JAZZ: LEARNIN' TO LOVE IT.
(We are honored to have Bob Protzman, a nationally recognized jazz journalist who writes for Downmbeat maagazine, among others, rejoin our ranks as a contributor to our webpage. -- Ed.)
When it comes to jazz education, it’s the listener, as well as the player who needs help.
As a nation, America understands the cultural importance of jazz and provides copious opportunities to play the music ,from middle schools through college/university jazz studies programs to a number of noted schools devoted exclusively or nearly so to jazz. So there will be no dearth of musicians to keep jazz alive and thriving
Ah, but who’s to listen and support musicians trying to make a living in the music? Like classical music, jazz is undergoing a listener crisis, the so-called “graying’’ of its audience. There is a need to attract and develop new, younger fans. Jazz will do anything short of paying young (and younger) people to give jazz a chance by listening to it—at live performances preferably, but electronic devices will be fine, too.
Through the half-century-plus that I’ve been a jazz listener, writer, critic and broadcaster, many folks have told me something to this effect: “I like jazz, but I don’t know anything about it,’’ or, “I can’t understand it.’’
I’ve always offered that to become a jazz fan, making it your favorite music and an important part of your life, is relatively simple. Just start listening. You might begin with singers. Everyone likes vocalists, and you probably have a lengthy list of warblers in pop, country, and certainly rock and all its sub-categories I also would try to assure the person that he/she could very well enjoy jazz without being an expert, but that as the music grew on them, they likely would want to learn more about it, realizing that knowledge would deepen their appreciation and pleasure.
The conversion to jazz would be easier and quicker if the prospective fan could do what my wife and I did from time to time last month—take a trip to New York, the unofficial Jazz Capital of the World, and soak up all that jazz the city has to offer.
Even those who already are fans sometimes feel isolated in a country and/or town where rock, country, hip-hop and rap rule, dominating a media that too often seem oblivious to jazz.
You usually can count on a number of talented local players to provide your jazz fix, and it’s important that they receive optimum support. They, as well as their followers, also yearn, however, to hear the more famous players, and in smaller cities, those opportunities are few. A visit to New York (even for the three days and nights we usually had) can go a long way toward curing that ailment, especially if your visit occurs during the city’s annual jazz festival. It’s not only a learning experience, but also a source o pride and even inspiration for those who have made or are considering making jazz their favorite music.
Your blues will be gone in a hurry with a trip to a jam-packed historic Carnegie Hall to honor pianist/composer Herbie Hancock, to an equally full Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center with its breathtaking view overlooking Central Park where dual pianists Eric Reed and Cyrus Chestnut held forth, or a stop in Central Park itself where an overflow crowd cheered such icons as pianist McCoy Tyner (shown at left) and bassist Stanley Clarke.
You can’t get to New York? Well, you know what to do. Listen—everywhere and to everything you can. With inexpensive, even free, internet sites like You Tube, Jazz on the Tube, Pandora, Spotify and Jango right there on your computer, there’s no reason not to listen as often as your lifestyle allows. You even get to choose what you want to hear.
Oh, do some reading (lots if you can), pick musicians brains, and find a jazz pal or two, gender not an issue.,with whom to share your newly favorite music. Next thing you know, you’ll be a full-fledged jazz fan, and if form holds true, immediately start complaining about everything that’s wrong with your new jazz world.