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Marty Khan Interview: About His Book "Straight Ahead"

By Published: March 22, 2005

MK: Yes. Knowledge. Understanding. Objective Perception. Unity. Strategy. Commitment. Confrontation. And a return to the fundamental core traditions that make jazz such a profound art form. Ignore these head-fakes and abandon the okey-doke syndrome. There's a new environment provided by technology, allowing contact with potential new audiences that are untapped and looking for enrichment.

Give up this fetid old corpse of the business-as-usual and arise into a world of better possibilities. Let's consider the emergence of cable television back in the '70s. The three networks dominated the entire realm of American television, along with smalltime local broadcasting companies and an earnest but amateurish sub-network dedicated to arts, education and public interests. The three giants pandered to the lowest common dominator, with occasional flashes of brilliance and innovation swimming upstream against the flow, occasionally "succeeding" more by coincidence or the oversight of those in charge than by public reception.

Along comes cable as a new outlet for creativity and focused or marginal interests. The numbers that were absolutely essential for broadcast network success go out the window, and a substantially smaller number of viewers can still indicate enormous success. Innovative economic structures based upon subscription fees, audience-specific advertising sponsors and so forth totally altered the landscape of television.

Thirty years later, the television viewer has a variety of service options, hundreds of programming choices and access to subject matter and ideas of enormous scope. On top of it all, the most successful of all of these new channels, HBO, consistently offers a good amount of highly innovative, daring, artistic, mind-expanding, high-quality programming of all sorts.

The emergence of Internet technology offers a similar landscape that is even more accessible, cost-effective and functional for the individual artist. But it's necessary to throw out some old bad elements and re-adapt others in one's viewpoints to take full advantage of the new opportunities at hand. That means a new mindset needs to be adopted, without abandoning the essential traditions and ancient wisdom inherent in the music. That's what I'm hoping to contribute toward with Straight Ahead.

SR: That's pretty ambitious.

MK: Yes, but big problems require big solutions. And the first, and probably most important step is to open the mind to possibilities, while closing down the human tendencies to be lazy, dumb, and hope for good luck or the grace of God.

SR: Since you feel that there are so many people who can benefit from the book, and to whom it's absolutely indispensable, don't you feel that $50 may be perceived as a bit steep, especially for the working musician?

MK: Man, show me the musician who hasn't spent 50 bucks on a good meal, a sporting event or even a bag of weed. A couple of boxes of reeds cost more than that. A lousy movie costs $25 for two tickets. One set in a club can cost that between the cover and the minimum. But you can't put $50 on the table for comprehensive information about the career upon which your daily sustenance depends? If you're that short-sighted you really need to read this book. (laughter) Really though. Just the non-profit information contained repays that $50 investment many times over. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney would cost five times that and probably give you less than one-tenth of the information. I've done dozens of 3-hour consultations on non-profit at $300 a pop. All of that information is in the book for a fraction of that amount—and permanent for repeated reference. If it's not worth it to some cats, what can I say?

SR: How's it doing so far?

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