Saturday, July 10, 2010

Traditional Jazz - A Sobering Thought

When I was 23 and attending traditional jazz concerts I was usually the youngest person in the audience.
Now at the age of 43 and attending traditional jazz concerts I am still the youngest there.

Its a sobering thought, but the audience for traditional jazz is not just ageing, its evaporating. A significant factor in this is the music not being embraced by the MOBO generation. Where they have embraced blues music, the jazz of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong has been considered a white art form. The recent increased interest in jazz personified by Jamie Cullum has really been an increased interest in swing music which is why Robbie Williams and Michael Buble have been able to sell large numbers of albums. Its singers and big bands that are featured on the x-factor, not the songs of Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong.

At the same time the number of venues dedicated to Jazz has dwindled. In Edinburgh alone the Jazz Bar (mainly dedicated to mainstream and modern jazz) has closed and the Fairmile Inn (home to the Edinburgh Jazz Club) closed a few years ago. Even the Edinburgh Jazz Festival features mainly modern, bebop and mainstream jazz.

Where does this leave traditional jazz? It still exists on record, but other than the original revivalists there is not much in the way of modern British recordings of small group New Orleans influenced Jazz. The bands that are managing to survive are ones that can play in a variety of styles or that can move into the Blues arena in order to stay in business, and they are staffed by musicians who are inevitably getting older.

So is the writing on the wall? I sincerely hope not, but its hard to be hopeful under the circumstances.

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