Jazz as Nostalgia - running out of Audience?
While reading the 'Real Book' thread it struck me that there are different schools or scenes of Jazz and personally as an audience member I prefer to go and see Jazz where they are doing new material rather than standards.
However, a new Jazz club has opened where I live and the founders/core audience love to hear standards and my view is that they like a familiar tune to hang onto.
But these people are aging and this type of audience will die out (literally) - and younger audiences won't be familiar with standards - they tend to hear anything with swing and a walking bass line as old-time nostalgia.
Will there be a time when nobody in the audience remembers standards?
That time will eventually come no matter what, as all things - including every single person, civilization, and culture - give way to newer things in the greater scheme. But in the meantime, it's an interesting question that I've been thinking about while reading jazz biographies; in the careers of these various jazz greats, many of them either "discovered" some popular tune that was already in the collective ear of the public due to it being from a popular musical, or co-opted tunes that someone else had already discovered/recorded/performed and made it their own with some sort of arrangement that turns out to be a "signature performance" when viewed in 20/20 hindsight.
I know there have been enough "New Standard" discussions around here to last many lifetimes, and they all tend to go down the same path - many are more or less pro, some are more or less anti, and at least one thinks that they will destroy civilization and culture if they are not stopped by immediate and deadly military force. :) And I don't really need to hear all of those arguments again.
In the end, for me, it comes down to this: to the people who are already interested in jazz, the music is about the conversation, and when they go to hear a performance they are basically deciding to eavesdrop on some conversationalists they consider to be interesting and eloquent (or whatever that means to the specific person). For those who find it mildly interesting sometimes but are not really fans, the above paradigm can reel them in a bit when they happen upon the music played at a really high level, but they don't really seek it out. Then there are others who feel they can't relate to it because the music is old/nostalgic and they don't understand enough of the conversational template to truly enjoy it.
I like playing all different kinds of music that can reach all of these groups. For the third group - and to a degree also the second - it seems to me to be in the spirit of jazz to discuss some more current topics in our conversation. All nuclear end-of-culture-as-we-know-it objections aside, and in my opinion only, musicians who refuse to consider or try this are copping out to a degree because in the end our craft is to be interesting musical conversationalists. If we can only have interesting conversations about historical topics, what it says about us is that we are not able to see today's reality as part of tomorrow's history. Not a damning indictment by any means, but I believe it is limiting. At any rate, I've been in the situation many times where conversing on a more modern song that is much more recent in the collective cultural ear has drawn people into the conversation who otherwise wouldn't have noticed it at all, and further, that once they have heard a conversation on a current topic, they are much more likely to pay attention to conversations about more "historical" subjects. That has been my experience, at any rate. As always, YMMV, and YMWCB. :)
I don't think so. If that type of thing were true, classical music would be long gone by now. There are lots of material in the American songbook that are simply timeless. Summertime is a good example. People keep touching on that tune every now and then in other genres. People are still listening to Sublimes rap /reggae version of it. It still gets radio play and the content of the original song is still being acknowledged. And all those sappy love songs, they'll go out of style when getting your heart broken is passe'. But that might not be clear to people if they don't hear the lyric!
Cantaloupe Island also got a refresh because of Us3. Of course when you play it, it's different than the pop cover and so it's a fresh experience for those listeners who only know the cover.
For us, I think it's where musicianship steps in. I play a gig in Berkeley where the people in the neighborhood will drop by to listen without solicitation. Jazz is appreciated but with everything going on these days, it's easy to get ignored.
I like playing these cafe gigs where it's a challenge to get a guy who's been working on his laptop all afternoon have to stop what he's doing to pay attention to my band. Or to get others to be really reluctant to leave. Some have walked in with the expression that they're going to listen for a second and bail. Instead they change their minds and grab a beer and sit down. And grabbing peoples ears like this, they'll ask "what's the name of the last song you played?"
I think it was probably true that when you played XX years ago, people came to listen. These days you have to entertain - which means both hearing and seeing. People dig it if you're enjoying what you're doing, even if you don't do it well at times. But if it sucks, well everybody will start finding a convenient excuse to leave. So long as you can swing, most people can enjoy it. Everybody understands rhythm.
Holding a good musical conversation can also provide a lot to an aspect of entertianment. There are also timeless conversations that you don't tired of: the afterlife, why do people fall in love, etc etc. People are still paying money to see a lecture and the discussion that follows. Why wouldn't they pay to hear a musical discussion - if done well and made interesting?
As far as remembering the standards, many don't remember them now, not in their original musical theatre form, when singers sang without microphones. They only know jazz recordings. Theatre people might know them, but jazz musicians not as much, the general public even less, until a popular period piece movie comes around.
People still listen to Mozart, to Bach, even to Monteverdi. People love it, and it is technically current, performance-wise (our modern society forgets nothing...) but they are not current composition-wise. Mahler, or Stravinsky are not current composition-wise either.
So jazz will always be around as a performing art, but compositionally, sticking to the old standards will date it compositionally to that era and area of 1920s-1960s USA and certain parts of Europe.
Compositionally, jazz-trained musicians are making much new music now, but perhaps the mutations/evolutions are distinct enough that the new music styles are no longer labelled 'jazz'.
YMMV, IMO, etc..
I think we're already pretty close to that point. Most of the folks who recognize a Standard have some jazz education, at least a school band class. Not the general listening public. Of course there are exceptions but does My Way really count? Jazz as swinging triplets, I believe, has a tiny fraction of the general listening public's attention; maybe on par with opera? Jazz as straight-8ths is doing a bit better but would anyone without a jazz education - highschool band - recognize Little Sunflower?
This is starting to morph into "why isn't Jazz popular" thread.
+1 on the modern society forgets nothing. If it didn't, then Amy Winehouse wouldn't have covered Round Midnight.
If you breathe new life into something old, it lives again, otherwise it'll just lay dormant and maybe become forgotten until someone comes around and revives it.
Music tends to be associated with the times that are around it, and in some cases are a vital part of those times. If you go see a WWII movie they will certainly be playing swing standards in the background. Right or wrong, because of movies that's what I (as a non jazz musician) associate with swing. By the same token, movies set in the 50's often include Rock Around the Clock or something similar. The 60s were about love and peace and you get Beatles and lots of psychedelia. Movies help keep music alive.
What does die out is the advertising, because advertisers are targeting a specific demographic. As a baby boomer I've been very lucky that my music has stuck around so long simply because there are more of us so we buy more products. Plus, I think GenX has been very open minded and has embraced our music and extended its life. But soon enough a generation will come along that wants something else and advertising will respond as it's already doing with increasing amounts of rap and hip hop.
I think it's already this way in the UK and Europe - if you look at ECM Jazz then that's quite representative of the scene.
People here look to Jazz for something a bit more sophisticated and atmospheric than mainstream music - but which is not as "rarified" as classical.
I just downloaded the new album from the band Empirical, who are the "new hope of Jazz" over here - it's called :
...and maybe that's what we have now for Jazz?
But you can only have nostalgia for something you heard in the first place.
I grew up in the 1960s and Jazz was no longer the dominant popular music - it was the Beatles, Rolling Stones etc. When I started playing music - it was punk and new wave,
My school friends have nostalgia for 60s pop music, 70s rock or 80s new wave.
Younger generations - our children - never even heard that - they grew up with electronic music, rap, manufactured pop etc.
Jazz is now beyond even their grandparents' music - people who grew up with music in the 40s and 50s have now passed on - there is no audience left who grew up with standards.
There may be a few octogenerians who remember - but they aren't going to gigs or buying music.
I guess that I have a different definition of "standard", what was once a song which was a show stopper on a Broadway play. Now musicians playing to the grand kids of that audience use a version of Under The Bridge as a modern update of a popular music standard as someone just posted a video of Stanley Clarke and Hiromi over on the Electric misc. board
I have had the album with that track for several years now - and of course, Jazz artists can pick popular tunes from more recent times - but there is a big difference!
So there is no general agreement about which tunes and while somebody might think a particular Radiohead track (for example) is great - they can't expect that anybody else they play with, will know it and be able to play it - unless they are given a lead sheet.
Will we come to a situation where there are no standards and every Jazz group has to play from lead sheets, as everybody is playing different repertoire to each other?
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