Jazz 2010: What Does the Future Hold?
What is the future of jazz? Better yet, what is the future of humankind? With existence temporal at best, it seems likely that humankind’s long standing fascination with the future is more a longing for survival than the search for a road map to buried treasure.
Late one night, while assembling this missive and pondering the fate of the music that has served as an inspired soundtrack for my own convoluted gambol to the 21st century, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. A quick and easy answer to everything. The first five minutes of this “consultation” would be free with a charge of $3.99 a minute thereafter. Five minutes of “enlightened” prognostication gratis from a professional soothsayer? What did I have to lose?
“Hello and thanks for calling the Psychic Friends Hotline. You must be 18 to receive the guidance of our carefully chosen psychics and after the five minute grace period, you will be billed $3.99 a minute. Your time begins at the tone, so please hang up now if you do not wish to be billed.”
“One moment please, we will soon connect you with a psychic friend personally chosen for your special needs.”
My special needs? What, like they already read my mind through the phone line? Ah, the miracle of fiber optics.
It was during the interminable wait that followed, lulled to ennui by torturous new age muzak, that I smelled scam. My skepticism abated when a sultry voice intoned: “My name is Felicia, what’s yours?”
“Bret, but this isn’t about me. I’m calling to find out what you can tell me about the future of jazz.”
“When were you born?”
“I must know your birthday, time and place.”
“What, this is for some database? I hate that. I don’t want to be on any list.”
“You sound very hostile tonight Bret, if that’s your real name, and I’m getting a reading that it’s not. What is your given name?”
The clock was ticking and it seemed unlikely that my editor would reimburse a $75 psychic consultation expense so I decided to cut to the chase.
“Please, Felicia, just one question, what is the future of jazz?”
“They’re going to make it to the finals again this year.”
“No, not the team. The music.”
“I just love jazz. I listen to Kenny G. all the...”
Click. Perhaps I was feeling hostile. Maybe she meant Kenny Garrett. At least I clocked in at under four minutes.
That word jazz, it’s always bugged me. Nowadays, it seems to encompass a multitude of sins. Back in the brothels of Storyville, they tagged it onto the music of Pops and Jelly Roll. Then up to Chicago and Kansas City and into swing, bebop, cool, free, fusion, it all became jazz. Yet the magic of this music, a home grown art form that rode on the back of the bus for most of the 20th century, quickly found allies worldwide. Everybody wanted, and still wants to play jazz, be they the trad bands of England, Japanese high school big bands playing stock Basie arrangements, Israeli Klezmer groups or strung out street corner saxophonists trying to ape Bird.
When we ponder the future of this thing called jazz, one thing is certain—it will survive. What started as the expression of slaves in New Orleans’ Congo Square has grown to a worldwide medium of creativity that embodies the essence of American democracy—individual expression. As Art Blakey loved to tell his audiences: “No America, No jazz.”
And so, armed with a list of phone and fax numbers, I began to contact an eclectic assortment of jazz professionals certain to have engaging observations. Not surprisingly, the outspoken Keith Jarrett was at the top of the list. A recent profile of Mr. Jarrett in The New York Times magazine had seemed to set the stage for a steel cage match between the pianist and another prominent “mouthpiece,” Wynton Marsalis. But only Jarrett was accessible. The Pulitzer Prize winner was, not surprisingly, rather busy these days. Mr. Jarrett, however, was resting comfortably on his farm, somewhere near the foothills of the Poconos.
“I have no opinions about the future of anything,” he told me.
Had I contacted the wrong prognosticator? A seemingly endless pause led to me to believe I might have to place another call to Felicia.
“I have opinions about the present,” Jarrett finally said, “and in jazz, that’s all there is.”
“OK, what are your thoughts about the present?”
“A long time ago, I heard an interview with Miles and somebody asked him about the future of jazz and he said, ‘Well, there’s Herbie, there’s Tony Williams, there’s Wayne Shorter. Whomever’s playing now is the future. There’s almost nothing else that has less of a future than jazz. Jazz is nothing if nobody is doing it. What it is then? It’s not anything on paper. It’s not anything in college. It’s not anything anybody can talk about...”
In the movie JFK, Joe Pesci plays David Ferry, one of the more bizarre characters in the netherworld of the assassination. When asked to explain the conspiracy, he quips, “It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma.” Maybe that applies to the future of jazz as well.
“But if I had to guess,” Mr. Jarrett continued, “and if it’s true that the present is the future, then I’d see the future as jazz musicians being actors, imitating other styles, playing roles, not looking for their own truths, not even remembering that’s what it’s about.
“If jazz actually was something separate from the players that we’ve created by some magical gestalt, for some reason, I would have very little hope for the future, because I don’t see anything creating it. But I don’t know if any of that matters. Somebody came up with the word, jazz, and now we’re eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if we’re jazz people. It’s just a word. I’m not sure if anyone has ever defined it and that’s because it doesn’t exist unless it’s happening.
“There could be a billion players,” Jarrett continued, “who everyone thinks are jazz players and there still could be no jazz. There’s something about consciousness in the music, about struggle. Not the struggle of becoming famous, or more famous than you were last week, it’s an interior thing...from just the photos it seems as if young musicians are more wrapped up in the image now...when you become more of an image instead of focusing on the creativity, you see yourself as an image. You like the photo that was taken, you’re willing to shave your head to have a photograph taken and pretend you’re making love to your saxophone. When I see that, I wouldn’t necessarily be interested in listening to that music.”
We caught up to another Davis alumni, Herbie Hancock, in between non-stop touring. As usual, he was rather upbeat. “I continue to be optimistic about the future of jazz, meaning I don’t always expect times to be wonderful for the economic life of jazz, but when times are not that good, jazz goes underground and still functions and we weather those storms.”
Tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer, well known for his big band, as a member of the Yellowjackets, and for his arrangements which are played by groups worldwide, would like to see the jazz of the future “include all the various music and cultures of the world because I’ve always felt that the term jazz can apply to an approach to music as well as a style of music. For me, my dealings in jazz have incorporated music of various countries around the world so I’d like see more of that happening.”
As for now, Mintzer feels “we’ve seen a kind of reverting back to a style prominent in the fifties and sixties.” But he’s not worried, “This may just be a kind of platform for future advancement in the music. It doesn’t particularly bother me.”
Our favorite jazz spokesman and an erudite man who seems to have discovered the fountain of youth, Billy Taylor, is another optimist. “I’m very optimistic about the future of jazz for the first time in a very long time...jazz has already found its place as the music of the 20th century. In fact, historically, it’s the most important music of the twentieth century so everybody in the 21st century is going to be using it as a basis for whatever is coming in that century.”
Pondering how the current state of jazz will affect future developments, Taylor believes that “I feel the kind of jazz we’re experiencing at this point will do something similar to what ragtime did at the turn of the last century. The difference being, instead of having piano rolls and a new type of recording to kind of spread it among the people who were not familiar with it, you’ve got computers, the Internet, and all of that kind of technology which is going to change the way people listen to records, listen to music and it’s going to change the manner in which the music develops as well.”
Yugoslavian emigre Milan Simich, a record producer who’s also worked as a booking and tour agent as well as a collaborator with Lenny White on some adventurous sessions for Hip Bop Records, believes that the jazz of 2010 will be in “the same place it’s been since ’65, when basically it ended. The problem is, when people talk about jazz, they don’t actually talk about jazz. They talk about acoustic jazz, which has a certain tradition. Where is acoustic jazz going to be in 2010? I think it will be fine.”
Simich also feels strongly about acceptance of jazz as America’s classical music by institutions in the future: “It’s going to go into the schools, into the halls like Lincoln Center, it’s going to go all over America like that and that’s what it’s going to be, a classical music. You’ll go there, you’ll get a mug when they do the Albert Ayler tribute, autographed by Wynton. Now whether it’s creative or not is something else, you can’t predict that.”
As for the effect of jazz hip hop/acid jazz/trip hop and how it might augment the existing audience, Simich remains skeptical. He cites the downtown New York audience that congregates around the very busy Knitting Factory, referring to the audience as those “cats with the shaved heads and earrings. They go to N.Y.U. and study law and they have this little window of five or six years before the parents put the brakes on them. They can indulge in something and this is what they indulge in, going to the Knitting Factory to see Medeski, Martin & Wood, or they might go to a Tribe Called Quest concert, or hear Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell at the Vanguard, and that’s what it is. But in terms of this audience showing up to hear the Tommy Flanagan Trio, that’s not going to happen.”
Saxophone Colossus Sonny Rollins finds the future of the music intertwined with its economic reality. “The aesthetic future of jazz,” he feels, “is tied to the economic future of jazz because unless there are opportunities for economic advancement in jazz, a lot of people who would go into jazz are not going to go in there. A lot of young talent, if they see there’s not much of a future in jazz, if jazz is sort of regulated to the back pages, nobody’s going to go into jazz. If jazz is encouraged by society, it will be fine in 2010, because it’s a great music.”
What kind of endorsement from society does he seek. “Well,” he paused to collect his thoughts, “I’d like to see our society at large be less divided on racial lines. That way, people who might be interested in jazz would be less likely to dismiss it because they think it’s a black underclass music.”
Booking agent Joel Chriss also looks forward to a new acceptance. “By 2010,” he ponders, “I’d like to see some of the musicians who’ve been pushing the art form further get some degree of recognition for what it is they’re playing. Even today, there are some really innovative artists out there, but they’re just not getting any recognition.”
Asked to name names, Chriss, was quick to respond. “How about Geri Allen, Marty Ehrlich, Tim Berne, Myra Melford, Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkle and Don Byron.”
Chuck Mitchell of Verve Records believes that by 2010, “I sincerely hope that women will have achieved full parity as creators and creative forces behind the music. There are women out there now like Geri Allen, and other younger women who are very fearless about the way they’ve attacked the music. They have a steep hill but in another ten years, they’ll be there. People like Jane Ira Bloom come to mind.”
New York Times critic Peter Watrous, who can be found hearing live jazz five nights out of seven, observes that even today, “there are definitely more women on the scene. And based on my own anecdotal experience, I’d also have to say that racial mixture is absolutely the norm, as opposed to racial separation we witnessed previously. I would say that nine tenths of the groups that I see are intermixed racially, which I think is different than it was even ten years ago, in my experience in New York. I see that particular barrier really breaking down. In 2010, this phenomenon will only increase.”
Blue Note Records President and former saxophonist Bruce Lundvall has his own list of tomorrow’s heavyweights: “I hate to make lists like this, because you always leave some out, but I’d say in 2010, the leaders of jazz will be people like Joshua Redman, Greg Osby, Benny Green, Mulgrew Miller, Lewis Nash, Kenny Garrett, Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen, Christian McBride, Jacky Terrasson and probably James Carter, when he has one style instead of 25. Carter is amazing once he settles down. But there are so many young people still finding the footing, people like Graham Haynes, these people are coming up all the time.
“I believe,” Lundvall continued, “that there are many young musicians emerging who are developing their own voices, and like in the past, they come out of someone else’s voices and add their own dimension to it.”
Yet the emphasis on tradition can be a double-edged sword, as Lundvall points out: “A lot of today’s young people are going back and trying to add their voice to what’s preceded them but that gets harder and harder as the history gets longer. This music has been around for one hundred years now. There’s so much to listen to, to absorb, I don’t thing anybody’s going to come along and make a totally original statement. That hasn’t happened since the very early days of this music.”
Marsalis family spokesperson, Delfeayo, finds that “the trend is to imitate bebop and like forms, which I despise. On the one hand, you can do that and keep an audience, but we’ve got to get away from cliches and move into new directions. If you say jazz, people want to hear, It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, they want to hear that type of sound. It’s a Catch 22, because if you don’t play that, it’s hard to maintain an audience, if you do play it, it’s what it is.
“In 2010, I don’t think the problem for musicians will be finding their voices, I think it will be a problem for adventurous musicians to maintain an audience. I just heard Branford’s trio in Rome and by the end of the performance, half the audience was gone. People go to his gigs and say, I don’t know what that shit you’re playing now is, but that Buckshot LeFonque, I loved it. They start screaming out tunes from the record they want to hear. When you’re playing truly modern music, people do not want to hear it. It’s the same thing in classical music. If you go to a concert, they’re playing Beethoven and Mozart, Bach and sometimes they’ll do some Stravinsky. The most heard opera is Madame Butterfly and they might play Carmen. But when you get to Wagner, or Shostakovich, people don’t want to hear it. You can be playing the most modern music known to man and people just don’t want to hear it.”
When keyboardist/composer Joe Zawinul looks to the future, he also voices concerns about the present. “I’m happy that some of the great master musicians of today are exploring the classical elements of jazz but for the future, they’ve got to walk on their own. There’s a point, before you walk, you’ve got to crawl. It’s like a baby but very soon, those guys are still going to go in their 40s and still going to copy and they’re going to be dead. There’s going to be nothing happening. Some of these young lions are phenomenal players but in general they’re retelling a story in a much weaker way that it originally was.”
The composer of “Birdland” and co-founder of Weather Report believes that today’s jazz is “not nearly as strong as it was 30 or 40 years ago. The difference is that in those days, almost everybody had their own sound. Look at the tenor players. Today, so many young players come out of the Coltrane thing. I don’t hear any Ben Websters out there. They’re all busy playing a thousand notes…When a field opens up so that more people can participate, like in jazz today, that sometimes leads to mediocrity. Maybe this is just an era we’re going through, a little nothing happening.
“My hope for 2010 is our teenagers. They’re coming not only from bebop, but the other music in their air. I’m not blaming today’s players, it’s pretty much been like that since bebop. Everybody copied bebop, every piano player sounded like Bud Powell, but there comes a point in life when you have to be yourself.”
Zawinul remembers his own moment of truth: “Well, what happened to me was one day, I came to Birdland on 52nd Street and I saw Barry Harris. Barry used to play with Cannonball and made a record with him. We used to practice a lot together and that night he told me, ‘Joe Man, I just heard a Cannonball record on the radio and I thought it was me, but then they said it was you,’ and he really tried to give me a compliment. I took it as a compliment but as I walked out of Birdland, by the time I got to the top of the stairs, I realized I would never listen to another record again. And that’s what I did, I took my records away and I haven’t listened to anyone else since. Barry was heavily influenced by Bud Powell and I said to myself, if I can’t do any better than to imitate an imitator, then there really is no reason for me to be here. So I really concentrated on putting what I come from, that spirit, into the music.”
In terms of creating something new in the year 2010, saxophonist Ralph Simon, whose label, Postcards Records, has quickly built a reputation for releasing adventurous music, feels that jazz, the art form, is “like a canvas for musical painting. It seems to be that by 2010, an awful lot of the canvas will have already been filled. Think of the elements that go into the music, melody, harmony, rhythm and the fourth dimension of timbre. Is there going to be anybody who’s going to be more melodic over a set of chord changes than Pres or Bird or Coltrane? That’s kind of hard to imagine. And in terms of harmony, didn’t Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler push the music into the microtonal area in such a way that it’s difficult to foresee anybody taking microtonality in acoustic music much further than that? If we think of rhythm, polyrhythms and things like that, is there anybody who’s going to be freer with it than Tony Williams or Sunny Murray or an Ed Blackwell. So what’s really left to be innovative in?
“I think what’s really going to happen is that the area of the canvas that’s still going to be open is timbre,” Simon believes, “which has a lot to do with orchestration, how can we combine instruments.
“I was listening to some tapes,” Simon continues, “that artists had sent me in my capacity at Postcards and what I found was, as soon as somebody came on with a quintet, two horns and a rhythm section, I immediately had a resistance to it. But when someone came up with a harp and a synthesizer and a trombone, a very unusual combination, I wanted to listen more.”
“It seems to me that the informed jazz listener has really heard an awful lot of two horns and rhythm section—quintets, that’s not the future. That’s now and the past. A lot of these forms that we’ve used, harmonically, the ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ thing, the blues, the sonata form, a lot of those things have been really done. I have a resistance. If I’m a producer, and you’re going to give me a two horn and rhythm section tape, it’s gotta be really happening. There really has to be something distinctive...The future belongs to musicians willing to explore timbre in terms of new combinations of instruments that are not standard. Orchestration is another new frontier. If we get away from standard combos, then we have to have new conventions in terms of the orchestrations, melodic and especially harmonic.”
Joshua Redman believes that jazz today “is as strong and creative and vital as it’s ever been, but it’s in a different state of evolution than it was in its first 50 or 60 years of the music.” As for jazz in 2010, Redman doubts that “we’re ever going to see the kind of groundbreaking, obvious and almost singular revolution that we saw in the transition from swing to bebop or from hard bop to the avant garde. I don’t think we’re going to see that sort of linear development of the music again.”
In 2010, Redman speculates, “the creativity and the evolution is going to come from the way jazz can recombine with itself and with other influences, new ways we can explore the territory which is already, in a sense, being charted out, but in a very, very vague way, in a very general way. With jazz, different artists have left little points on every corner of the map but there’s still so much territory in there, so much room for innovation between and around those points and as we bring in other influences, it’s going to change the way the map looks entirely.”
George Wein, Festival Productions:
Festivals are thriving today and in 2010, they will continue to thrive. Even with the absence of legendary names in jazz, which except for someone like Sonny Rollins, really don’t exist anymore. There’s a second list of legends with the Herbie Hancocks and the Chick Coreas, people of that era, but they’re not the original legends.
And with this growing movement of festivals worldwide, I think the music is going to flourish. The new things, who knows what they’ll be? What kind of magic is going to be developed by technology, nobody can predict that, but I think here will always be need for somebody to pick up a horn and play. And play with feeling, play a melody.
Jazz will be around in 2010 and it may be very much similar to what’s happening now but there will be growth, nothing can stop the human mind from creating new things. You can never tell where the next great innovator might be hiding. Bird started in the sax section of Jay McShann’s big band.
Andre Menard, Montreal Jazz Festival:
Yes, we are getting short on mythical artists like Miles Davis, that’s true, but as far as I’m concerned, the festival scene is pretty healthy and it will continue to be so in 2010, as long as we continually redefine our content.
The persona of jazz in 2010 won’t be the geniuses who invented the genre, but it will take a page from classical music. The founding fathers died hundreds of years ago but are still interesting creative personalities in the classical world. In jazz, I see interesting new personalities. They don’t have the same aura, it is a different time and world but when I see people like Joshua Redman...we cannot say there are no more stars, they are being created all the time, they are just different. Strong image personalities like Miles and Monk, no, but healthy talented people like Josh and Diana Krall show that there can be some interesting music. I’m certain there is a very healthy future for jazz and for jazz festivals as well.
John Schreiber, Festival Producer:
The Festival scene reminds me of the comedy club explosion of the 1980s. It seems as if every city has a festival, one way or the other. That can be good and that can be bad because sometimes you can’t quite compare; it isn’t apples to apples with festivals. Sometimes they’re terrific and create new fans for the music, sometimes they’re less of a positive advertisement for the music in the manner they’re produced. I’m not sure whether there will be as many festivals in 2010 as there are today, but the ones that are there will probably that much better as events because they’ll have withstood the test of time and rooted into their communities.”
Scott Southard, International Music Network:
The future of the entertainment industry is in for a huge shakeup. Internet technology and the distribution of different kinds of entertainment programs is going to change the scene dramatically. Record companies are on the front line and they’re going to be impacted most significantly. The retail business is already extremely challenged. Distribution channels are the next in line for change. But the thing that leaves me most encouraged about live performance is that no matter how good technology is going to get in delivering musical performances, there’s something in the essence of the jazz performance that is essential for audience participation; and that can’t be done on the Internet, that can’t be done on a hologram on your coffee table in stereo surround sound.
For me, that means that the future of the festival marketplace in 2010 is very encouraging. With festivals, there’s the whole social interaction, taking your picnic basket to the Hollywood Bowl, that’s part of the attraction.
The other reason I’m bullish about the future is because of the proliferation of festivals, cultural art centers and clubs. Clubs will come and go as they have since the vaudeville era.
As far as corporate sponsored, multi-act festivals, if you agree that people are going to have more delivered entertainment experiences at home, sponsors are going to be more and more challenged to reach a target audience. Therefore, I believe that the sponsorship dollars will increase in the future. I believe that means by 2010, there will be more and more regional festivals developing. This will add to the work opportunities for musicians who employ sidemen, who themselves will develop into future leaders.
The other encouraging thing about live appearances is the cultural arts marketplace; the audiences and underwriting for organizations like Lincoln Center will only continue to grow. While the audiences for the standard ballet, avant garde, classical and experimental have diminished, jazz audiences are growing in those venues are growing. There will continue to be a significant growth in jazz performances in colleges and cultural arts centers.
Marketing and Distribution
Jay Baney, independent distributor, Twinbrook:
In terms of distribution, I think you’re going to see a lot of acquisitions, in fact, a shake-out of Darwinian proportions has already begun. The big guys are getting bigger and will continue to do so, but we’ll also see a new crop of niche players, guys specializing in serving a specific type of retailer. There will be few big retailers like Tower, or HMV.
“But the great thing is that like today, people will be making music and regardless of what it is, there will be people starting jazz labels. Right now there are guys starting jazz labels with absolutely no knowledge of the industry. These people have no idea of the current economic realities of our industry.
Bob Rusch, North Country Distribution:
In the future, I see independent distributors being even stronger because they’re not motivated only by big business like the major distributors. For an independent, it’s a labor of love. They’re entrepreneurs, patrons of the arts. The same with the smaller labels.
I think the larger labels are going to have more and more of a problem because music is getting much more fragmented. There are people who are interested in Scandinavian folk music, who are also interested in Evan Parker. But these aren’t huge segments, it’s defused all over the place. Look at jazz over the last 40 years. There are many more branches, many more schools of jazz that can stand totally on their own. Genres will keep piling up on each other, bebop to free to fusion, all these genres multiply. All these branches stand on their own and you keep fragmenting the previously centralized audiences.
In the past, jazz was swing and bop and there were large spheres of people listening to those categories. Now, there are people who will specialize in someone like Evan Parker or minimalist British music, but there are also people who like Sun Ra or Stan Kenton. So I believe that large companies are going to have difficulty if music is continued to be sold the way it is today. For a major label like Columbia, if they don’t sell 10,000 copies, they’re very unhappy. A smaller label would be very very happy to sell 5,000.”
Jeff Levenson, Columbia Jazz
The one’s thing that’s very obvious to me is that the jazz industry is going to become more marketing savvy. Jazz, like other cultural forms, will start picking up on the basic marketing tenets of Madison Avenue. By 2010, you’ll see even more corporate involvement in underwriting the arts, more sponsorships, more of a kind of middle of the road sanctioning of the music. That has already begun to happen and we’re likely to see more of that.
I think new formats are inevitable. The technological explosion will either engender viable forms that make total sense to us or other forms that don’t make sense at all but have some kind of marketing place for themselves. I think there’s going to be a handful of companies that just continue to create forms for consumption. Their mission is to provide product and it’s essentially driven by consumers and the application of technology will be such that they’ll create forms and the need for those forms and people will have to buy them in order to get the music. I think CDs will probably give way to some enhanced form, some mega-version of the CD which will become the standard for a period of time until the next one replaces it.
As far as record stores, I believe that the gathering spot where people will go and browse and hold and finger and manually deal with product, I think those sites are becoming less viable and important. I think there’ll be electronic means of providing product, advertising product, fulfilling the purchase of product, actually stores will become less important. If they do exist, I think they’ll exist in some altered version as some kind of entertainment theme park concept mentality.”
Chuck Mitchell, Verve Records:
I think the advent of electronic marketing is going to have tremendous impact on the way we sell records, particularly deep catalogue. But in 2010, I think you’re still going to have the big megastores and you’re still going to have the specialists and then you’re going to have this whole other world of electronic marketing that we’re getting into...There are a tremendous amount of legal and business issues that need to be resolved...but before we start projecting a brave new world in which there will be a place for everything no matter how obscure in some consumers ears, you’ve got to ask the first question, who needs all this stuff...
Mitch Satalof, Hired Gun Marketing:
“In 2010, as part of our lifestyle, we’ll walk into our homes, snap our fingers or say hello, and the lights will go on, and the climate system will have been programmed to the ambiance we set. And that lifestyle system that surrounds us as we walk into our home will go on, we’ll be online, we’ll go up into cyberspace on some incredible 3-D monitor. We’ll say what’s new, the system will ask us, what do you want to hear today, we’ll say, what’s new in jazz? It’ll show us a list, it’ll let us sample, we’ll download. If we say, play the new Joe Zawinul, let me hear it. We’ll get a preview of Joe Zawinul’s latest release, which I’m sure will be incredible, and then, I want it, put it on VISA, bingo, it’s in my collection, which is stored in cyberspace. It won’t be physical. But it’s unlimited. Wherever and whenever I want to hear it, it will be digitally transmitted to my entertainment system from God knows where. I think that’s where a lot of the public will be in 2010.
Leon Parker, percussionist:
I think the information age is bullshit. It’s outside of the realm of our true sensibilities. It’s false, all artificial and I don’t believe it’s created to really bring any awareness to people. It’s simply the newest form of home entertainment and it doesn’t bring us closer to ourselves as human beings. If anything, it can help spread the message of the corporations and the powers of the establishment; it’ll help brainwash people but I don’t believe it can bring people closer to the real art of jazz.
Delfeayo Marsalis, trombonist, producer:
My dad always says, we do not use the technology to advance the cause of the human spirit. The technology is here but we just use it to do the same stuff we’ve always done. The only real benefit to humanity has been in the field of medicine. People will be able to click on the Internet and hear 30 seconds of a concert and preview it and read what others are say and share their thoughts, but the arts have always been about life. It’s about the now, the present. It’s not about analyzing it or discussing it and that’s pretty much all that you can do with a computer or the Internet. But the real vibrancy, the real life of the music won’t be affected by whatever happens with the music.
Greg Osby, saxophonist:
After a period of homage and tributes, now in this age of multimedia and digital access, we’re able to obtain and absorb a lot more information a lot quicker and at larger volumes so that people can get to the point quicker. It’s because of the technology that we have these legions of young guys who sound so good while they’re young, they just don’t have the meat and the foundation because they haven’t played with elders. But in 2010, the jazz scene will flourish again and it will continue. The Internet will continue to make the world a much smaller place, we get to information much faster.
I also think the Internet, and whatever it evolves into, which is impossible to predict, will give record companies a run for their money. People will be offering their own works directly, they’ll be cutting out the middle man, to a large degree. But on the other hand, it will also increase the likelihood of substandard or mediocre product because everyone will think they can sing or play, that they have something to offer. You think there’s too much product in the marketplace today, wait until electronic distribution takes hold. It will make things a lot more confusing.
Larry Rosen, N2K:
As we deal with the Internet right now, it’s primarily providing consumers with information and giving them the ability to purchase products but it’s fulfilled like a mail order operation.
In today’s marketplace, retail stores are tending not to carry a lot of product in their stores because of their concern about turns per title per square foot of the store space, which is fine with pop music. Jazz sales, however, are more conservative so most retailers are reluctant to carry a lot of jazz titles. Ultimately, it’s going to be harder and harder to find those jazz titles.
As for the future, there will be electronic distribution of music so the Internet will become not just a source of information and a way to distribute music by mail order but ultimately becomes the distribution method itself. Music will be distributed to your home electronically to your recordable CD-ROM or DVD disk.
I think the music business will change in even more radical ways. When there were only LPs, you’d go out and record thirty five minutes of music. Then with the CD generation, you recorded an hour’s worth of music. But once we move into electronic distribution, the concept of producing music is going to change from the point of view of how people are going to buy the music. There’s going to be more of a tendency to buy individual tracks instead of an entire album, except if it’s a real concept that holds together, like a Sketches of Spain.
Today, when you buy a CD, it’s a series of ten songs on the record. Sometimes they have nothing to do with each other, sometimes they have different players, they may have even been recorded at different times; it’s just that the business made it more efficient to take those ten tracks and put them on a CD than to do it on an individualized basis. In 2010, an artist might say, ‘I’m going to create a track a month.’ That gives the consumer the ability to say, what’s Pat Metheny’s track this month, I’ll download that. It’s kind of cool to think about it from that perspective. The consumer is going to have is a recordable DVD disk, which stores a lot of information, and he’ll take out his Pat Metheny disk and burn a new track on it. When Pat releases another track he likes, the consumer will put that on the same disk. And if Pat makes a video, that goes on the DVD as well, so it then becomes a multi-media, multi-session product that stores all the music and video a consumer chooses.”
Dr. Willie Hill, President Elect, International Association of Jazz Educators
I think we’re going to have an extended audience for jazz as result of people being exposed to jazz in higher education. In many schools, in addition to the growing number of specific jazz education programs, there are more and more jazz history classes. I have 500 students in my classes each semester at the University of Colorado. That’s 1,000 each year and through that, the level of appreciation is going to grow by leaps and bounds.
All of the students in jazz education programs and the ones in the appreciation programs will have a major impact on this industry. Through the efforts of the IAJE, exposing more people to the music, having better classroom tools, educators have become much more effective. Their students have a better understanding of the music. And that’s just not going to go away. It’s a like a fire that’s been building.
Jazz as an art form is here to stay. Audiences are already increasing. There are clubs in Denver that died away, two to five years ago that are now opening again. And when there are new venues, there are new opportunities for jazz musicians. So I’m very optimistic about the future. By 2010, we should really be burning!
Murray Horwitz, NPR:
In 2010, I think jazz will be in a stronger position than it is today. There may not be as many full-time stations but the music will increasingly be a part of radio broadcasts on both commercial and non-commercial stations. I think they’ll find a way to play it. One of the great frustrations now is that people think of it as a nocturnal music. They’ll play Chopin’s Nocturnal Music at ten in the morning but when it comes to Roy Hargrove, they say, ‘oh jazz, it’s smoky and get’s played at night.’ On many stations, jazz gets played at parts of the day when most radio listening does not occur.
Nevertheless, as the population changes and jazz increases its stature in the culture, there will be more of it on the radio, it will accommodated into broadcast schedules. Like KSAN in San Francisco plays jazz on Sunday nights now. And, we re having a lot of success at NPR with news and information stations broadcasting programs like Jazz From Lincoln Center and Jazz Profiles, especially in major markets. On Saturday night, they ll put on a jazz documentary or an information rich program like Marian McPartland s Piano Jazz, or Billy Taylor From the Kennedy Center. This will only grow so by 2010, I believe you ll hear even more Jazz on the radio.
Thurston Briscoe, III, WBGO
To maintain and grow the jazz radio audience, in the future, we re going to have to do more research and find out what the Jazz listener really wants. We won’t be able to just sit back and say, let’s play great music, we re going to have to pay more attention to the needs of our listeners. Today, when we do fund raisers, we ask them to name their favorite artist, and develop the top 50 but that s not going to Kenny G. Or Najee, this is about straight ahead Jazz. Some public stations are using and probably the future will use even more, what are called modal music studies. This is about testing the audience in different modes, driving improvisation, Latin, vintage, vocal, lyrical and instrumental. To keep jazz formats, we have to spread out the music. In a hour, play a classic, a vocal, a new release, then something current in the last five to ten years, a Latin cut, seven or eight things in an hour. In the future I think you ll see Jazz radio being a lot more consistent, with improved presentations by announcers, and a lot more sophisticated with better promotion and marketing.
Another we need is closer ties to the community. And it won t be about jumping some new trend like Acid jazz. We all remember fusion and how it evolved away from us. Return to Forever isn t being played anymore but Monk, Dizzy and Wynton Kelly still are!
Originally published in December 1997