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Jazz moving to mainstream/pop culture exposure?


Mike H.

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As I was watching TV at 7 am this morning with my baby, I saw an advertisement that BET (Black Entertainment Television) is coming out with a new channel called BET Jazz. I may have misunderstood, as I didn't have the volume all the way up. Any others see/hear anything on this? I'm sure that exposing jazz to a younger, more influential, generation couldn't hurt.
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It's been around for a few years. I like it very much. Classic jazz, fusion jazz, contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, latin jazz. You can check the daily programming at www.bet.com and go to the jazz tab. They also run some pretty good blues shows. Herbie Hancock has a show called Future Wave. The Jazz Ed shows are good.

 

One of my faves is the Latin Beat and carribean stuff on Fridays. It gives me a chance to expose my kids to a style of music I love rather that what MTV or VH1 or BET's Hip Hop shows try to force on them. Nice to have alternatives.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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Just in case you didn't know - BET's gonna be showing an hour-long special Feb. 23rd (Sunday) on Stanley Clarke's scholarship concert for the Musician's Institute. Quite a healthy list of guests playing on that one; for a listing of the roster, check out his website. Should be really cool.
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I think the major fear among those of us who have been around for a few years is that the popularization of any genre, is that it will become profaned and ignorant, a mere hollow shell of what we value. Still, it's nice to see there are some young people who are not only NOT taken in by the glitz of the tripe that's out there, but are very serious in their determination and pursuit of an ideal.

 

I've been listening to the Norah Jones CD. Judging by the music she's no fly by night little tramp, only getting by on her looks. She's got good chops and she knows how to use them righteously!

 

A close friend of mine, about 3 years younger than Norah Jones, has a very similar temperament and determination. She has her own musical group, about an hour west of me, called " Ophelia Syndrome ," and aside from her prodigious talents, she's attending university for Jazz and Classical music studies, as well as giving piano lessons. On top of that, she composes, sings Soprano, plays Violin, Classical Guitar and Piano. And she has no interest in pursuing something only to win a popularity contest, which I feel is the biggest misguidance in music today, that only popularity matters.

 

It's a genuine pleasure to meet and work with such people, and personally, I'm very happy that there are still serious minded young people who seek a higher musical standard, who raise the bar for all of us instead of dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator (ie: popular music). I only wish that the people I found myself meeting were of a similar temperament, instead of being useless pop wannabes.

Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; one lick and you suck forever.
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i had the privilege of seeing soulive with the steve kimock band and that renewed my love of jazz. my brother was the one who intro'd me to them, so i went to the show for him (he's in california) but i found that jazz is the perfect counterbalance to my usual punk and ska. i'm trying to improve my bass improvisation so i can play jazz someday

As I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away

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The only way that jazz will ever reach a mainstream audience is when and IF mainstream media pushes it and honors it.

 

The Grammy Awards show usually awards jazz recordings their awards off camera or even the day before. How many jazz or classical performances does one see on the Grammy Awards show?

 

The radio plays only "smooth jazz" and rarely plays "real" jazz unless it's on an NPR or college station.

 

Where do young people get to hear jazz these days? Not much in elementary schools or even junior high. There are almost no jam sessions or live music venues anymore.

 

Unless you major or minor in jazz at a college or music school, how will you even be exposed to it? If you're an instrumentalist in a H.S. band, that's probably your best or only shot.

 

When six corporations own almost all of the record companies and a similar situation exists in radio these days, I doubt Jazz is ever going to get the push it needs in order to become at all mainstream.

 

Did you know that as a result of the above, Jazz record sales are only 2% of record sales? Teaming jazz bands or fusion groups like Miles' later bands with rock acts could help too, but it almost never happens anymore.

 

Most Jazz fans are into the music because a friend or relative turned them on to it. The media and music biz sure as hell doesn't!!!

 

People need enough exposure to styles and tradition in order to hear that there really IS a melody in Jazz.

 

Without any sense of tradition and history, knowledge of almost mythological players, accenting those who WERE NOT junkies, and a little appreciation of the cleverness of arrangements through a little education, people will always think that they "hate" jazz.

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have."

Edgar Watson Howe

"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there" Miles Davis

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A good rant, and I agree with it for the most part; especially the part about it being such a shame that commercial jazz radio is almost strictly smooth jazz (good thing i live next to unt!).

 

I disagree with the statement about there being no venues, though; I've been to quite a few jazz clubs recently in several cities located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and still have quite a long list of ones I have yet to visit. May just be a matter of where you live, I suppose, but live jazz beats the hell out of any recording you could ever listen to (strangely enough, I'm completely opposite with rock - in that case I prefer the doctored-up studio versions to the painful "give me applause for not changing a thing from the version you listened to on the way up here" approach).

 

Wow. Answered a rant with a rant...my turn I guess.

 

Next!

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Originally posted by Jim T.:

The only way that jazz will ever reach a mainstream audience is when and IF mainstream media pushes it and honors it.

Jim, I've read your posts enough to know you're not really naive enough to think that mainstream media is going to promote anything that the public doesn't clamor for; I'm suggesting that your proposition is in reverse---people demonstrate that they want something, then it's promoted...or given a bit of room, anyway.

 

As far as jazz (in the context of creatively free, non-formulaic music), this isn't in the cards because most music is used as a sales tool & because, in modern business, musicians who demonstrate any resistance to being molded into the "proper" state aren't even given access to big-time promotion---we/they must learn to get up & promote what we want rather than wait t be promoted!

 

I also re-iterate my earlier statement that for much of the first half of the 20th century, jazz was the popular music in the US.

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I think it's also important to note the state of music today. You talk about jazz being the dominant form of entertainment in the beginning of the century, but there were considerably fewer alternatives then. Today, music isn't the only entertainment choice (not that it was in the early 20th century, but you get my point) and it's become much more commercialized and much more of a status symbol, especially in some circles *cough*preppies*cough*. Jazz (and i'm generalizing) doesn't really lend itself to lyrics or to easy, catchy hooks that would allow the average person to latch on to. It's music that can be actively enjoyed, or can be backround to other activities, but it's not singable and it's not mass-marketable because it doesn't rely on midriffs and boob jobs to get a following. The following is there, it's people who love the music for what it is, not for who is pushing it.

 

I hate to put it this way, but jazz is too sophisticated for the average listener today, and that's because we, as a culture, have less time to devote to enjoying music as an art rather than as entertainment and a status symbol. Hell, that was true of me, because it's only recently I've started listening to it again and appreciating the subtleties, and that's largely because of picking up the bass. I think that jazz is getting exposed to more people due in no small part to the internet and to things like BET, but it doesn't mean that people are instantaneously going to start enjoying it, because it's still going to be a small demographic that is capable and willing to listen to it and enjoy it. Culture has become much more about image, and jazz doesn't cater to that. Hence, you don't get people who say "I'm into jazz" just to get into social circles because that won't get them into social circles.

 

I think it's a shame that jazz isn't as popular as it deserves to be, and I'm sure there are people out there who would love it if they were exposed to it, but as George was saying, it's not gonna happen unless we clamor for it. And realistically, if all the jazz buffs wrote letters to the music companies asking for more attention to be paid to it, those letters would still be drowned by the fanmail for mass-marketable pop bands. But it's certainly a testament to the devotion of the fans that there are still jazz cafes and that there are people who care about it as much as you all do who keep the scene alive and able to be passed on. Keep fighting the good fight.

As I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away

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George and Squee, This IS one of my rare rants but one I obviously feel extremely strongly about!

You both made excellent points, but, the major reason that jazz WAS the pop music of it's day was because it was DANCE music. (Swing being the acme.) Swing developed as the primary popular culture musically, largely because it coincided with the mass development and purchasing of radio sets in the average american household. Also, due to two major recording bans by the musicians union(s), radio was the principal exposure people had to music in their homes. Much like the "computer revolution" going on now.

 

Be Bop and other listening oriented styles have always been the territory of the developing or developed listener. Free Jazz/Avant Garde I certainly don't expect even the "educated" listeners to flock to. That may be largely "music for musicians".

 

I also believe that in order for jazz to become more popular it needs to get out of, well...BEYOND the clubs. It needs to be much more concert oriented. This would negate any negative feelings people may have about clubs-smoking, alcohol, getting "hit upon", etc.

It also would be a preference for many musicians. People attending FOR the music.

Better pay, etc. I completely agree that musicians need to take a more active role in promoting themselves and their concerts/venues.

 

The number of jazz clubs does vary regionally.

Actually, I live in the Seattle area and there are CURRENTLY 4-5 jazz clubs BUT they come and go regularly. (As a matter of fact, I'm going to hear Pharoah Sanders tonight.) But, as an ex music educator (K-12) I still maintain that jazz's audience numbers would drastically increase merely by exposing kids and adults to what's cool/fun about this music and the fascinating lives its musicans have led.

 

It's possibly naive to think that jazz clubs are plentiful because they exist in Dallas/Fort Worth or Seattle when the average N.Dakotan or Iowan knows who Britteny Spears is but never heard of Miles Davis or Art Tatum and even Bix (an Iowan) etc.

 

Squee's point about all of the entertainment options overloading us these days is right on.

George's point about people clamoring for something they never get a chance to be exposed to is kind of a "which came first-the chicken or the egg" situation. How can people clamor for something they've never heard or understood or appreciated if no one ever exposes them or educates them as to its existence in the first place?

 

In spite of a few true artists: Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, yes even the Dixie Chicks, who will be appearing on the Grammy show tonight, I for one will NOT watch the tits and ass shows that will make of the majority of the presentations. It sickens me that people ARE clamoring for that crap over music of substance. I'll be listening to music tonight on NPR or my CD player! No, I'm not a prude (at all!) and I DO recognize what awesome instrumentalists and vocalists the Dixie Chicks are, but I'm COMPLETELY unwilling to sit through acres of crap in order to hear the few deserving people who put time and practice into their art.

 

I am completely aware of the fact that I, myself would never have been exposed to or learned to appreciate jazz without accidentally running into friends or aquaintances who turned me on to the music and who the people were/are that play(ed) it. I think that it's incredibly sad that that is true for most people.

 

To close out this portion of my rant, I DO think that the return of listening stations in "record" stores and the ability to hear before purchasing music on the web is wonderful and may make a difference over time but will people check out jazz on the net if they aren't exposed to it first? Ah that alusive chicken and the egg thang.

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have."

Edgar Watson Howe

"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there" Miles Davis

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Only Slightly off topic:

 

ON Sunday (and, as cable programming goes...probably many more times) BET did an hour with Stanley Clarke and the Musicians Institute of Technology....taped during a fund raiser for said institute.

 

I could only watch the first half...Stanley blew me away with the opening URB licks he was playing. His piccolo bass soloing during much of the first have was kinda noodlin' and kinda groovin'....he has chops to spare.

 

Anybody else see this?

 

Also, he's on the cover of BP this month...and a real nice interview with him.

 

Stanley has certainly expanded his voice since the great work with Return to Forever (he plays Spain on the URB) and his "School Daze" album.

 

Anybody review his current release?

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I actually taped that special on Sunday. If you missed School Days at the very end, I pity you. A fellow bassist and I watched it three times in a row last night, and intend to use it as an instructional video for URB. What suprised me in particular about it though, were Flea's jazz solos. I read in interviews with him all the time that he's been working on it, but the fruits of his labor have become extremely apparent. Everyone should check out this special by any means necessary. Just be prepared to sit there with your mouth wide open for about an hour.
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It may be up to us to expose our kids to the wonderment of jazz, since mainstream jazz is nowhere in the foreseeable future. That's how I was first turned on to jazz, thru my father who was a former disk-jockey in the '50s who turned to radio news after Elvis hit it big (he couldn't take it!). I spent the early part of my life at NYC's premiere radio station, WNEW-AM, meeting some of the great names in popular music when they came to be interviewed by William B. Williams and the 'Make-Believe Ballroom'. Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Vince Guaraldi, Tony Bennett, etc.

 

Both my daughters have had to put up with my wife and me playing Basie, Coltrane, Ella and Louie, etc., but it hasn't made them grow additional heads or anything (in fact, they're both Sinatra fans now...kind of interesting when my 14 year-old starts trading lines of standards with my parent's friends at parties!).

 

Regional exposure is also spotty. I know that here, a mere 12 miles from Manhattan, we have a number of jazz clubs who have jam sessions on a regular basis. Also, being right next to Newark, there's a lot of jazz history there, and we have http://www.wbgo.org also.

 

Teach your kids...show them that jazz is not unapproachable.

 

It beats the hell out of Britney and Eminem.

 

Peace,

Tim from Jersey :thu:

Play. Just play.
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Flemtone,

I'm an old Jersey Boy. I loved listening to WNEW and WBAI, etc. WBGO is a FANTASTIC public radio jazz oriented station. I'm curious to know if your Dad's name would ring a bell for me. Was he a news anchor on WNEW?

Please privately email me if you don't want to reveal your surname online. Thanks.

 

By the way, would you happen to know if Jean Sheapard's old WOR radio shows are available on tape anywhere?

 

Finally, I AM glad that Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and Michael Brecker won last night.

Some justice anyway!

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have."

Edgar Watson Howe

"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there" Miles Davis

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Jim,

My dad's name was George Engle, he worked for Metromedia (WNEW's parent corporation) thru the '60s, moving to ABC Radio News before semi-retiring to California in the mid 80's. He did news broadcasts during the day, and was a special-assignment reporter quite a lot (most noticeably for the Apollo shots in the '60s).

 

He used to take me into the studio for his shift, and I'd hang around in the studio for Klavan and Finch's morning show, William B. Williams' Make Believe Ballroom, Ted Brown, Jim Lowe, the whole crew. What a bunch of zanies!

 

I know a guy who hosts a number of Jean Shepherd radio show archives on his website-I'll get the URL for you and post it on this thread tomorrow. (I can also supply you with a link for your own Leg Lamp - YOU TOO can own a Major Award!)

 

-------------------------------------------

 

**UPDATE** Jean Shepherd site:

 

http://www.flicklives.com

 

You'll find just about everything in the universe that's Jean Shepherd related on this site. Good luck!

 

-------------------------------------------

 

Peace,

Tim from Jersey :thu:

Play. Just play.
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I think it's true (re:Squeeze & JimT) that part of jazz'z popularity was due to it's early dance band exposure but it never was just dance music---lots of people, even then, liked it for the musical concepts.

It's also true that what we might think of as "real" jazz is a bit more challenging than most pop music (although the mark of a really good writer is to make even challenging material accessible or catchy enough to pull the listener in, not just to appeal esoterically).

 

I think, though that it's too easily forgotten that most people don't really care about music any more---& possibly less---than they care about any other form of entertainment.

For most people music (of any type) is something that happens in the background of their interaction with friends, the noise they put up with while they try to score in a bar, etc.

Even when they have favorite artists, it's usually a peer factor.

 

I think all musicians really need to think about how they can make their product/art more appealing.

Not by changing it's basic nature, necessarily, or by dressing it up superficially but by learning how to present it so that it entices the listener in the same way it excites the performer/composer.

 

Don't appeal to the LCD (lowest common denominator not liquid crystal display :rolleyes: ) but find ways to bring people along on your adventure!

 

This also involves (or should) learning how to see new ways to promote music outside the industry's established parameters.

Self-promotion & new methods of presenting/distributing that are controlled by you not some fat cat in Hollywood Hills.

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Flemtone/Tim,

Hey thanks! I've been telling my west coast wife for years about Shep's radio show. My Dad and I were such huge fans that we'd go out to the car-in the driveway to listen if we couldn't get the station in the house! My dad was a Ham Radio Operator-I'd forgotten that Shep was. In fact, I think I remember my Dad telling me that he'd raised Shepeard once with a CQ.

 

You also brought up a few WNEW names that I'd forgotten about. What a nostalgia rush!

 

Thanks for the site link! I'll be spending tomorrow a.m. there!

 

Jim T.

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have."

Edgar Watson Howe

"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there" Miles Davis

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Haogie - don't feel bad about not knowing about BET. I don't have cable - I don't know about MTV and VH-1 and Sopranos and lots of stuff. My wife and I sometimes watch "Behind The Music" for hours when we're in a hotel...

 

And I can't spell jazz. My kids have to listen to Beatles and Todd Rundgren and Cactus and .....

 

The point about educating the young is valid. My kids HS had a concert band for each grade, but only one jazz band. I could see shifting the balance there a bit....

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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"My kids have to listen to Beatles and Todd Rundgren and Cactus and ....."

 

Beatles, Todd...ahhhhhh!

 

I have to say, one of the first things I learned how to play on the bass was 'Sons of 1984', and you threw me into a time warp. I remember teaching my garage band 'Utopia' in 1976, having to break all the parts down, write 'em out and coach them on how to play the keys parts on guitar.

 

My older brother came to see us gig because, as he put it, "If you're brave enough to try that LIVE, I gotta be there!"

 

We didn't suck, according to him.

 

(Does the term "Damned with faint praise" ring a bell?)

 

Peace,

Tim from Jersey :thu:

Play. Just play.
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My Todd collection goes from "Ballad of.." to "Faithful". One band I was in did Hello It's Me (so what) and Piss Aaron ( !! ). There are parts of the song Utopia that still give me the chills, and I'll never figure out how to play Everybody's Going To Heaven. And I still have a poster that a friend made for me of the lyrics of A Dream Goes On Forever - it was sort of my theme song when I was dating my wife.

 

See, now you've got me in a time warp.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I hope you don't think I'm stuck up for saying so, but I think it's better that jazz stay out of the mainstream for a while. I going to risk talking out of my ass here.

 

I don't think the masses are prepared to appreciate jazz as form of artistic expression. If jazz hits the mainstream it will be perverted and degraded. Record companies will find a way to make marketable and will soon have jazz "Britneys", "Eminiems" and so forth.

 

Pop culture (worldwide) does not value knowledge, art or humanity as independent virtues. It worships possessions. Here's were I might talk out of my ass :( To me jazz is one of the few forms of art uncorrupted by these pseudo-values mainly because of the scarce mainstream attention it gets. IMHO keep jazz out of the mainstream until we are prepared to appreciate art as a product of the human mind and spirit, or risk the chance that it will become a product designed, produced and sold to the masses, with no concern over it's quality.

Does it hurt?

 

Only when I'm awake.

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We already have a jazz Britney:

 

His name is Kenny G. And all the other "smooth jazz" practitioners that he has spawned.

 

If you really want to read something amusing, read what Pat Metheny thinks of Kenny G

 

Pat took a lot of heat for this, but every jazz musician I know (which is a considerable percentage of the jazz musicians in San Francisco) agrees with him.

 

I actually agree with the poster that prefers that jazz NOT be popular....the rise of the jazz band in high school seems to have led to thousands of horn players who all sound the same and who all know the same tunes and practice out of the same books.

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