[Dixielandjazz] What the audience hears

Don Mopsick mophandl at landing.com
Sat Feb 3 09:48:35 PST 2007

Steve Barbone wrote:


"Point being I get to go to a lot of faddie clubs and I get to go to a lot
of traddie clubs every year. (Arthurs & Birdland & Cajun before it closed)."


No such distinction exists at the Landing. The majority of the Landing
patrons have no preference for and scant knowledge of any particular flavor
of jazz before entering, and to be truthful these folks often turn out to be
our best fans. One comment I hear year after year is "I didn't know jazz
could be so melodic and fun." Or, "This is the first jazz I've ever heard
and I'll be back for more."


And those that like modern jazz either stay away or are broad-minded enough
to like us and tell us so. 


Charlie Suhor wrote:


"I hope that no one believes that all avant garde players are self-indulgent
frauds and all their audiences are uncomprehending phonies."


I also hope that no one here lumps ALL "avant" music and its fans into this
category. However, like you, Charlie, I have some experience playing this
music and a LOT of experience with how people react to a wide variety of
jazz styles in many different situations-concert dates, nightclubs,
restaurants, parties, dances, festivals, and especially students in school,
clinic/workshop and jazz camp settings. 


Based on my experience, MOST of the advanced forms of jazz fly as far over
MOST peoples' heads as an SR-71 Blackbird flying over the Soviet Union. In
2006 I attended a lecture at IAJE about what people really perceive in
various jazz forms as revealed by survey research by Dr. Mark Gridley, a
noted jazz professor and historian. The survey revealed that MOST people
perceive the most wild, dissonant free jazz, the more highly organized
advanced modal jazz ala Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter, and frantic 40s bebop ala
Parker/Gillespie as EXACTLY THE SAME, that is, as chaotic nonsense. The talk
did not mention hot pre-war jazz, which makes sense at IAJE because it
appears very few of them are hip to it anyway. 


To me this is objective proof that non-musicians hear far less than what
musicians and composers actually put into their music. I have known this for
a long time. About 25 years ago, a jazz saxophonist friend of mine with a
very talented ear came over to my apartment to hear for the first time the
Bartok String Quartets. I had spent a semester discovering the wonderful
many-layered compositional techniques Bartok used in these quartets and I
wanted to share with him. His reaction was, "Is there any structure in this
other than chaos?" This was a guy with a rather advanced musical ear, and he
did not get it on first hearing. Then I realized it had taken me months of
listening, studying scores, reading books about it, and I was just beginning
to hear it. 


So where does this leave the average, casual listener? I would amend
Charlie's characterization thusly: "Although the vast majority of avant
garde players believe in what they are creating with a rabid religious
fervor, there are a few consciously self-indulgent frauds who laugh all the
way to the bank. Further, MOST of their audiences, based on objective
evidence, are not capable of hearing what the creators intended, therefore
one must conclude that quite a few are uncomprehending phonies and poseurs."





Don Mopsick, Riverwalk Webmaster


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