[Dixielandjazz] Ramsey Lewis 2009 Wall Street Journal Article
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue May 15 13:21:13 PDT 2012
Prophetic words. After all, isn't music a transaction between artists
and audience, an effort through the working of sound, to share a
vision that creates a pleasurable experience for both parties?
Don't Let Something as Wonderful as Jazz Slip Away
Miles Davis once said that "jazz is folk music"—a music enjoyed by
folks for entertainment, inspiration and even sometimes to provoke
thought. It was Miles's music and overall persona that people found
entertaining. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were once performing
together in a ballroom in Harlem and Diz was overheard telling Bird
that "We better be careful 'cause it seems like less people are
dancing than before."
Even then, some jazz musicians desired to become artists and forsake
entertainment. Some, however, found a way to do both without
sacrificing their integrity, but alas, not enough of us.
The art of talking to and interacting with one's audience does not
cost an artist any loss of respect. On the contrary, it adds to the
audience's overall experience of the music.
Here are some ideas on how jazz can be saved right now: Artists need
to reach out and touch their audiences. Unusual and interesting
pairings of performers would introduce audiences to a more varied
musical palette. Interaction between the musicians, no matter how
subtle, is always appealing. Themed shows would create wider appeal as
I will take some musicians to task respectfully if I might—about
wardrobe. Too many musicians and groups (not only in jazz) dress in
such a way that it seems they don't care about their appearance and
the impression they make on stage. A poor appearance lessens the
audience's enjoyment. But if the musician took pride both in his
appearance and his music, it would add to the overall experience.
Also, audiences want, and should once again be able, to leave a jazz
performance feeling inspired and moved in some emotional way, and not
like they have just witnessed a class in advanced music theory or a
garage jam session.
I would also encourage record companies to donate relevant CDs to
music classes for students to take home in order to enhance their and
their family's learning experience. And why not invite, free of
charge, students and parents to special concerts in venues where, once
again, donated CDs could be passed out to take home?
In my opinion, the job of continuing to educate our youth with
outreach programs, including ones that involve parents, is as
important as any job before us. After all, it is the music we hear at
home that influences us.
In any case, jazz is too important an art form to be allowed to slide
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