I'm not quite sure why so many jazz musicians have such a hard time connecting with audiences. Whenever I go out to hear jazz, I'm always struck by how poorly musicians on stage bond with the people who came to hear them. Audiences crave interaction but never seem to get it and often leave disappointed. Either stage musicians stand or sit there expressionless the entire set or they engage in forced banter, often at inaudible levels, making everyone more uncomfortable. Off stage, their communication skills are even more miserable, unable to greet fans or carry on a few lines of conversation. [Pictured: Sensors by Pat Brassington, 2010]
Post-war jazz has always strained under dual masters. For the music to connect with audiences, it has to be deeply personal, internal and sensitive. But for the music to earn money and pay bills, it has to reach more and more people who will find it worthy, which requires charisma and entertainment skills. Most jazz artists get the first part. The second part? Not so much. [Photo of Thelonious Monk by Herb Snitzer]
All of this non-communicative, too-cool-for-school attitude by jazz artists probably dates back to Thelonious Monk in the late 1940s. But Monk could get away with it. He was exceptional, and audiences had already been weaned on jazz-influenced music. Today, treating audiences as though they aren't there compromises a musician's ability to earn. Times have changed. Audiences want to see musicians excited by what they're doing. Audiences want to feel a connection to the artist, they want to be part of the experience. Rock and soul musicians have always understood this and have benefited from being expressive. [Photo by William Klein]
In today's day and age, when everyone's personal information is all over the web and people talk all day by email and text, jazz musicians must train themselves to be more personable and react with emotion to what they're doing. The days of the surly stage genius and mum musician are over. Musicians who don't think being expressive on stage is their role shouldn't then whine that rock, pop, r&b and every other form of music receives more dollars and attention. Your audience is your income. The more you put in, the more you'll get out. It's really that simple.
Coltrane, Monk and Rollins. Filmmaker Bret Primack, in support of a new series of CDs from Concord Records, has put together a clip that looks at the special qualities of John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins...
Oddball album cover of the week. Yes, here's another one of those enormously inventive trio album cover designs for Red Norvo. Others in the re-issue series included three kittens in socks hanging on a clothesline and three newborns being delivered by a stork. Looks like the art director here in the TV era decided to give up cute and opt for action.