[JPL] READERS RALLY BEHIND CALL FOR MORE JAZZ
drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Aug 28 18:52:35 EDT 2006
READERS RALLY BEHIND CALL FOR MORE JAZZ
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/27/06
BY CARLTON WILKINSON
My column two weeks ago provoked a strong response from readers, all of
whom agreed that more needed to be done to promote high-quality jazz
locally. Several pointed to the "green" effect: The best intentions fail
when faced with the twin challenges of small audiences and large overhead.
Jazz is and always will be a small-audience art form. The stadium salad
days of Spyro Gyra and Weather Report are gone, daddy, gone and good
riddance. Who wants to be part of a 20,000-head human herd only to watch
little men play loud solos through a PA? Much better to sit in a space that
holds only a few dozen and hear I mean really hear an upright bass
intertwine with a drummer and low tenor sax, to be where an artist's
nuance, imagination and technique are front and center and loud fashion
gets shown the door.
When the players are good, the little world of the club is a slice of
heaven. That's where jazz lives.
What many readers pointed out is sadly true: The majority of people in our
towns just don't know about jazz. They don't. And what they don't know
about is easy for them to ignore. But if, as producers and leaders of the
cultural community, we fail in our mission to bring them that culture, they
will never know. And the culture will die, choked off by the sturdy weeds
of mass marketable mediocrity. More than one writer has pointed out that
failure to attract audiences to new music is a self-fulfilling prophecy. To
build an audience for good, intimate jazz, you have to offer it.
Smaller settings work
Despite these obstacles, big theaters have the resources to be strong
participants in this genre by making programming flexibility a priority
with their boards and in discussions with local union leaders. McCarter
Theatre addressed head-on by building a smaller theater that seats only a
few hundred people and can book its own season of events completely
separate from the main theater. Access to that smaller space is what gave
the New Jersey Opera Theater an edge, facilitating its rapid rise to become
an emerging powerhouse of regional operatic theater.
Just a few weeks ago, the NJOT announced it has received a Certificate of
Excellence from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, an
acknowledgement of its ability to both showcase high-quality artistry and
serve a vital community need. Without access to a small but highly visible
space, the group would never have gotten off the ground. Would jazz succeed
equally well, given the opportunity? Hard to say, but attempts are being made.
The State Theater in New Brunswick is scheduling outdoor jazz concerts,
allowing low-overhead performances of high-quality small ensembles. Other
theaters choose to opening only part of their facility placing both
audience and ensemble on the stage, for instance, or in a large lobby area,
allowing them to avoid the costs of lighting the entire building.
Still others partner with local businesses and clubs, using the theater's
marketing muscle to cultivate audiences and a community recognition for
this type of music in smaller settings where costs can be more easily
controlled. The possibilities are there to be explored and the need is great.
What's available now
Several readers also wrote to point out places I haven't mentioned where
listeners can hear or find out more about jazz in our area. There's not
much, but in light of the difficulties any group faces mounting jazz
performances in this area, they all do deserve some attention. If you don't
see these in the cultural listings of your favorite magazine or Web site,
please contact them and find out why.
The State Theatre in New Brunswick is offering free outdoor jazz
performances beginning in September. These include the Cindy Blackman
Quartet on Sept. 6 and the Valery Ponomarev Quartet on Sept. 13. For more
information, call (732) 246-7469 or go to www.statetheatrenj.org and choose
"Jazz" from the pulldown menu.
Based in Red Bank, the Jazz Arts Project has just concluded its inaugural
season of events, including a concert series at Two River Theater and
participation in the fundraiser "A Taste of Red Bank, A Taste of Jazz." You
can find out more about this organization and its plans at (732) 939-6507
St. Augustine Episcopal Church, Prospect and Atlantic avenues in Asbury
Park, offers a jazz mass on the fifth Sunday of any month that has five
Sundays. The next one will be Oct. 29. Call (732) 774-3069 or visit
Ocean County College offers a MidWeek Jazz series featuring tributes to
older styles of swing, big band, Dixieland and ragtime. All concerts are 8
p.m. Wednesdays. Tickets are $13 in advance, available at (732) 255-0500,
or $15 at the door. Visit www.njjs.org/ocean.html.
The host of the Web site just cited is the New Jersey Jazz Society,
offering a newsletter, monthly meetings and other services. Go to www.njjs.org.
E-mail Carlton Wilkinson at cjw at slackave.com.
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
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