Weekend Wax Bits - JazzWax

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June 09, 2012


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Michael J. West

Is it really hearing the history that will turn kids onto jazz? It seems to me we've got to make its *present* relevant to young people; regaling them with the music's past glories, no matter how exciting, just says that the music's best days are behind it.

Mitch E.

I make it short:

"Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny."

claiborne ray

Hi, it will not surprise you to learn that Joe Temperley is one of my favorites.

Alex W. Rodriguez

Marc, your evidence strikes me as a little thin. One stuck-in-the-mud radio producer does not speak for a generation of listeners. Relevant to the conversation: this piece for NPR Music on six jazz presenters reaching out to new (and, for the most part, younger) audiences: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ablogsupreme/2012/06/09/154628698/six-creative-presenters-finding-new-audiences-for-jazz


I'm an amateur performer, still south of 30, and play jazz because it's fun and, more importantly, challenging. People come out and listen to jazz, even young people, and there are a lot of young amateurs that I've met.

I meet very, very few young singers of jazz. Almost no "jazz" concerts I go to feature a singer. The jazz programs I've been in colleges with might have a singer for only their top band for one concert a year, and never with a combo.

This is a shame; people's ears tend to flock to the singers. I'd love to hear more jazz singers - they should be actively recruited early on. Jazz is not and has never been limited to instruments.


I mean, is this lady only relevant to claim the jazz badge because she plays a mean bass as well? I've heard a lot of talk amongst jazz people about how singers are somehow lesser musicians, or karaoke artists, etc. Hell, I was guilty of it once upon a time. That's sin number one, I could go on, but that's number one.

Kent England

Do you think jazz is a dirty word with young people because what they think is jazz is actually "smooth jazz"?

All the young people I've ever played jazz for appreciate it, even if they don't like it much. If you really want to stun a young person, play them some stride piano. "Who were those piano players?" "Piano player." "You mean that was ONE GUY!??"


Well Marc, there is plenty of evidence that jazz has become less popular, and that it's primary audience is currently over 50. So, it would stand to reason that people in media are scared of the name, they're probably scared of the audience abandoning them. I can't really blame them. If lots of people liked "jazz" Jazzwax could be your primary activity.

I must say those of us who loved jazz in during our lives, and those who played it, probably had more to do with de-valuing the word than we'd care to admit. I can't count the number of jazz musicians who denied they even played "jazz" --"I just call it 'music.' And then there were the deniers; are you listening Wynton. Miles Davis stopped playing jazz in the late 60s, they said. Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, the list was long, they said.

We reap what we sowed, I say.


I think you're making a few shaky assumptions. First, that the mass media associates jazz with drugs and jail. Maybe 50 years ago that was true. But hip-hop, which is very popular and in no need of additional appreciation, is inseparable from drugs, gun violence, and sexism. That doesn't keep it from being popular. What's happened to jazz in general is what happened to swing, dixieland, and everything else - it became old people's music.

As for teaching jazz history, it will have about as much effect as any other kind of history teaching does - almost nil. My only suggestion: good music - orchestras and bands - in schools turn kids into music appreciators.

T.K. Tortch

Kent England asked "Do you think jazz is a dirty word with young people because what they think is jazz is actually "smooth jazz"?"

I think that's a real phenomena. I'll never forget - and this was back in the '90's - having a Mingus record on; a girl only a few years younger than I asked me, not who it was, but what kind of music it was. Because she liked it. When I told her it was "Jazz", she was floored. "Jazz" meant Kenny G to her.

In hindsight the history of Jazz may look like a sensible progression, but if you pluck out different performers playing in different styles, the music can differ radically. If audiences have identified Jazz with one or two styles they don't like, no surprise it isn't popular.

Willard Jenkins

Hey Marc,
We have an interesting jazz scene in development here in DC that is under the banner of CapitalBop. CB is two young guys - one a musician and jazz radio host, the other an aspiring jazz writer, both 20-something - who have been hosting a series of very successful loft space performances specifically geared to a young audience; and many of those performances have been on the edge as opposed to in the tradition, though they've combined the in & out on some bills. Check them out at www.capitalbop.com, and we'll be posting an interview with them in The Independent Ear later this week at http://www.openskyjazz.com/blog.

There is a sense that one element we must explore in terms of successfully presenting jazz to younger audiences is the whole aspect of presenting in non-traditional venues, with non-traditional staging & programming.
Willard Jenkins
Home of The Independent Ear

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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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