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AAJ @ 20

AAJ @ 20
Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius By

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We were probably a bit ahead of the curve with Sound Bites (a searchable database detailing everything your favorite Jazz musician had eaten)...All I remember from that project was that Nina Simone could put away some Funyuns.
If you think back over the past twenty years (not right now. You have this article to read yet), you'd realize that we are living in one of the most remarkable times in human history. The Internet has brought the entire world to our fingertips, and has given every cat on the face of the earth their Warholian fifteen minutes. DVRs and various other technologies have allowed us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Smartphones allow us to completely ignore each other until we need something, at which point we use SMS even though the person we're texting is sitting five feet from us.

The Internet of today barely resembles the Internet of 1995. Thanks to crazy fast broadband, sophisticated pages with embedded live content pop up in the blink of an eye, rather than taking interminable minutes for just a simple 640x480 page of static HTML (and 45 embarrassing pop-ups) to load. Young adults now send each other naughty pictures of themselves via Snapchat, rather than misspelling dirty words to each other in AOL chatrooms.

In 1995, you were lucky if a restaurant had a basic web page telling you their location and hours. Now, you can seek out new restaurants, see the menu, make a reservation, and post a snotty review on Yelp all from the convenience of your smartphone. You can also take a picture of every damned morsel you eat and post it to your Facebook Tumblr Twitter Instagram feed while livestreaming it on Periscope.

If there has been a constant amid this rapid and tumultuous change, it has been the steady presence of All About Jazz. Launched by the visionary Michael Ricci back in the days of 14.4K dialup to establish a place for Our Music in this burgeoning wonderland of information sharing techno-wizardry, AAJ has both remained a stalwart and kept up with the latest on the bleeding edge of technology. Did you hear about that new thing on the Internet? We're already on top of that.

Over the past two decades, AAJ has cultivated an environment where Jazz lovers can gather to learn almost everything there is to know about Jazz (and no, despite your repeated queries, we still do not know Buddy Bolden's hat size). They can also share their thoughts and feelings about Our Music; read reviews, analysis and essays from some of the finest writers currently covering the subject; discover new artists; and find live Jazz being played near them.

Our extremely popular Jazz Near You app has made it so that it has never been easier to find live Jazz near you (hence the name). How near remains a bone of contention. Our engineers say that with improvements in global satellite positioning, they can pinpoint Jazz being played near you to as close as 4.2 inches. While that's an impressive achievement, the feeling among most of the AAJ staff is that if you're that damned close, you don't need our app anyway.

Twenty years, in Internet time, is roughly 8,000 years. The days of BBS and newsgroups are equivalent to the ancient Sumerians and their Sanskrit. The first rudimentary HTML web pages are like the Egyptians figuring out how to make a pyramid that doesn't look like a failed birthday cake.

Flash, Shockwave, MPEG-2, et al, brought the Internet to life, much like the Greeks with their literature, drama and mathematics. Microsoft Explorer was the Roman Empire, once ruling almost the entire known world and now relegated to a city where the remnants of their former glory mostly lie in ruins.

Google would be the British Empire, starting out well enough but eventually ending up in a lot of places it didn't belong. And broadband, well, that's America. It made the Internet bigger, faster, louder, and more intrusive into every single facet of your daily life. If you think along these lines (go ahead, give the NSA something to do), then AAJ has been around since human beings figured out that if they stayed put and planted crops, they didn't have to walk all over Hell and half of Georgia looking for food. In Internet terms, this e-epoch is roughly equivalent to the introduction of pr0n.

More to the point.

Being one of the survivors from almost the Big Bang moment of the commercial Internet has its advantages, of course. In the gigantic building that houses the Internet, we have some of the sweetest parking spaces you can have without a doctor's note. Each and every AAJ staffer has their own key to the executive washrooms, even the guy who does those silly status updates on our Facebook page (whom, I believe, is me. It certainly seems like something I'd write). We get to eat at the lavish Las Vegas-like buffet prepared primarily for the 'Adult Entertainment' Dept., instead of having to eat boring turkey wraps and fruit cups in the regular cafeteria. And we get Taco Tuesday every week, instead of once a month. Suck it, Bloggers.

Most importantly, though, we get all the cool toys first. When everyone else had tiny postage stamp sized MPEG-2 videos on their sites, we had saltine-cracker sized MPEG-2 video. We launched Jazz Near You years before Domino's had that Pizza Tracker app. We had MP5s for years before anyone else realized that there was no such thing and we were just messing with them.

This is one of the reasons why AAJ is at the vanguard (not the Village Vanguard, but wouldn't that be cool?) of Our Music on the Internet. Another reason is that we have never been content to rest on our laurels—and we've got some pretty comfy-looking laurels—is that, as the largest, most powerful Jazz website on the planet (any planet, and we'll take any and all challengers), we take seriously our mission to represent all the best that the marriage of Our Music and technology has to offer.

All About Jazz refuses to go the easy route, even if it means saving $17.35 in bridge tolls and avoiding the worst of afternoon drive. We still have to slip by Sonny's and pick up a couple of cheesesteaks on the way home or the woman will never let us hear the end of it. No, we continue to innovate and evolve without losing sight of our mission (which we'll tell you as soon as we find the napkin we wrote it down on while waiting for those cheesesteaks). As the analog world slips slowly away and the future becomes the now, All About Jazz understands that even the bleeding edge of content delivery is still wholly reliant on starting with the best content.

It has never been enough for AAJ to simply be a placeholder for Our Music on the Interwebs. Commodore Ricci never intended for his creation to be a loose confederation of wannabes and rank amateurs who couldn't get published in traditional Jazz media, like a digital version of a Xeroxed early Nineties fanzine. With his able stewardship, the assemblage of second-from-the-top-shelf talent (if it were top shelf, we'd need a step stool to reach it and that's how accidents happen), and the astonishing array of committed volunteers, we've never had to resort to posting clickbait rubbish like "He looked like a normal guy in a suit, till he picked up a trumpet. What he did next ASTONISHED everyone!"

As a result, AAJ has won 13 consecutive Best Website Awards from the Jazz Journalists Association. Around the office, we each take turns wearing the statues on a gold chain around our neck, like Flavor Flav used to do with that big clock. We've also won awards from such prestigious organizations as dbagposer.com (Best Place to Gather Enough Jazz Knowledge to Make Women Think You're An Intellectual. 2003-2014, inclusive), the National Redundancy Foundation (Best Jazz Website for Discovering Jazz on the Web, 5 times in 2014 alone), and the National Endowment for the Arts and Crafts (blue ribbons for both our bust of Louis Armstrong carved from a potato and our diorama of Keith Jarrett in concert made from match sticks).

This is not to say, of course, that we've never had a misstep. AAJ: The Musical probably wasn't the best idea; we could never get the pit orchestra to play the score the same way twice. We were probably a bit ahead of the curve with Sound Bites (a searchable database detailing everything your favorite Jazz musician had eaten); it ended up chewing almost all our available server space back in the late Nineties when storage was still somewhat at a premium. All I remember from that project was that Nina Simone could put away some Funyuns.

The darkest moment in AAJ history came in 2003, when a Brazilian hacker collective (which, surprisingly, is not the name of a Jazz group) took down our servers and laid waste to eight years of our labors. But everything turned out for the best, and AAJ continued on like an unstoppable digital freight train full of Jazz, if there is such a thing. Well, if there wasn't, there is now.

So then, we here at the world's largest (measured by weight, not by volume. Some settling may have occurred) and most comprehensive Jazz website are not only justifiably proud of our past and eager to face the future, we're also pretty damned content with the here and now. Which explains this whole thing, whatever it is.

Till next time, exit to your right and take a moment to enjoy this brief timeline of some of the major events in the existence of your favorite Jazz website:

Timeline

August 1995
All About Jazz launches, upsets Internet's delicate balance of dancing hamsters and pr0n. To put into perspective some other things that were happening around this time in history: Jerry Garcia and Mickey Mantle both passed away, my Atlanta Braves (finally) won the World Series, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opens and immediately begins snubbing Rush, Forest Gump wins the Academy Award for Best Picture (and Tom Hanks wins his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar®), and I started a stew in my slow cooker that should be ready any day now.

October 1996
Monsignor Ricci decides to put all his eggs in one basket with the whole Internet thing, immediately discontinues Etch-A-Sketch and newspaper classified ad platforms.

Notable in 1996
Stalwarts C. Michael Bailey and Chris M. Slawecki join the staff. Bailey is a native Arkansan who continues to anchor AAJ's Southern division because that is, after all, where Jazz was invented. Slawecki is the heir to the throne of Poland (as soon as someone remembers which storage locker it's in), and has been in charge of AAJ's black ops division which you aren't supposed to know about so forget I said anything.

June 1997
Construction begins on AAJ Headquarters. It will take five years and over 30 billion Legos.

Notable in 1997
Jack Bowers (not that one, the other one) joins AAJ. He is also considered among the stalwarts, the only difference being that he must allow '96ers to cut in front of him in the cafeteria line.

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