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Can jazz become culturally relevant again? If so, how?

Can jazz become culturally relevant again? If so, how?
Michael Ricci By

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Welcome to the debut of a provocative new column called "The Big Question," a regular feature that is designed to get you engaged and talking about the important issues facing jazz today. And we begin with a topic that has weighed on my mind for as long as this website has been in existence: "Can jazz become culturally relevant again? If so, how?"

Please voice your personal thoughts on the subject by posting your comments below. All opinions and prejudices are welcome. Also, please share the link (http://bit.ly/1q0rQ8C) on your social media pages to help drive traffic back to this page. Thank you, on behalf of jazz aficionados everywhere!

We'll lead with Jeff Winbush's sobering comments from his review of Hiromi's Alive (Telarc Records, 2014).

If jazz has become a niche market in the music industry (and it is), a contributing factor for its slide into cultural irrelevance is a failure to promote and support new artists. No matter what sub-genre of jazz you personally love, across the board there is no sustained effort to develop a roster of first-tier talent in jazz. Every so often along comes a Esperanza Spalding who joins the long list of previous "saviors" of jazz such as Wynton Marsalis or Robert Glasper and is saddled with the unasked-for responsibility of reviving interest in the incredibly shrinking jazz field.

Writing in The Root.com, Frank McCoy painted a gloomy picture for the idiom, "It's even harder in jazz today as CD/album sales have plummeted. In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said that jazz sales were 3 percent of all recording sales. By 2008 they were 1.1 percent. In 2000 Soundscan reported that 18,416 jazz albums were sold; nine years later, fewer than 12,000 jazz-genre albums were purchased."

For jazz not only to thrive, but survive, it must begin to create its own superstars who can deliver a much-needed shot of adrenalin to the flagging art form, but possess skills in social media and marketing, creating a global brand, and finding new forms beyond record sales, radio play and live gigs in fewer clubs and concert halls to reach the new breed of jazz fans.

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