Michael Shults made a reasonable request in his thoughtful response to a recent Plastic Sax post that linked to Natalie Gallagher’s story about Eddie Moore.
Great article on Eddie and I have really liked Natalie's writing on jazz for the Pitch! What's with every single music critic's obligatory preamble about how nobody's actually listening/the crowds are sparse at jazz-oriented gigs, though? Can we put a moratorium on this angle for awhile? Lookin' at you too, Bill.Shullts isn’t the only person who objects to this recurring story line. The appeal merits a detailed response.
The official narrative constructed by the staffs of tourism bureaus and public officials- most of whom I've never encountered at a jazz performance- is that Kansas City’s populace is obsessed with jazz. The fallacy is perpetuated by jazz educators (lookin’ at you too, Michael) and enthusiasts wearing rose-colored glasses.
Regularly attending attend rock, hip-hop, pop, classical and R&B shows provides “music critics” with the benefit of context. Natalie and I mention the poor attendance and audience indifference at jazz gigs because it's shocking. We generally don’t encounter empty rooms and disinterested listeners elsewhere.
Jazz isn’t being singled out. My review of Kanye West's 2013 concert at the Sprint Center was a lead item at aggregators like the Huffington Post, Reddit and the Drudge Report because I observed that the arena was only a quarter full.
It was a tantalizing story when less than 5,000 people purchased $44.50-$125 tickets to see Yeezy. It's also a story when less than 200 people paid $10-$50 to attend a well-promoted concert by the leading jazz luminary Julian Lage at the 1,050-seat Folly Theater last weekend.
I’ve attended several jazz gigs by Kansas City musicians in 2015 at which the audience numbered less than ten. It breaks my heart. And for the hundredth time- these observations aren’t a reflection of the quality of the music.
I have no intention of glossing over the discouraging reality that so few people in Kansas City currently share our passion for this music.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)