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  1. #1

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    Jumping from the "Joe Pass ain't all that" thread on the Chord Melody section to a question:

    Is jazz an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form that has no respect for listening audiences in general? IOW, do jazz musicians play what they want ("their own thing", if you will) with no expectation of ever having any success at it (and success to me means monetary gains). It seems to me that jazz is a very small genre in the overall scheme of things and is followed, enjoyed, and, yes, purchased, by a relatively small group of followers (as opposed to blues, maybe). The opinion amongst the cognoscenti being that it's just too cerebral for the 'great unwashed' - same thing holds true for classical - the average 'Fred' or 'Betty' on the street is just not 'cultured' enough to understand it. When I started playing back in the early 60's, I started right away learning to play things that would entertain my friends and family (folk, Chet, some standards, etc.) and that would get me into a band where I could make a few $$$ and get girls (BTW, I met my wife of 44 years when she signed up for guitar lessons - she never did learn to play!). Still doing it for the money today which means I have to play what the great unwashed want to hear, and there's never a request I refuse to play if someone wants to hear it and I know it - whether I like it or not is immaterial - those people are paying my salary for the evening. Back in the early days of jazz (Satchmo, Bix, all the great Dixieland players, and up into the big band days) it was 'the peoples' music .... today, it pretty much requires an advanced degree in theory to understand it and most folks don't have that so don't even bother trying to listen to it. I think that's why Wes' pop albums were so popular - he was playing things people knew, but he was a labeled a 'sellout'.

    Not sure where I was going with this - it was just something that crossed my mind.

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  3. #2

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    No, but when it comes to broad appeal jazz certainly hasn't made things easy on itself. I'm not a jazz historian but it seems to me that there have been a variety of reasons:


    1. Bebop pushed aside the swing band and it's dancing
    2. Post-bop and cool became hipper than be-bop, and things got modal.
    3. Rock and folk music inspired the young in the late 50's forward
    4. The avant-garde and free jazz (mostly a distraction, but some of the approaches weaved their way into straight ahead playing)
    5. Jazz rock - late 60s into mid-70s (this added some new fans while diminishing the "importance" of more traditional players/playing)
    6. Pop jazz - late 60s into the 80s (this also added some new fans while diminishing the "importance" of more traditional players/playing)


    From point #2 forward it became "more hip to swing less" (think about that one for a minute). And with modal stuff it became more difficult to "hum along" with tune heads - not to mention improvised solos.

    So where does that leave us? Don't ask me. There is an article that came out yesterday stating that more intelligent people tend to listen to instrumental music (something like that). So perhaps jazz - if not focused on being danceable - was never destined for mass appeal.

    Maybe we jazz lovers simply have to be content with being..... more intelligent.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
    Is jazz an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form that has no respect for listening audiences in general?

    Back in the early days of jazz (Satchmo, Bix, all the great Dixieland players, and up into the big band days) it was 'the peoples' music .... today, it pretty much requires an advanced degree in theory to understand it and most folks don't have that so don't even bother trying to listen to it. I think that's why Wes' pop albums were so popular - he was playing things people knew, but he was a labeled a 'sellout'.

    Not sure where I was going with this - it was just something that crossed my mind.
    I pretty much agree with that. I might soften the 1st sentence to this though:

    Often jazz is an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form that has little concern for the listening audiences in general.

    And, often the listening audience has little concern for jazz in general.

    Would the majority of the listeners in a bar or restaurant type of place be more entertained by 1) an average singer/guitarist playing and singing classic rock and singer-songwriter type music, or 2) world class musicians playing jazz?
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  5. #4

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    "Often jazz is an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form". Most art forms are.

    I worked as a studio assistant to a successful sculptor for several years. He said that by the time you recognize something is popular it's already too late to take advantage of it. He said you have to please yourself and hope for the best. I agree with that, but it didn't work as well for me as it did for him.

    Audiences generally have a very powerful bullshit detector, so you're kinda stuck with being yourself.

  6. #5

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    As I wrote in another thread, "I think one needs to be able to dance to the music, snap their fingers or tap their feet in enjoyment and appreciation. In other words, jazz must swing to be appreciated by more than a hard core."

  7. #6

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    will rogers once said .."..all I know is what I read in the papers.." I have watched many online vids of jazz players touring in different countries and they seem to have a very active audience (rock bands too) the need to hear live music in a "concert" type setting is alive and well..

    there is a group called the "Rippingtons" they have been around over 30 years and have recorded 22 albums some even reached #1 on some charts..they are considered a Jazz band-though many considerit it soft jazz..but they have a large following and get air time on soft jazz stations..few if any would know any of the players names or care..they just like the music..many have never heard of them

    Pop/rock on the other hand is personality driven..people go to see/hear the stars..the music may not be genre specific..or a mix of all styles..(country/hip-hop--?? really)

    I know of several groups that are basically unknown but are working and have been together recording 10+ yrs and touring BuckCherry and Young the Giant come to mind .. and there are many others

    so musicians in general face this question ..are we playing for ourselves or creating music people want to hear ( and I think this holds true for all art forms )

    so someone dosent think joe pass is that good of a player of dosent like his style of playing..joe didnt care one bit..he had nothing to prove..he worked with the best and was recognized as a top player..perhaps joe in his private life took out a strat and did his own Hendrix thing..many players I know will freely admit this..I still play Hey Joe and want to squeeze every ounce of Hendrix out of my rig..its fun..and Im not going to ever make penny one for doing so...
    play well ...
    wolf

  8. #7

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    There was a "Joe Pass ain't all that" thread???

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand, some (maybe contradictory) thoughts that come to mind are:

    • I believe there is a tendency of musical styles to become parodies of themselves. Jazz has had a century to descend into self-parody.
    • From Earl Hynes switching around the beat to try and trip Satchmo, to the latest modal quartal free jazz combo out of Minnesota College of Jazz, there's a long tradition of nerdiness in our favorite musical style.
    • Also: it's 2019. What would a mass-appeal jazz act even look like?
    • Also: it's 2019. What would a mass-appeal musical act even look like? That is, if you are a musician and want to make music that will sell to a wide audience, what on earth do you even begin to do?
    • But then, Michael Buble makes good $$$ singing All Of Me, so maybe not all is lost


    And guys, seriously, "Joe Pass ain't all that?"

  9. #8

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    Lets break it down,

    Things you understand:

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
    jazz musicians play what they want ("their own thing", if you will)
    It seems to me that jazz is a very small genre in the overall scheme of things and is followed, enjoyed, and, yes, purchased, by a relatively small group of followers.
    Still doing it for the money today which means I have to play what the great unwashed want to hear,those people are paying my salary for the evening.
    Back in the early days of jazz (Satchmo, Bix, all the great Dixieland players, and up into the big band days) it was 'the peoples' music ....
    When I started playing back in the early 60's, I started right away learning to play things that would entertain my friends and family (folk, Chet, some standards, etc.) and that would get me into a band where I could make a few $$$ and get girls
    I met my wife of 44 years when she signed up for guitar lessons - she never did learn to play!
    Things you don't understand:

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
    Jazz is an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form that has no respect for listening audiences in general with no expectation of ever having any success at it (and success to me means monetary gains).
    The opinion amongst the cognoscenti being that it's just too cerebral for the 'great unwashed' - same thing holds true for classical - the average 'Fred' or 'Betty' on the street is just not 'cultured' enough to understand it.
    and there's never a request I refuse to play if someone wants to hear it and I know it - whether I like it or not is immaterial
    today, it pretty much requires an advanced degree in theory to understand it and most folks don't have that so don't even bother trying to listen to it.
    I think that's why Wes' pop albums were so popular - he was playing things people knew, but he was a labeled a 'sellout'.
    Not sure where I was going with this - it was just something that crossed my mind.

  10. #9

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    Well, in my mind it's really all about the difference between high art and commercial art. Sometimes the two meet, but that is not the goal of high art. Jazz musicians have to make a choice.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Well, in my mind it's really all about the difference between high art and commercial art. Sometimes the two meet, but that is not the goal of high art. Jazz musicians have to make a choice.

    I think it's more about "this is the kind of music I want to play well (or as well as I can) and that's worth a few hours of my daily life." What other people might make of it is their business, not mine.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Well, in my mind it's really all about the difference between high art and commercial art. Sometimes the two meet, but that is not the goal of high art. Jazz musicians have to make a choice.
    I play more notes and play faster when in high art mode.
    Last edited by Stevebol; 05-26-2019 at 08:20 AM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    I play more notes and play faster when in high art mode.
    That's "look at me" mode

  14. #13

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    I think the only things I enjoy that actually attempt to appeal to a wide audience are Dunkin Donuts coffee and Adidas sneakers.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  15. #14

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    Nothing wrong with a niche market. Jazz is a niche market, by large. It appeals to enough people to have a decent audience though, at least for the stars.

    If wide masses don't get it it's their problem. I don't aim to have a fancy car, big house and a yacht anyway. I'm happy to live in a small NYC appartment and do what I like.

    That's said, snobbery does exist in a jazz community, or rather elitist mentality. Maybe it's just a protective mechanism against the hostile world, but it could be annoying. Still, most are cool, much more intersting than 'regular' people. Here we go, Im talking like an elitist myself haha.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post

    That's said, snobbery does exist in a jazz community, or rather elitist mentality. Maybe it's just a protective mechanism against the hostile world, but it could be annoying. Still, most are cool, much more intersting than 'regular' people. Here we go, Im talking like an elitist myself haha.
    Honestly, I think that's true with any genre: the surf guys look down on anyone who doesn't play a Jazzmaster through a Showman and an original Fender outboard reverb. Jazz guys are hung up on archtops (Teles are gaining, though!), bluegrassers see who can play the oldest D-28 or D-18, blues players look for the Strat with the most 'mojo' (grunge and beat up) - I think a large part of it comes down to the image a player wants to project to his audience - it's like, "hey, I play a (insert guitar brand here) that was made in (insert year here) and since (insert name of musical hero here) plays this, I must be looked upon with the same feeling of awe regardless of how I play".

    I guess that puts me in deep doo doo cause I play a non mainstream amp with a Tele that I built in my garage last August and I don't sound like anyone else (except, sometimes, maybe Dickie Betts and James Burton) but me.

  17. #16

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    Often, when I go to hear the very top players in high end clubs or concerts, they include popular material in their sets.

    Eliane Elias is a great jazz pianist, but, in her show, she played extended 3625 jams, took off her shoes and did the samba and played popular tunes.

    Luciana Souza with Scott Colley (awesome bassist) and Chico Pinheiro (incredible player) at a concert in SF for her Book of Longing album tour, played Girl From Ipanema.

    Chico, btw, for some time closed his shows with Moacir Santos' tune "Nana", soloing on a 12 bar blues.

    The time I heard Miles with Mike Stern, they played, repeatedly, a section that sounded like a children's ditty and made great music out of it. He also had a killer version of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time on record.

    And, then, sometimes, I go to hear local players and I don't recognize anything. It's all in sonic outer space.

  18. #17

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    Is jazz an introspective, selfish, self indulged art form that has no respect for listening audiences in general?

    Of course not; jazz itself can't manifest introspection, selfishness, self indulgence, or disrespect. What can demonstrate these defects are individual performers who mistakenly underestimate or disregard their listening audience.

    The "common advice" passed around these days seems based on an assumption the audience just can't really hear this stuff, so don't sweat it.

    How often have we read suggestions that you just need to hit the chord tones and the other notes will be OK, that as long as you resolve to a target you can play anything, that there are really only two (or three) kinds of chord, that the extensions and alterations are up to your whim (as if calling them "colors" is a justification for randomly choosing among distinct harmonies), that it really doesn't matter as long as the rhythm is good, or that using a book doesn't mean you haven't internalized the song? I do not believe any of these things!

    I have two kinds of listeners in my audience: those that already like jazz, and those for whom their being there is an opportunity for them to discover and be captivated by jazz. Every note and every chord counts to me personally and I play believing that the audience is hearing everything. Both types of listeners are due my best, which means what will be best received by both the fans and the curious. Maybe I'll write more about this later, I have a show to perform tonight.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  19. #18
    I think the opposite is true. Audience is selfish, with a short attention span and don't care to listen very well.