Friday, August 28, 2009

If Jazz Is Dying, It's Killing Itself

Terry Teachout's article on the decline of jazz generated a lot of buzz. Teachout himself responded to the backlash and appeared on WNYC in New York to discuss.

Robertcostic, who commented on Anne Midgette's blog entry about the hubbub, hits on one of my beefs with jazz as an institution:

"I thought it was easy trying to find famous jazz artists of the past. But then when it came to looking for local jazz performances to actually attend, I was at a loss ... [I had] no way to know whether a performance would be enjoyable or not ..."

Like robertcostic, I've always found the jazz community to be insular. Most jazzers believe the hype about their music being "art" and feel no need to cultivate fans. Sometimes, I feel that they (performers, but also the connoisseurs) don't want listeners. They're happy to while away the time they have left doing things they're way. Because they're artists.

Robertcostic's comment also underscores my point about classical music having at least one advantage over jazz in creating demand. The canonical works of jazz are on record, while classical works are on paper. Beethoven's Fifth only comes alive when an orchestra performs it.