At night, in the rain…
Every so often the debate about whether jazz is dead/dying flares up, as it did on the web this weekend. The debate seems to always be the same–no young people are playing/listening, it’s becoming too high art, blah blah blah. And it always comes after a study says nobody is going/listening/watching Here’s the thing in my mind–there are so many good players out there in the clubs in big cities and small, known and unknown, that the jazz’s vitality shouldn’t be questioned. Go to Smalls, the legendary club in New York’s Greenwich Village tonight, and it will be full of people old and young swaying, toe-tapping, listening intently to folks playing as if they have something to prove.
What jazz should not do is chase numbers. There was a time, decades ago, when you could see jazz in primetime in the U.S. Hell, I remember VH1’s Sunday Brunch, three hours of jazz videos. Those days are gone, and Wynton Marsalis won’t be as popular as Lady GaGa. Popularity is the wrong game for jazz to play. Excellence is the right one. Be good, be passionate, be innovative, be vibrant.
That is how jazz will remain alive.