Jazz Doesn't Need to Be Saved -- It's Doing Fine
Cultural critic Terry Teachout recently wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal titled 'Can Jazz Be Saved?' It caused a stir among jazz musicians, critics, cognoscenti and fans. There's even Twitter campaign to prove Teachout wrong (use #jazzlives if you want to Tweet live). The thrust of the early part of the piece quotes jazz audience statistics collected by the National Endowment of the Arts and the U.S. Census Bureau about the median age of the jazz audience getting older and the number of people actually going to concerts is shrinking. Teachout continues by pointing out that jazz has fallen into the high art trap -- which snared classical music, ballet and nonmusical theater -- where the music has now become good for you rather than fun, which is why younger audiences have gone away.
While my idea of a fun on Tuesday night is catching Cecil Taylor at the Highline Ballroom here in New York (as I did a few days ago), Cecil isn't for everyone and neither is jazz. It isn't, for the most part, the dance music that it was almost a century ago, but things change and did so a long time ago. Moreover, I think what Teachout fails to take into account is that the music industry in general is in tatters as it figures out what to do next, and whether major labels are even a useful way to get your music out to the people. This is to say nothing of the fact that the economy is in tatters and discretionary income is at a low.
This brings us to my own revelation that I had sometime back when I was opening mail and it seemed like every CD that came across my desk (actually I don't really use a desk; I'm sitting on a comfy couch with my feet propped up as I write this on my laptop) was released by the artist themselves or an independent label: i.e., not Sony-BMG, Warner Brothers, Universal or Island-Def Jam Music Group. As someone who grew up listening to classic rock and then in the