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Jazz As Art

Chuck Anderson By

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The new jazz has nothing to do with the music. It has to do with the attitudes, the perception about jazz. History has created an image about jazz and jazz musicians. It's not a flattering image nor is it a beneficial one. Drugs, heavy drinking, seedy clubs and late hours have all contributed to this unseemly reputation.

Traditionally, the smoke filled jazz club seemed part of the "charm" of a venue. I seriously doubt whether that holds the same allure as it once did. I find the club/restaurant jazz scene to be extremely disruptive to the music. There are usually many patrons who are not there to hear the music. They are there to eat, drink and talk—which is fine for a bar or restaurant but not fine for those who are there to hear the music. Between the talking, the noise from the bar and the general disinterest from too many patrons, the music suffers. And if the music suffers, the musicians suffer as does the art of jazz itself.

I think you have to decide the line to walk between your thinking of your music as a pure entertainment form or as an art form. Not that these two concepts are mutually exclusive—they're not. But the art of jazz deserves a listening environment in which the audience is there to listen. Yes and to enjoy! Using classical music as a model, though I know this may offend the sensibilities of many jazz musicians, it's hard to imagine Yo Yo Ma competing with the talk, the bar and the patrons who don't want to be there.

One suggestion is to turn to the more upscale venues that classical music has always enjoyed. Museums, theaters, arboretums, wineries, homes, parks, etc for performance opportunities. We need to recognize that jazz is spoken in many dialects and therefore has to be marketed to audiences who appreciate a particular dialect or even multiple dialects. It's also important that we expose wider audiences to the diversity that jazz has to offer.

Ultimately, it's important to teach the public that they don't have to understand jazz to appreciate it, They only have to listen and decide what they like and what they dislike. I always get a kick out of someone who says they don't understand jazz and therefore, they don't like it. My retort to them is "you don't understand rock, country, blues or classical music either but that doesn't stop you from liking one or many of these forms of music."

If you consider your music as art like Bill Evans did, then market it, present it and perform it as art.

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