This morning I had a sad email from California following on from my 'Jazz Clubs Worldwide September Newsletter' where I talked about the current health of the jazz scene internationally. I quote:
"Hello Peter: I wanted you to know, in case you haven't heard, that Charlie O's Jazz Club in Southern California closed down for good on August 31, 2011. You can remove our listing from your website. Your message this month strikes close to me. The economy here in California is so bad, the jazz fans are non-existent and add to that all of the expenses to do business in CA and you've got another jazz club gone. All the best to you Peter and thanks for listing our club all these years, Jo-Ann"
"Charlie O's is an intimate jazz club and restaurant originally established in 1987. We have been presenting live jazz performances seven nights a week from 8 PM to Midnight since August 17, 2000". If you check out their website which is still on-line: http://www.charlieos.com/ You will that this venue presented both local heroes and major names.
This is The United States of America. The birthplace of jazz. A music that arguably is one of the twentieth centuries most significant contributions to world culture. So why no audience ?
My own live experience of jazz clubs is limited mainly to the United Kingdom and Western Europe. In the United Kingdom in particular the thing I see almost everywhere is the lack of younger faces. Please correct me if I am wrong but talking to people with some knowledge of the United States jazz scene I do get a distinct impression that a similar situation exists. Surely this is a very unhealthy. Jazz is not some passing fancy.
UNDER 35 LIKES JAZZ - Why such a minority? Firstly there is a lack of exposure to jazz. The people who pull the marketing strings just do not see it as a music that produces significant revenue. "Jazz. Who cares?" You can hear the general tenor of the meeting around the marketing company table.
It seems that gone are the days when money and the making of money was not the only yardstick - one might with a wry smile observe just how the making money mindset has created the financial mess the world is currently suffering - Television, radio, newspapers, magazines featured jazz with attention and respect. Road shows such as 'Jazz at The Philharmonic' could and did fill vast auditoriums. Just check out on YouTube and there you will see countless examples of jazz of all kinds being enjoyed and appreciated by large and mixed age audiences.
Also to the diminution of attention span plays a part. Jazz demands your attention. Nobody goes to listen to Beethoven and expects to be able to discuss at length during the performance the merits of the latest Smart phone. I was once in a bar near to Madison Square Gardens where a very fine group were playing. They might have well been on The Moon for all the attention that was being paid to them. Loud mouthed individuals standing within a yard of the bandstand were screaming words at their neighbours.
There is a younger audience out there who do and would - if they had the opportunity to do so - appreciate jazz. Playing recently at a club in Manchester, England, situated in a student area of The City, it was really wonderful to see just how much the music was being appreciated.
What is the situation internationally ? From my own experience I do see significant number of younger people attending gigs and concerts at venues located in Western Europe. I have been even more impressed by the scene in Eastern Europe. Perhaps within these countries meaningful, unselfconscious, inter-generational communication is a factor. As for the remainder of The Globe? I would be interested to know more.
Here is an email sent to me in the year Two Thousand by one of the true giants of jazz:
Bob Brookmeyer. Just another word of encouragement from someone who has been keeping an open ear and an equally open mouth. Sometimes not too popular, but more good reaction than not -- SOMEBODY HAS TO DISCUSS this merchandising of the music we love and worked so hard to keep alive. We need a "Molly Ivins*" of Jazz -- more, more....Brookmeyer
* Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins (August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007) was an American newspaper columnist, liberal, political commentator, humorist and author.