SPF Factor Zero

I’m enjoying the accumulating comments and blog dialogue at A Blog Supreme, to which I’ve already contributed.  It’s especially interesting to see which records show up on multiple lists, and there are some consistent choices so far; The Bad Plus (a variety of records), Vijay Iyer’s “in what language?” and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.  There’s nothing to dispute, it’s a great sample of records all around.

One thing I do disagree with is Patrick’s contention that jazz, especially modern jazz, just needs more exposure and it will be more popular.  Art Blakey made the case best when he said that jazz is an intelligent person’s music.  You don’t need a music education, but jazz is for people who take pleasure in thinking, as well as grooving, and jazz is for people who listen actively, who reach out to the music in attention and anticipation.  That is not the mass of Americans, and it never will be.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

2 thoughts on “SPF Factor Zero”

  1. gtra1n, I have no illusions that jazz will actually ever become a mass entertainment. (It rarely ever was, really.) The amount of people in America who even follow any form of music with a close eye, really, is probably less than most people think. But within the crowd which does follow music — notably within the indie-rock crowd, but there are plenty of others — there’s a lot of potential for outreach which I think jazz has failed in heretofore. By exposure, I suppose I also mean the right kind of exposure: the sort which says, “look, we’re around, we’re still awesome, and we’re quite relevant.” If jazz is an intelligent person’s music, there’s a lot of intelligent people still not being reached by it. Does that make sense?

    1. Yes, it does, and I don’t really disagree, I think I’m looking at it in a different way. Partly, I am optimistic, I think contemporary jazz is exposing itself pretty well to listeners, at least from what I see going on in NYC, which is the center of the jazz universe. It’s impressive how many spaces there are to play music in, and how jazz is filling up a lot of them. There has been a fairly large shift in essentially rock music towards more instrumental only music making – I think there is a technological basis for this shift – and the existence of bands like Tortoise and even MMW (which I can’t say is actually a jazz outfit) has gotten rock audiences interested in hearing music unconfined by vocals and the ‘front-man’ stage presentation, and that music is leading a lot of them to at least a little jazz. So the more instrumental music being played, the better for jazz I think.

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