One sultry evening this June, Wynonna Judd took the stage at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, clad in DeBeers diamonds and a black evening gown. “I’m not country and western tonight,” she firmly announced, “I am jazz.” Then she flashed a smile at her backing band-one Wynton Marsalis Septet-and ventured a well-intentioned crack at “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”
The occasion was Jazz at Lincoln Center’s spring gala, and Ms. Judd was one of numerous artists graciously lending star power and support. The evening, which raised more than a million dollars for JALC, hinted at the cultural capital that jazz has now amassed. But to take a more cynical view, it also confirmed a lingering impression of the music as status symbol and lifestyle accoutrement; something to slip into, like Wynonna’s gown.