[Dixielandjazz] Is Jazz Dead?
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 16:35:30 -0500
>>>Louis Armstrong is a jazz star from the 1950s and '60s, but who is his
modern equivalent?: (Photo ran in all editions except Toronto.)<<<
Would an equivalent be someone who plays exactly like or close to
Louis be an equivalent? I don't think so. There are a number of those
To be a true equivalent, he would have to be an innovator, as was
As such, he would not play like anyone else, not even like Louis.
How do you do this and still be "true to the genre"? I don't think you
can. The true equivalent to Louis, an innovator, would be rejected by most
OKOM "aficionados". Louis himself was probably rejected by many for the
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bob Fawcett" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, August 09, 2002 7:28 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Is Jazz Dead?
> Although not just referring to OKOM I found this article in Canada's
> National Post interesting.
> Jazz industry singing the blues
> Even Coltrane's label getting out of the business
> Fred Kaplan
> The Boston Globe
> MILES DAVIS: Kind of Blue still sells a few thousand copies a week.
> Calgray Herald
> DIANA KRALL: Last two albums each sold more than one million copies
> Louis Armstrong is a jazz star from the 1950s and '60s, but who is his
> modern equivalent?: (Photo ran in all editions except Toronto.)
> NEW YORK - Way back in 1968, on an avant-garde album called Congliptious,
> trumpeter Lester Bowie slyly asked, "Is jazz as we know it dead?" Then,
> after taking a blazing solo, he replied, "That all depends on what you
> heh, heh, heh."
> If Bowie were still alive, he might not find the question so funny. Jazz
> not dead, but few would call it healthy.
> North Americans spend US$13-billion a year on compact discs, but jazz CDs
> account for less than 3% of those purchases, according to the Recording
> Industry Association of America -- and this has been the case,
> for the past decade.
> Even this figure probably overstates matters, since it includes sales not
> only of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins but also of Bob James and Kenny G.
> The typical jazz CD, even one by a fairly well-known artist, sells about
> 3,000 copies. A disc that sells 10,000 is considered good business. If it
> sells 20,000, it is, in the scheme of things, a hit.
> In one sense, this is nothing new.
> "Jazz has always been marginal," says Michael Cuscuna, a longtime producer
> for the Blue Note label and co-president of the reissue house, Mosaic
> Records. "You look at albums from the '50s and '60s that are considered
> classics now -- many of them sold 3,000 in their day."
> The difference is, back then, there were also jazz stars -- musicians such
> as Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Cannonball Adderley, who
> hundreds of thousands of albums and so provided their labels with enough
> a profit cushion to support less lucrative artists.
> There are no jazz stars today -- no instrumental musician who can float a
> label. Even Wynton Marsalis, perhaps the most famous living jazz musician,
> doesn't sell many records; he doesn't even have a label. Columbia Records
> recently dropped him from the roster, finding the prestige of his presence
> far outweighed by the hefty fees he has been demanding.
> (Record company insiders say Marsalis shopped himself around to other
> but was turned down because he wanted too much money, in one case asking
> US$1-million an album. Even taking inflation into account, nobody paid
> Coltrane that kind of money, one executive said.
> LOOKING FOR STARS
> Given the economics of recording these days, many labels prefer to put out
> reissues of past hits rather than try to create new ones. They're cheap to
> make, and they sell well.
> Miles Davis's 1959 classic, Kind of Blue, continues to sell a few thousand
> copies a week -- a bestseller by jazz standards. Coltrane's 1964 A Love
> Supreme has sold 500,000 copies since it came out on CD.
> The pianist Andrew Hill says the albums he recorded for Blue Note in the
> mid-'60s sell far more copies now as reissues than they did 35 years ago.
> The abundance of reissues on the market cannot help but hurt the new
> One jazz publicist recalls asking a few years ago why pianist Danilo
> Panamonk, a lively and highly praised Latinized album of Thelonious Monk
> tunes on the Impulse label, was selling so poorly.
> "Look," one distributor told him, "you've got Danilo Perez in one bin
> selling for $16.99. You've got a reissue by Monk himself right next to it
> selling for $10.99. Which one would you buy?"
> Besides reissues, the other kind of jazz that sells well is vocal jazz,
> especially if the singer is pretty and her songs have pop-crossover
> potential. Diana Krall's last two albums, on the Verve label, each sold
> than one million copies. Even the debut album by Norah Jones, a pleasant
> lightweight at best, has sold 500,000 and counting. This is why every jazz
> label is scouting and signing young, attractive singers.
> As one producer puts it, "We're all looking for the next Miles Davis and
> next Diana Krall."
> Another difference about the jazz world, besides the absence of stars, is
> that 30 years ago, even selling 3,000 copies was enough for a label at
> to break even. It's not nearly enough now. It costs $20,000 to $30,000 to
> record a modest album for a major label -- say, a quartet or quintet,
> playing in a studio for two days. Simply to master a CD -- to transfer the
> music from tape to compact disc -- costs about $3,000, which is more than
> entire recording session used to cost. Profits under these circumstances
> almost out of the question.
> And profits are just about the only question. Blue Note is owned by EMI.
> Columbia is owned by Sony. Verve and Impulse have been swallowed by
> Seagrams/Vivendi/Universal. "The problem is not so much that a jazz label
> owned by a liquor company," says one producer. "The problem is the cost of
> pumping an album through a large company, with all the overhead. A small
> independent label can do fine selling a few thousand copies. A bigger
> needs much larger numbers to justify the investment."
> Some of the new owners of these bigger labels have simply decided to call
> quits. In recent weeks, Atlantic Records, now owned by AOL Time Warner,
> dropped its jazz department, scuttling such brilliant and reasonably
> well-selling musicians as saxophonist James Carter, guitarist Marc Ribot,
> and pianist Cyrus Chestnut. "For a label like Atlantic to get out of jazz
> tells you something seriously bad is going on," said an executive at
> label. "I mean, this is the label that recorded Coltrane, Ornette Coleman,
> the Modern Jazz Quartet, Charles Mingus."
> THE SMALL LABEL SQUEEZE
> Small independent labels have generally been the source of the most
> innovative -- and often the most enduring -- jazz. Many of the jazz labels
> now seen as classic -- Blue Note, Impulse, Riverside, Prestige -- were the
> small indies of their day.
> Yet their contemporary counterparts have a new problem: getting their
> records to the marketplace. They're getting hit by both ends. The large
> distribution companies, which used to carry small labels, don't find it
> profitable to do so anymore. The large retailers have a cash flow problem.
> Tower Records, which has been hurt by corporate overexpansion and Internet
> downloading, now waits a year before paying suppliers -- far too long for
> small distributor, forcing many of them simply to stop doing business with
> the superstore.
> Meanwhile, few commercial radio stations play jazz these days, and public
> stations are dropping music altogether in favour of news and talk.
> "Guys who make jazz records are asking themselves, 'Who are we making
> records for?' " says Gary Giddins, long-time jazz critic for The Village
> Voice and author of several award-winning books on music.
> "The people who run the record companies don't care. You don't hear it on
> the radio, you don't see it on TV, you don't see it in the stores."
> With costs so high and the chance of profits so dim, many executives,
> particularly at the large labels, are less willing to take chances.
> "You've got an ultra-conservative industry right now, and that's
> unfortunate," says David Baker, one of the top jazz recording engineers
> the past 30 years.
> "Safe bets have never been the world that jazz has flourished in."
> Executives are so uncertain about the market, they've forgotten what used
> "The jazz labels that thrived in the '50s, '60s, even the '70s -- they had
> sound, an identity," Baker says.
> "You may not have heard of the new guy they were pushing, but you figured
> you'd better check it out, you knew it would be exciting. Now you go and
> a record, you don't know what you're in for."
> Giddins agrees. "The great jazz labels used to have these distinctive
> features that made them look cool," he says. "Impulse covers had those
> orange spines. Riversides had those cool photos of Monk. Little things
> that gave these records cachet. They did this -- just like the cigarette
> companies do this -- to get hold of a young, unformed audience."
> Is this the problem? Have the jazz producers forgotten how to make jazz
> cool? Would today's best young jazz musicians -- Dave Douglas, Don Byron,
> James Carter, Jason Moran, Ben Allison -- sell more records if their
> were more hip and their promotion more expansive?
> "There's this general perception that jazz is dead music -- dead guys, old
> guys, old audiences," says Chuck Iwanusa, president of the Jazz Alliance
> It doesn't have to be that way. Chevrolet commercials show a car zipping
> down the highway with Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island on the
> A lot of people think the music is cool, but they don't even know it's
> Iwanusa says. "Why can't Chevy show a picture of Herbie? Just to show,
> this guy did this music -- he's still alive.' "
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