Metro Cancels Jazz
“ ...to drop any jazz column on the basis of trying to reach a younger audience clearly ignores the fact that many of the jazz clubs are, I've noted, filled with young people... ”
I've devoted much of my life to jazz, writing about it as a daily newspaper reporter, free lance writer and columnist and disc jockey. I had the good fortune to be there when much of the greatest jazz people were creating this distinctly American music. It was being created In clubs such as Eddie Condon's, Nick's, Minton's Playhouse, The Royal Roost, Birdland and Bop City. There were fabulous tenor sax men such as Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
Drummers such as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Piano stars such as Earl "Fatha Hines and Lennie Tristano. Trumpet icons such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. The music included New Orleans, Dixie, Chicago Style and Kansas City, mainstream, big band swing and small combos. People such as Eddie Condon, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton were creating jazz history.
We wrote here recently about some of the first class jazz people in Philadelphia still playing here at clubs such as Zanzibar Blue, Chris' Jazz Cafe and Ortleib's Jazz Haus along with such forgotten joys as the Blue Note and its Monday night jazz sessions now being resurrected at La Rose and even the classy concert hall of the Kimmel Center.
Along with such long established stars as Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, Tony Williams and Sid Simmons we have seen such younger musicians as Chris Farr, Tony Miceli, John Swana and Dan Monaghan along with the Philly 5 coming into their own. There have been countless editorials singing the praises of jazz many of them in newspapers that no longer report or feature the music. Every time some new pop music takes hold from rock&roll to hip hop, much of the news media tends to play it up as if it is not only the new music for America, but the only form worth devoting space to for their readers.
Philadelphia's Metro, for example, just a few months ago, dropped its jazz column. As it happens, I wrote the column, but this is not a question of it just dropping me as a writer, but dropping any jazz column as a feature regardless of who wrote it.
Dorothy Robinson the new entertainment editor (she was later listed as Culture Editor on Dec. 1) wrote me as follows: "I'm, sorry about the column, but we just don't have room. You are going to hate me for saying this, and I do realize that jazz is an important part of Philly, but we are trying to take the paper in a different direction, to a much more younger demographic. I think that individual pieces, on a select basis, will accomplish this.
I might have been annoyed to have them drop the column because of my writing, but to drop any jazz column on the basis of trying to reach a younger audience clearly ignores the fact that many of the jazz clubs are, I've noted, filled with young people as well as senior citizens. Many of the musicians, such as The Philly 5, are young as well. If you accept the fact that is, as the young Ms Robinson acknowledged, "an important part of Philly, why drop a column that covers it? In order to reach a younger audience? But what of the young patrons and musicians who obviously care very much about jazz.
Why drop the focus on a music that is clearly a distinctly American cultural art form cherished worldwide? I'm sure that jazz in Philadelphia will survive despite the failure of Metro to carry a column about it. People have been writing obits for jazz ever since it first began. Indeed, much of jazz was once confined to cheap dance halls and seedy bars in its early days after emerging from the street bands of New Orleans. It has since gone to such esteemed clubs as Zanzibar and such cultural high places as Carnegie Hall and the Kimmel Center.
Why assume that young people will not care about jazz when it was young people who created it and are still clearly playing and listening to it? I don't, as Ms Robinson expressed it, "hate her for saying it, but regret that she (as her editors surely may concur) thinks that jazz is not a suitable column for young people. I think that's selling young people and American music short!