Lately here in town I've been playing quite a few gigs to younger audiences, which I consider a good thing. For the most part, these folks seem to enjoy listening to what jazz players have to offer in terms of musicality, as I doubt that many of them have had much chance to hear live improvised music - for most of the folks in this age group, their live music experiences have likely been listening to near-exact recreations of what was on their recordings...a situation I have always felt to be something of a let down. But I notice that there is a built in disconnect between many "jazz" groups playing here and the potential younger audiences: the material most of the "jazz" groups play is made up of a canon of songs that the younger audiences have little or no personal experience with. In my own experience, in those situations where I've played with a group that plays a couple of more current numbers played "in a jazz style", the result is that the audience immediately perks up and tunes in because they can relate to both the music and the way it is being treated, which then carries over into the songs/material they might not have experience with. This seems like a good thing to me, and I plan to pursue this a lot more in the future, since to me "jazz" simply means improvising music in the moment rather than a specific repertoire of material played in the stock "jazz" way. When I look at some of the jazz artists who have been somewhat "popular" in recent years, it seems many of them have been trying to incorporate newer material that younger audiences might be able to relate to...Joshua Redman covering Clapton, Mehldau covering Radiohead, The Bad Plus covering Nirvana, Lynne Arriale covering Clapton and even a Guess Who song, etc. In my own experience, I play in an original music group (Java Men - www.javamen.com) which uses a similar approach of writing original material which can sometimes be a little more "pop friendly" and then using the material as a springboard into "jazz" type explorations, and the younger audience seems to really be able to relate to it. I know that there is often resistance from the "Old School" jazzers to this kind of thing, but I think a discussion of this topic would be worthwhile. To that end, let me pose a few questions: * What are your feelings about covering newer popular music as vehicles for improvisation? Why is this or is this not a good idea? * What are your experiences with how newer material either does or does not help make connections to a potential younger jazz audience? * What are some tunes from the last 20-30 years that you think either are or might be fun to cover as springboards? Just to get the ball rolling, there are a couple of Pink Floyd tunes that I plan on charting out and working into the sets in some situations: Us and Them, Time, Comfortably Numb, and even possibly Nobody Home. Clearly, covering tunes such as these isn't any big new original idea, but it is one I'd like to explore more since in my own experience it has proven to help build a sense of context for younger listeners that is hard to get with older material. Thoughts, insights, inspirations, suggestions?