The Current and Sad Reality of Jazz Music

Greetings and Happy New Year. I hope everyone has a safe and prosperous New Year and the good Lord blesses you with the best of health and all that you need.

As I kick off my first column of 2012, I must add, I had a pretty hectic two weeks here in the Big Apple with the 2012 Association of Performing Arts Presenters(APAP) Winter Convention along with this year’s National Endowment For The Arts Jazz Masters Induction Ceremonies held at both the Hilton, Sheraton, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. The weeks were filled with seminars, workshops, showcases, and networking amongst journalist and industry people. Over the last four years that I’ve covered the event, I’ve gained more insight on how and what managers and publicists want more from journalists and the press. Also, how I need to better serve the industry via the power of print and television. It also gives me an opportunity to continue to keep me in tune with what’s going on in the world of jazz, soul, and the performing arts.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference was “JazzConnect: Building Jazz Culture,” presented by Jazz Times magazine. Some of the workshops included: “New Models for Jazz Performance and Touring,” “The Jazz Artist as Small Business Owner,” and “Music for Sale: New Models for selling your music.” Also, the Jazz Journalists Association held some important session as well including: “Revolution In Media Relations,” “Video to Spotlight Local Scenes,” and “Town Hall on Media: What Works/Overcoming Obstacles.”

As I sat in on some of the sessions, most of them became ‘pity parties’ as the panelists and some members of the press began complaining about how the internet and video have taken over as the new medium. While some of the younger and more astute journalists have embraced the social medium of Facebook, Twitter, and other means to effectively communicate the message of music journalism. But really eats me to the core is that some of the elder statesmen of jazz journalism have fallen on hard times due to the new technology. But more importantly, they have held onto the idea that people want the old forms of hard core journalism. I can’t feel sorry for some of my contemporaries when I don’t even see you at some of the events that cover. Also, over the last 20 years, I feel that some of the elder statesman of jazz journalists have done a bad job of covering next generation of jazz artists that have and are still paying dues in keeping the music tradition alive. Artists like Jose’ James, Christian Scott, Nicholas Payton, Kendrick Scott, Jamire Williams, and Robert Glasper just to name few. These names and many more are interpreting the music how THEY want to. Not like the icons of the idiom like Miles, Monk, Hendricks, and Krupa.

I remember reading a review of vocalist Jose James from one of country’s most respected and beloved newspaper’s in the world. Now, this particular evening, both shows were sold-out with lines standing outside to the rafters. Jose performed as a special guest with the legendary McCoy Tyner in commemoration of the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman record released on Impulse Records in 1963. The writer used negative code to describe Jose’s performance, yet the music fans that sat in the Blue Note gave Jose and Mr. Tyner ovations throughout their performance. To add insult to injury, my television segment reflects a totally different view of this writer’s negative opinion of Jose as a vocalist. My point: this writer held Jose on this high horse as a Johnny Hartman and a Joe Williams, yet Jose was only being himself and bringing his OWN voice to the standards he performed. Some of the older and established writers have got to stop comparing apples and oranges and begin to use constructive criticism. I’ve read some harsh and brutal reviews of artists that I’ve covered over the years that I’ve seen differently as a journalist producing The Pace Report. These same journalists always refuse to listen and let the artists be artists. If Miles could do it, then so can Nicholas Payton and Christian Scott!

Another issue I need to address that came out of these sessions was the role of some the record labels representing some of the artists. In fact, many of the publicists, artists, and management have told me in passing during the conference, that some of the labels won’t even acknowledge lots of the jazz press publications that exist. Over the years I’ve established some pretty good relationships with some of the indie jazz labels. But on the other hand I can see where some of these statements are valid. There have been a couple of labels where I’ve requested to arrange interviews for upcoming segments, but their artists and groups only appear in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR for reviews and interviews. I’m not knocking those publications because I read them religiously. But  the main reason jazz music has died a slow and visual death, is because these publications only represent one percent of the jazz fans that exist. I never see some of the major labels(and I won’t mention names) get a cover story or even a story of even our icons of jazz, in magazines like Ebony, Black Enterprise, Vibe, and Time Magazine. Me speaking from an African-American perspective, these same magazines during the 1950’s and 1960’s used to feature Duke Ellington, Harry Belafonte, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and a slew of cutting edge musicians of the day as their cover stories. Need I say more! The blogger up to some of the publications I just mentioned, need to have better communication with the press at a time when the record industry is shrieking and the role of the journalist has changed. When you continue to segregate your music fans, more and more of the readers and fans of music are now looking for new ways to get their daily fix of jazz music. Sites like myself,, The Revivalist, Giant, and All About are on the front-lines getting the music info out as well as continuing the tradition of fresh and innovative ways of connecting readers with their music fans online.

So, in closing, it’s both the responsibility of the next generation of journalists to report the music from a honest and unbiased point of view. Use and utilize the new forms of the media so the medium of journalism can be effective for the artist, publicist, and readers. But more importantly the record labels need to work with more journalists to build and help new and established musician. Also, with these relationships, the journalist can help increase a buzz or generate a interest for artists/groups so fans will buy and support the music.


The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report