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Simple Talk

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It's a simple fact of life. Every day we witness people chatting, conversation at work, simple nods on the street. (Except for hermits, cave-dwellers, and other perverse isolationists.) Those of us who celebrate jazz also get to enjoy an altogether different kind of talk on a daily basis: the whispered calls of an alto saxophone, an intense debate between bassist and drummer, the extended discourse of a trumpet solo.

Yes, jazz is a music of communication, and because it's been around for nearly a century it's gotten quite sophisticated. The ways improvisers interact can vary from the direct and pointed talk of a piano trio to the heated interchanges of a swing band.

In some ways people's affinity for different kinds of jazz reflects their own interests in communication. Some like rules, others don't. Some want to hear a specific language, others prefer to hear one invented on the spot. And, perhaps the greatest line in the sand is whether players choose to speak their minds using words or not. You like free jazz, you'll dig the wordless kind.

All that boils down to why we're here (readers and writers alike). What better way for jazz fans themselves to go about interacting than to join the AAJ Bulletin Board. That's a place where people of all persuasions get together to share ideas, debate controversy, and have questions answered. Plenty of All About Jazz contributors have joined in, and we've seen a recent explosion in the number of people who've chosen to participate (over 700 since October 2002 and going strong).

In part that's due to a revamping of these pages to help keep the 10,000+ posts organized. In part that's due to the fact that we recently found ourselves swarmed with people who came via the Blue Note bulletin board. (Welcome, folks!) And, of course, there's also the usual snowball effect among our usual visitors. In the last month, we've see the number of posts more than double. They pop up every few minutes, and up to 50 people are in the area at any given time, so there's plenty of reason to check back on a regular basis.

For those who are after other forms of personal communication, we've also completely revamped our directory listings. These sections feature plenty of information and contact info on performance venues, jazz societies, radio stations, and other places where the music represents itself in the so-called "real" world. We expect this resource to continue to expand over time and we hope you'll take advantage of it to locate jazz happenings near you. Search away!

And also outside bitspace, we'd like to welcome the latest cities to join our network of local newspapers. Seattle, an underappreciated hub, and Los Angeles, home to an unusual diversity of musicians, just put out their inaugural editions. Congratulations to Northwester Jason West and SoCal resident Fred Jung for helping get these papers off the ground.

The better-established papers covering the Philadelphia and New York areas are further along—both just released brand spanking new editions. One compelling reason to check these papers out, other than local interest of course, is the fact that they feature exclusive material that we do not publish at the site. These newspapers can be found here at AAJ as well as in the traditional paper format at local venues and stores.

That's the latest scoop for this month. Here's a final suggestion: undertake your next musical experience with the idea of communication in mind. Listen to how the players converse, understand their language, and try to find its higher message. Sometimes we take for granted that improvised music is all about conversation, but that's what makes jazz so unique. There's no way to really get a jazz performance (on record or in person) without hearing what the musicians have to say.

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