[JPL] Crisis! What Crisis?

OntheBeach at aol.com OntheBeach at aol.com
Fri Aug 11 13:14:15 EDT 2006


 

thanks bobby for posting the roundtable.  
 
these are interesting and challenging times.  today's youth are  completely 
wired, multi-tasking products of the information age.  the old  ways where 
content aggregators and presenters "pushed" content on the audience  are being 
supplanted.  today people want to 
"pull" what they want, when they want it and how they want it.  the  ground 
rules and the landscape are changing rapidly.
 
as for jazz and jazzy? (smooth jazz) radio: 
when is the last time (m)any stations in either format freshened up their  
sound and presentation [we're not talking fresh bumpers and promos here either]  
?  in the information age things move....jazz and smooth jazz radio haven't  
"moved" that much.
 
then there's the great in between: the music that got (largely) left behind  
when the smooth jazz format was formalized.  for many years Contemporary  Jazz 
[not smooth] grew in popularity through increased exposure on  specialty 
shows (including weekends on rock radio: ask russ davis, and urban  radio etc).  
 
the real irony is that it was the rise of Contemporary Jazz that spawned  the 
format but once the format was branded, Contemporary Jazz was tossed out  
with the bathwater.  Suddenly the post fusion music of Metheny, Duke,  Hancock, 
Corea, Crusaders, Yellowjackets, Clarke, Michael Franks, Strunz &  Farah, Bela 
Fleck, Spyro Gyra, etc etc was to a large extent without a  home. you couldn't 
hear a George Benson track with an extended  solo; the biggest, most popular 
and in many instances most talented  musicians were passed over.
 
Jazz radio never made much of an attempt to embrace this new branch of the  
tree.  We're talking about real musicians with real jazz roots.  As  for smooth 
jazz radio, their gold category didn't go back further than the early  90s.
 
and its not like NPR has made it any easier for jazz programmers to  thrive.  
hats off to all who still fight the good fight.
 
suzanne jenkins made a number of good points, including there is "no dearth  
of good music"
and the need to take creative approaches to presenting the music on the  
radio.
 
how many stations explore via specialty shows that are cutting  edge? 
KJAZZ/Long Beach has recently added some contemporary groove  oriented programs.  is 
the remix, jazz meets hip-hop stuff getting any  love?
 
don heckman's perspective was very on point: not only placing jazz's  
popularity in historical context but in particular that jazz radio isnt  playing 
enough of, or creating enough massive jazz hits.  he also  paraphrased george wein 
on the dearth of new stars.
 
its interesting to view jazz radio before and after charts. jazz radio used  
to really sink their teeth into certain great albums, and they would enjoy 
long  rides with repeated focused exposure. that killer track got played on every 
 shift, every day.  this spawned jazz hits and jazz stars.  now we see  
titles run up and down the flag pole, shorter runs, fewer spins--all in the name  
of playing the chart game and appeasing the labels (yes i was a promotion man  
for many years too).  
 
and in today's corporate-heavy environment is there a leadership  vacuum?  on 
the label side, there are capable executives overseeing a lot  of the jazz 
pie--but they are not jazz people for the most part.  its  not like the days 
when all the large companies and many others were run by  people who really cared 
about the music. you have to look at small  independent labels primarily for 
that. how often in the past 10 years has a  label mounted a serious effort to 
break and establish a STAR?  the acts  that became stars were promoted 52 
weeks a year.
 
the imagery of jazz as sexy hip cool has been co-opted beyond our wildest  
imagination:  tv commercials, smooth jazz radio, "Jazz" festivals with  little 
or NO jazz etc etc.  it makes on wonder if the gatekeepers of Jazz  radio 
couldn't co-opt a little too: stretch, freshen, mix.
 
festivals are a thing onto their own,  a collective mass.  but on  the road 
in the clubs, theaters and concert venues where working musicians and  bands 
slug it out, the audiences are voting: with their time and their  pocketbooks.  
 
its curious that so many acts that do well on the road and not so  
coincidentally sell lots of CDs are not the beneficiaries of more radio  support.  still 
we have few or no regional coalitions facilitating jazz  touring.  stations 
dont talk to one another much in their regions and 
cooperate and create smart tours. 
 
as for radio play, do the math: 10 plays a week (or less?) is heavy  
rotation?  what percentage of your audience gets to hear that track with  enough 
repetition to feel your commitment and enthusiasm for it?  how do  you expect them 
to get familiar with it? to embrace it, and want to own it  (literally and 
figuratively)?
 
play a track once or twice per week?  why even bother? perhaps if jazz  radio 
didn't try so hard to spread the love around quite so much, the entire  scene 
would benefit.  your heart is in the right place but no one  benefits from 
truly token airplay.  
 
and a little more of that love could be showered on today's jazz musician:  
they need it and we need them! i love the classics too, but its no surprise  
many people think of jazz as a music of the past--they might have been listening 
 to the radio! 
 
ask yourself twenty five thirty years from now, what tracks from this era  
will stand out
like a "Take Five", "Exodus", "Sidewinder" or gasp! Herbie's "Chameleon",  
Grover's "Mr. Magic" ?
 
and i'll say it again:  how about taking the gloves off at IAJE and  
addressing the real issues...
Crisis! What Crisis?
 
ricky schultz
 



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