Nate Chinen writes in the NY Times about the changing system of mentorship and apprenticeship in jazz, which has long been one of that world’s most noble virtues and serious contributions to the culture. It’s become more difficult in a time when young listeners aren’t supporting the music with their dollars and attention.
“…jazz’s apprenticeship system has routinely been described as woefully diminished. That’s surely the case in market terms, given that so few jazz musicians can keep a working band on payroll in today’s climate.”
But he notes that music programs and schools have taken up the work.
“Jazz is better fostered in institutions than it was in the era when (Wynton) Marsalis dropped out of Juilliard. The result is a hybrid reality that has recently produced a wave of sophisticated young improvisers with well-formed ideas about composition, band cohesion and their relationship to an aesthetic continuum.”
Meanwhile, Jazz musician and author Ted Gioia has a new history/appreciation of and rationale for the jazz “standard.” As reported by KERA of Houston, he doesn’t want their wonder to overshadow or crowd out new repertoire.
“I’d like to see jazz musicians draw on more contemporary material. And I see some do take songs by, you know, Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson, and they try to bring it into the jazz repertoire. It’s exciting. But there’s not enough of a critical mass behind these songs to make them into standards.”
Both stories are about the continuity essential in a healthy music ecosystem. Jazz has been abused and neglected by the country that birthed it. But it keeps developing and self-generating awaiting its day of popular renewal.