all 3 instruments).

Wess walks with a cane at 87, but blew with intensity on tenor & flute at Vanguard. I was amazed to find that storied club had apparently relaxed its policy against photography, at least on that last set on a weeknight, when they were only half-full. Ever hear of the Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein opera Four Saints in Three Acts? Well, that night, I caught 4 combos in 3 clubs--all great mainstream jazz. How to do the Apple on a recession budget.

When I got back to Syracuse, I had to choose between watching SU play Oklahoma on TV or driving to Rochester to photograph the Helen Sung Trio backing singer Carolyn Leonhart in the Exodus To Jazz series. So, there is live jazz available, even in backwaters of the Republic like CNY. I could send you some snapshots.

Ivan Santiago

Oddball album cover of the week: I have been making fun of that Marla Smith cover for years! Really out there, man. And I too have thought of her as a ghost -- among other possibilities.

This album seems to have been an attempt at cross-promotion. The last paragraph of the album's notes is entirely dedicated to a lavish description of the 707. I wonder if, back in the day, the album was given to passengers as a compliment. As for the notes' comments on Marla, here is a sample:

"Marla Smith takes off in sound! It's a fanciful flight smooth as a trip on an American Airlines 707 Jet Flagship ..... Why the association between Marla and jets? Well, the winsome miss is a graduate of American Airlines' reservation offices in her native Buffalo. It was while seeing to air traveler ticket needs that Marla studied and developed her vocals stylings ... Just about the time Marla was waxing this album, American was introducing 707 Jet Flagship service in the domestic transcontinental market. Why not have Marla help get the public to know about jets and let American help the public to get to know about her?"

Why not, indeed ... Had I ever flown in that jet, I would have expected to see Marla right through the window, happily swirling around the plane for the whole trip!

Ivan Santiago

Sue Raney: her last two CDs are both superior albums. The earliest of the two, "Autumn in the Air," is in my opinion her masterpiece ... a fine concept album (think Sinatra's "September of my Years") and one of the most satisfying vocal / ballad discs of the last decade. The more recent CD is a smart tribute to Doris Day in which Sue elevates some of the novelty material which is commonly associated with Day.

Scopitone videos: they are such a riot -- so unabashedly camp. YouTube has quite a few of them. Visually, the one that I most enjoy is Joi Lansing's "(Trapped in) The Web of Love." Musically, I favor the one by Ethel Ennis -- another recording singer who, like Sue Raney, sings so well that you would not expect to find her amidst all this, um, Scopitonian campiness. Many of those videos are also so ... a go go. (I was just checking January Jones' "Up a Lazy River.")

Howard Mandel

The future of jazz will indeed be determined by the interests of musicians and listeners in live events -- and the venues for those events are facing real estate challenges, it's true. But the lure of physical as opposed to virtual experience is strong. Some people (let's call them "jazzers") *want* to get together with each other (even if they start the evening not knowing the strangers sitting nearby), to drink, to listen and share the sensations, which just can't be done in a home-theater setting. These jazzers *like* the ambiance of a jazz club so much they're willing to pay for it. They see going out as an escape from their cozy homelives. They embrace the unexpected and the social fluidity that live music promotes. Many obstacles and distractions stand in the way of jazz's popularity and perhaps profitability, but none negate the desire for improvised interaction that jazz and other live musics provide.

David Brent Johnson

Marc, re: Kindle, my prediction is that books could become the new vinyl--the "warmer" reading experience, the hip/coolness factor of the rare commodity, etc. I'd rather see them retain their previous status, but change of the century and all that...

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of Calif. Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax was twice named "Blog of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Contact me

Subscribe Free

Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Search JazzWax

  • JazzWax

JazzWax Interviewed

WSJ Articles

JazzWax Interviews

Audio Note

  • Audio clips that appear below JazzWax posts support editorial content that links readers directly to Amazon and other third-party music retailers.

Marc Myers on Video

JATP Programs