Like so many hip things, it would have been easy to write off as a product of the ambiance: Everyone at the second of Jazz re:freshed’s two New York shows this August was altogether too cool-looking—they were dancing too freely and Instagramming too often, glowing under Lower East Side venue Nublu’s slick LED lighting. They couldn’t possibly be true students of the music, discerning listeners looking for genuine artistry. Or could they?
Jazz was born as party music, though it’s had a conflicted relationship with that aspect of its identity—try too hard to appeal to those seeking good times and you’re artistically disingenuous, act too precious and you risk sounding clinical. For better or for worse, the jazz that earns the vaunted “crossover” moniker tends to lean towards the former. Audiences unfamiliar with jazz often prefer something to grab onto, whether it’s Robert Glasper’s pop collaborators or Kamasi Washington’s barreling, festival-ready grooves.