What's The Point, Part 1
The worst part of this advice is, these kids think if they come to New York they'll take the town by storm. They were "so successful" in college; everyone told them how great they were, so they assume, by coming to the Big Apple, they'd meet lots of musicians, which they do, and they think there is so much work here, but what they find is another hundred players as good, if not, betterand most of them are out of work and barely surviving. They all have part-time jobs or "day gigs" and are living with roommates. The roommates are usually musicians and all of them have a need to play. In order to fill that need, they play at makeshift jam sessions or after-hours at some club. But playing at sessions with other musicians doesn't fulfill their need to perform in front of an audience or help them make a living at their chosen craft.
So what do they do? The same thing that the studio players did years earlier: they play in bars and restaurants for no pay or a pass-the-hat situation, which means that after the set someone goes from table to table with a hat, (or basket, bucket), hoping the customers will donate money for the musicians. Sometimes the musicians themselves would go around with the hat. The so-called customers are usually other musicians who are broke. All of this in the hope they can satisfy their need to perform and be heardor even "discovered"while earning a few dollars to pay for the subway ride home.
Passing the hat does amazing things for your ego and sense of self worth. You fool yourself into believing that you are contributing to the jazz effort and at least your music is being heard. Some musicians get so depressed they quit with a sense of failure. They get "normal jobs" or go back to school and get a Masters in Education so they can go back home and teach and live a life filled with frustration, unhappiness and the "what if" syndrome. That old adage that says, "those who can do and those who can't teach" is not true anymore.
Then there's the "artist." This is a person who has "hung in there" for years and has developed a style of playing he/she can call his/her own. No one sounds like them and they are the future of jazz. The problem is no one caresor at least very littleor is willing to pay these great artisans of improvisation. Another problem is, because the music is advanced, where can you play? If you are not a proficient grant writer, your chances of winning a grant are null. Some grants want you to have won at least three previous grants to be considered, and the gigs you want to create never happen.
If you are a well-known player there are only a few places in New York City where you can perform. Out of the thousands upon thousands of musicians in New York, how many are known players? Being a "star" doesn't necessarily make you a great musician, some are not very good, but a "star" is well-known and can draw an audience. That's why they make the big bucks and because they ask for big salaries, the clubs are asking for a lot of money from the public to see one set.
You try to get an agent or manager and even though they recognize your artistry and like your music, you have to "make it" before they will handle you. It is a never-ending cycle.
There are only a few super-stars in improvised music. But the highest paid star is probably Cecil Taylor. Most people, except for the so-called "in crowd," know who he is but very few, except for some musicians, understand his music. He is well-paid and greatly appreciated overseasmore than here in the States.
The end of jazz as a popular music started happening in the sixties and throughout the country. Fusion, a combination of jazz and rock emerged as the next step in jazz. Some jazz musicians hated this music and I personally think it was created to try and bring in young people. Miles Davis was the leader of the pack with his recording of Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970). Miles was forever changing and, if the young supported rock 'n' roll, why not have them support fusion too? It certainly made Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Keith Jarrett and others, major stars. But rock 'n' roll had taken over the airwaves, and fusion didn't last very long. It is still around, and in the last twenty years, jazz wears many hats: swing, bebop, modern, post-bebop, West Coast jazz, Gypsy jazz, fusion, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, Third Stream, free jazz, improvised music, etc.
In the late sixties/early seventies, free jazz musicians in New York City reverted to playing in lofts. People would come in and pay a few dollars, sit on pillows, couches or on the floor, and listen to free jazz, which was considered angry and far out.
The decline of jazz continued, and the rise of rock, disco, & pop music kept growing, the loft scene slowly disappeared. Many of the loft players went to Europe to work and live, where jazz was and has always been looked on as the highest form of art and was honored and respected.