[Dixielandjazz] Death of OKOM?

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 21 17:48:29 PDT 2003

briantowers at msn.com wrote: (I think)

> Our jazz can never appeal to the "head bangers" - just as classical
> can never appeal to the majority of folk.  OKOM has its smallish
niche, as
> Dan says. It will survive as such, in my humble opinion.   10% of each

> succeeding generation will dig it and play it, way into the future.
> I have nothing against beads etc and the primacy of the entertainment
> but let's not prostitute ourselves unduly, to capture the attention of
> masses. Leave the mass markets to the Rolling Stones etc.

Yes true. Naturally, any of us would settle for 10% of each generation.
That would give us an audience of 25 million or so in the USA. Perhaps
more like 1 %?

Virtually all forms of music where the audience is just supposed to sit
and listen to the "artistry" is having trouble sustaining a viable
audience. Jazz, Classical, you name it.

The world of music has changed. Audio & Visual concepts that entertain
people have changed. E.G. Movies now have scant dialog and an abundance
of special effects. Same with popular music concerts. We may yearn for
dialog, like in "Casablanca", but most movie goers want the spectacular
visual effects of "Saving Private Ryan". That's why we get so many
remakes of movies like the new "Peter Pan".  It is a chance to get the
audience with a whole new set of special effects. Very few people in
this day and age of "just do it" are going to be satisfied with
"passive" or, "intellectual" forms of entertainment.

Remember, OKOM, Dixieland, New Orleans Jazz, whatever you wish to call
it, was originally DANCE music. It was a participatory sport for the
audience In the 1940s or so, it all started to  change to a LISTENING
music, a pseudo intellectual experience, for which we first condemned
the beboppers so vehemently, but then adopted as our raison d'etre, as
"artistic" musicians.

So I don't bemoan the loss of audience because so few will listen to the
current manner in which most OKOM bands perform. And I certainly would
not be so quick to cry "prostitution" when a band or bands get back to
presenting the ORIGINAL FORM and purpose of the music. Lest we forget,
that purpose was functional; DANCING, DRINKING, and other forms of
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION. Those bands that follow the original purpose and
form of the music seem to have much more of audience that those who
deviated from it.

I think if the genre were to become totally passe, it would be the
deadhead bands that make it so. Along with the revisionist historians
who would have folks believe that OKOM is something more than it is:

Namely. IMO, the easiest form of music to play (and enjoy as a listener)
except for, perhaps, country and western. ;-)

IMO, the thought that only intelligent, elite music lovers can
appreciate OKOM, or Jazz, or Classical music is one of those starving
artist myths.

I have a saying from Charlie Parker on my home office wall. He was asked
by John Fitch on Boston Radio Station WHDH in 1953 about the future of
the middle of the road genres of jazz, namely whether Swing & Dixieland
would survive. Said Bird:

"There's always room for musicians, you know. There's no such thing as
middle of the road. It'll be one thing or the other, either good music
or otherwise, you know? And it doesn't make any difference which idiom
it might be. Swing, 'Bebop' as you want to call it, or Dixieland. If
it's good, it'll be heard."

He also told Fitch: "Well, I like Dixieland, I, like good Dixieland,
it's all right."


No, it will never be mass market music. Jazz never was mass market
music. But there is more of an audience out there for OKOM then most of
us think. Getting that audience is a challenge and good bands will
always find way to to do rise to the challenge, while playing real jazz
and entertaining the audience.

Steve Barbone

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