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Who Listens To Jazz?

AAJ Staff By

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That jazz has not gone the rock way, nor gone through an agonizing transmogrification into a totally unrecognizable format altogether, is a great credit to the jazz fans.
Again a departure from our usual topics of discussion – exactly who listens to jazz? In other words, what are the jazz ‘fans’, ‘fiends’ and ‘fanatics’ like? You or me, are the common garden variety of jazz fans: may their tribe increase by leaps and bounds. J-fiends are those who have, surreptitiously entered the jazz room from anywhere but the main door –who like only one narrow band from a galaxy of jazz styles and will not lose an opportunity to let fire and vitriol rain down on some of the more intellectual leanings in jazz e.g. free jazz, avant-garde, even some part of the New Age music. You could include ragtime, boogie-woogie and swing into those categories too. J-fanatics will kill for jazz. These last-named two categories crawl back into the woodwork when the sun comes up, but are known to be rampant at social gatherings or at the watering holes for the musically inclined. In their full regalia, and with their hair bristling before the kill... they are best avoided by the rational jazz fan or the more reserved jazz lover. By the way, the jazz lover is more apt to be a loner: that’s the only difference between a jf (jazz fanatic) and a jl (jazz lover).

At the bulk of jazz has survived thanks to the jazz fan. Long after the record labels have sold off their businesses and commercial executives who once ruled the roost and went to the extent of mauling and mutilating the natural playing style of hundreds of jazzmen during the latter part of the heyday, when funk and jazz-rock had opened up two entirely new exits, it was up to the jazz fan to keep the interest alive. That jazz has not gone the rock way, nor gone through an agonizing transmogrification into a totally unrecognizable format altogether, is a great credit to the jazz fans. They attended live concerts, they spent their pocket money on discs, tapes or CD’s and most of all they spread the good word around...

Whether we like it or not, once a highly qualified economist told me, to my utter surprise, there is an enormous power in the faint rumors you see starting from the corner shop where people converge to buy cold drinks or cigarettes. Technically it is called ‘micro-economics’, and it not only exists in reality, it happens to be powerful enough to upset the seats of powers and bring about a seachange in the life around us. Probably the same invisible power rests in the unvoiced, unprinted and unbroadcast opinion of the neutral jazz fan. Awesome power indeed in the hands of those who are not aware of it...

I have frequently been advised by total strangers to put down that CD by Joe Sartriani or Yanni or some such new ‘phenomenon’ hitting the jazz world every few months, saying it is not jazz. Many similar good Samaritans, total strangers at record stores, have pulled Kenny G.’s recordings from my hand saying it is not jazz. The cold and incisive non-interference policy on part of the Europeans may look askance at such freely distributed advice but in the Asian context, this is a fact of life. It is part of your Karma, you gotta save the drownin’ man, duh man! In sharp contrast, many a times, recordings by unknown groups, recommended to me by unknown people have turned out to be worth their weight in gold. One such recording that comes to my mind was by a European jazz-rock band Embryo –which provided undiluted fun to me for years till someone pinched the cassette from my collection. Nucleus was another such band which recorded very original jazz rock and the sole copy from my collection again vanished like Saddam Hussain leaving no trail. Recently I downloaded a webpage with some details and a photo of the aging jazz-rockers, God bless the internet –it seems to be the answer to everything these days. That’s a good jazz-rock band I would put at par with Focus.

Jazz fans, so tell me some of my astute and people-watching type friends tend to subscribe to a particular brand or type of people. The serious jazz fan then (this is what I have culled from many a hot debate on the subject with a variety of persons) appears to be a person with clear cut ideology and rather strong opinions. He/she is not going to listen to or accept demurely some bullshit about any aspect of life in general without piping in with his / her two-penny bit. The SJF (Serious Jazz Fan) is also likely to be rather good at whatever he/she has adopted as a profession be it software engineering or selling records or teaching at the university or running a small business or technical consultancy... it’s more than likely that the SJF who’s stuck to jazz for decades happens to be a specialist in some field.


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