[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?

Steve barbone

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  
into obscurity.

Ramsey Lewis


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