Sunday, August 7, 2011
A few readers of Plastic Sax know that the author of this blog frequently attends performances of music other than jazz. Just half of the six events I caught last week- Tim Whitmer's July Jazz Jam (reviewed here), Phonologotronic at Fishtank Performance Studio and Dan Gailey with a Tim Doherty-led band at Intentions (photo here)- were jazz-related.
I caught myself thinking about jazz at the other shows I attended. I wondered, for example, what members of each audience might be willing to attend a jazz performance. The results of my brief surveys varied each day, of course, but I didn't spot many potential takers.
With the notable exceptions of the realms of (some) jam bands and (some) hip hop, the gulf between jazz and popular music continues to grow. The division is about more than music. Today's audiences expect to experience multi-media presentations. Technological advances allow for greater spectacles than ever. Setting the musical chasm aside, how is the guy in the foreground of the accompanying image taken at a rock concert last night going to respond to a visually static jazz show? I can't imagine him sitting still for a recital by Keith Jarrett.
To be sure, most intimate club performances by artists of every genre don't offer sensory overload. But if jazz musicians and jazz presenters intend to recapture larger audiences, they're going to need to recognize that the rules of the game have changed. Rather than seeing this new challenge as an insurmountable obstacle, the jazz community might view the chance to get ahead of the curve as an exciting opportunity.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)