PART IV – Of Venues and Attire
*The following was written while on vacation (when I write most of my blogs!), and is pretty much a stream-of-consciousness thing. Apologies for any inaccuracies.
In Part III, I discussed what I call Academic Jazz, and its influence on the culture. In this part, I’ll look at the club circuit and concert hall jazz. Have they helped jazz or held it back?
While getting to hear live jazz (whether in a club or auditorium) is awesome, there are some characteristics that are ensuring that they’ll stay that way.
There aren’t a lot of jazz artists who can successfully tour concert venues, but there are a few. Of course, how many cities can draw a big enough audience for a show like this? Not many, obviously! Harry Connick, Jr. Isn't cheap (especially if he brings his big band).
No, the club circuit is much more accessible, yet even then, do you live anywhere near a jazz club? Me neither. Most big cities have more than one jazz club, but the ones you hear about tend to be very swanky.
Herein lies what I believe is a big reason why jazz isn’t more popular: it’s earned a reputation as being snooty. Whether it’s haughty musicians who look down their noses at other players (jazz is difficult to play well), or the rich, white listeners sipping their wine while enjoying the sophisticated life, most people consider jazz as something for...snooty, rich, white people.
I have nothing against rich white people (though if they’re snooty, that’s a different story). But this perception has hurt it. And while I like the idea of dressing up out of respect for the music and its legacy, if jazz is ever to be appreciated by the common people (or hoi polloi if you’re snooty), I think some of this needs to change. Dressing up can be fun, but wearing costumes (fedoras and pinstripe suits or tuxes and evening gowns) makes jazz seem irrelevant. Remember, this music came out of Storyville (New Orlean’s red light district).
On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of jazz clubs that are dives. For my money, those are way cooler. Most NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) clubs are dumps (Preservation Hall intentionally so). Jazz reflects all of life, so to keep it relegated to fancy venues just doesn’t work. The Essentially Ellington kids (see Part III) dress to the nines with suits and dresses; the Sant Andreu kids (usually) dress in T-shirts, jeans, and street shoes.
If jazz were played by normal-looking people in normal, laid-back settings, I think that could go a long way toward making it more accessible. And by all means, it’s still fun to go the ritzy route, but ultimately that’s only a roadblock to wider acceptance.
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...