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January 03, 2010


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Bill Forbes

I fully agree with Don Emanuel - Spotify is a wonderful resource for jazz listeners here in the U.K. and if it doesn't have what you're looking for, the French site (also accessible here), gives you a second chance of finding it.


I usually love the stuff that you post here at JazzWax, but I have to say, I have trouble with your reductive and dismissive attitude towards contemporary popular music. Technology, cultural context and musical styles have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. To reduce music's nuanced shifts of cultural meaning, its complex context in society, and its changes due to electronic technology to a dumbing down of society or a childish fetish for pyrotechnics is somewhat insulting to the artists whose music you dismiss.
Also, comparing bebop -- which never amassed widespread popularity -- to modern pop is apples and oranges. If anything, you should probably be comparing it to indie rockers with a following in the Williamsburg hipster crowd -- a closer equivalent of the Greenwich Village community that was into bebop back then.
Don't get me wrong -- I'd much rather listen to Lady Day than Lady Gaga, but I don't pretend that makes me any more hip or enlightened than the next person. This kind of us-vs-them bunker mentality that persists in the jazz writing community frustrates me to no end.

Doug Zielke

Happy new year, Marc!
I find it sad to think that my enjoyment of listening to a jazz group in live performance is going to go away.
The audiences for today's popular music
can't even sit still long enough to understand anything more complex than the pablum they are being fed.

Bill Kirchner

Alas, there's nothing new about the importance of the garishly visual in pop music--remember Jimi Hendrix and The Who regularly destroying their equipment onstage in the late 1960s?

What has deteriorated in recent decades, though, is the ability of large portions of contemporary audiences to LISTEN to music without visual aids or distractions. I attribute this decline at least in part to the disappearance of music appreciation and performance in American school curricula. Listening to music, whatever one's tastes, is a skill that needs to be taught; relatively few persons come by it naturally. And great music demands to be heard for its own sake, not just to serve as background for office work, home chores, dinner, or getting laid.

Until music and arts education is restored to its proper place of importance in our society, what you describe as a trend will continue and probably accelerate.

Ed Leimbacher

Mr. Kirchner has limned it straight. Blame that downward trend on (1) the absence of (call it) organized listening and/or regular training in music, shamefully dismissed from school budgets nationwide, and (2) the increasingly short attention span manifest in younger folk, aggravated by all the latest gadgets (some of which your column embraces all too casually). Even the randomness present in aimless downloads and packed IPods and unprogrammed CD players--however exploratory they all may be--offers more confusion than enlightenment...

Or maybe it's all baloney. Folks of any age find what they want to hear one way or another. But I was in the audience that last night of Monterey Pop, when Townsend smashed his guitar, and Hendrix then one-upped him by smashing and then burning his. Some sort of fire has been raging ever since, and Jazz and Classical are two of the victims.

John P. Cooper

A soundtrack with "cool sounds from her her scenes". Really?

John P. Cooper

Take 2

A soundtrack with "cool sounds from her hot scenes". Really?

Jason Crane | The Jazz Session

Howdy Marc and subsequent respondents: What's the evidence for the claims that people don't know how to listen, or aren't listening, or only listen to crap, or need bright lights to enjoy music? And by "evidence," I mean data. Thanks as always for the great blog!

Bill Kirchner

To Jason Crane:

The "evidence" in my case includes a lifetime of experience, including 40 years as a performing professional musician, over 30 years of doing clinics/workshops all over the world, and 20 years as a university educator.

Jason Crane | The Jazz Session

Hi Bill: Thanks for your response. That's really not what I mean, though. I have my own opinions based on the number of years I've been listening to and watching musical performances, too. But I can't extrapolate them to the entire music-listening/watching public.

Bill Kirchner

Dear Jason:

There's a significant difference between being an observer--however astute and knowledgeable--and being a hands-on participant.

Being actively engaged with audiences as a performer and students as an educator--as I have been for many years--gives one a unique kind of insight.

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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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