Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's Showtime!











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.)

7 comments:

The Phonologotron said...

Duh!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The Black House show at La Esquina on August 19 will feature some stimulating, exciting new multimedia, and we still won't get paid!!!!!! It doesn't matter, it will be awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is only my opinion (obviously), but "sensory overload" is overrated. I find a lot of jazz performances more rewarding if I shut my eyes during some of the gig. I can hear better without visual distraction!

Anonymous said...

By comparing jazz to popular music, you're calling jazz unpopular. The visuals won't make the music any more popular, but I agree that boundaries need to be pushed.

Happy In Bag said...

I had to shut my eyes at The Blue Room last night, 638, because a photographer was using flash as four brilliant jazz musicians played for twelve people. Two members of the audience chatted obliviously and two others had the audacity to watch videos on laptops (without headphones!) during the performance. So, 1105, what's that about jazz and popularity?

Anonymous said...

Fans of jazz in KC have been to plenty of gigs with twelve people in the audience as well as packed rooms - such as this Tuesday when Todd Strait was playing with Stan's quartet at Jardines. No extra visuals or multimedia needed that night! Sometimes it's hard to explain low attendence... Matt Otto always brings it - wish I'd been there to listen (I would've asked the yappers to shut it!)

Rick in PV said...

I always liked BCR (and their inspiration, Sun Ra) for humorous, visually exciting jazz performances.