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Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?

 

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For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

Actually Useful Research About Younger Jazz Audiences (John Rogers for NPR)

by PATRICK JARENWATTANANON August 15, 2011

The audience at the latest concert in WBGO's The Checkout: Live From 92Y Tribeca series. There's a new study out on the jazz audience. And for once, it actually contains some pertinent information about younger jazz concertgoers — the demographic much bandied-about the last time there was significant data about live jazz crowds, and the one necessarily responsible for the future proliferation of jazz performances.

In 2009, the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus, Ohio received a $200,000 grant to study the changing jazz audience. It calls its ongoing effort the Jazz Audience Initiative.

The core of the study is a random survey of jazz ticket buyers distributed through six large jazz presenters and 13 university-based jazz presenters, accounting for 19 cities throughout the U.S. This is significant: It means audiences surveyed were largely attending concerts put on by big arts institutions (Jazz at Lincoln Center, SFJazz, Monterey Jazz Festival, etc.) rather than small-to-medium-sized venues, or other relatively off-the-grid jazz shows. That also means there was only data from the most conspicuous of New York venues, and no representation from the large jazz community in Southern California. You can read an executive summary of the survey (opens a PDF).

(So far, the JAI has also produced a music listening study and review of existing literature on the subject. Those are also PDF files.)

While the study admits this survey "do[es] not constitute a representative sample of all jazz audiences nationwide," there is a lot of valuable data here. And as jazz concert presentation continues to move toward a model of large institutions, rather than small clubs, the survey results are all the more prescient going forward.

Let's have a closer look at the findings. Starting with:

Demographically, jazz ticket buyers across the 19 communities are middle-aged, predominantly male, and very well educated. On average, only 17% are under age 45, and 80% are white.

Perhaps that data, gathered in summer and fall 2010, reflects the nature of the audiences at the institutions where it was collected. Perhaps it also reflects the fact that the JAG surveyed only ticket buyers — the people who themselves purchased admission, whether for themselves or another — and not ticketholders at large. In contrast, the 2008 NEA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts indicates that the median age of jazz concertgoers was 46, or in other words, about 50% of jazz audiences were under age 46. And many observers were alarmed about that age too.

Whatever the case, it was enough to make the JAI pay attention to the habits of younger buyers in the survey. Here's another one of the "key observations":

Younger buyers are significantly different than older buyers, suggesting generational shifts in participation patterns and music preferences.

Of course, the survey notes that the most important factor in concertgoing is who is performing. But the survey also notes that younger patrons are more interested in performing music themselves, that younger ticket buyers "exhibit categorically more eclectic musical tastes than their older counterparts," that cost is a significant factor especially among younger ticket buyers, that younger buyers tend to use social networking and Internet music discovery, and that younger jazz buyers "have an especially strong affinity for informal settings." Indeed, "survey results point to dramatic differences in the music consumption patterns of older and younger jazz patrons."

One might extrapolate this information to a typical jazz concert put on by a university arts presenter or major institution. It might be an artist who doesn't market him or herself online. It might be in a large concert hall. It might be more expensive than a set at a club. And you see why, according to the survey, younger audiences are disinclined to attend such shows.

So what is to be done about this? That's the major question. The JAI lists a few recommendations for jazz presenters at the end of its summary. It mentions "both live and digital experiences." It discusses reassessing the "utility" of "defining themselves around a specific form of music." It brings up "creative wa[y]s to address the cost barrier." It recommends finding "small, intimate spaces" where audiences can move around and socialize compared to "formal concert halls," and partnering with new organizations in the community to make this happen. It also mentions the need for new ways to market jazz and other informal ways to educate audiences about the music.

None of this means anything if nobody decides to put these ideas into practice. Some organizations already are doing so — many of which the JAI didn't partner with to gather data. The JAI's next move ought to be to track the venues and presenters which are already experimenting with alternatively-financed low cover charges, with live webcasting, with non-traditional or informal spaces — and the major institutions which adopt some of those practices — and see how they fare.

There was another encouraging finding.

Approximately 70% to 80% of jazz buyers across the sites aspire to attend more jazz shows than they do now.

It seems like the JAI study gives some important clues about how to catalyze that interest.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Comment by Manny Theiner on August 17, 2011 at 6:03pm

Not saying anything I haven't known since the late '80s!! Jazz establishment fat cats don't listen, though. I seemed to get through to people quite a bit when I was presenting avant-garde jazz concerts in the '90s for Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Mellon Jazz.

Three Rivers Arts Festival took the initiative to also bring legendary avant-gardists. But that was in the '90s and has all evaporated.

 

What this study shows is that jazz has literally skipped not one, but TWO, generations

of any kind of popular interest (Generation X, who are now pushing mid-40s, and Generation Y, who are now mid-20s). I am 42 myself and thus in the thick of this demographic.

 

What I can tell about that small group of 'under 17%' under 45 who might care about jazz

in the present is that it falls into three groups:

1) Younger musicians who want to participate (as the study says). Let's call them the 'conservatories'. Most of these musicians only know about the traditional forms of jazz because that's what they've trained for. Multi-racial, depending on where they go to school (there's even a group of Indians, Asians and Arabs coming to the fore in this area). This group is somewhat the continuation of the suit-wearing 'young lions' group of the 80s that Wynton Marsalis represented, but maybe with more diverse perspectives. These people are energetic, true, but often essentially retrogressive or status-quo in their thinking, because their interest has the most in common with the current aging jazz audience (those over 60). They're mostly male, unless a music school has (almost by accident) trained a female musician.

2) People aged 20-40 who discovered jazz through interest in African-American culture

(hiphop, soul revival, dance/DJ culture). Mostly they know jazz as something that delivers

an authentic African-American experience ('soul') or are interested in styles that deliver

a beat ('funk'). They've got lots of Roy Ayers and Herbie Hancock in their collection, or

whatever Blue Note artists that hiphop producers tend to sample. For identification let's

call them the "Waxpoetics" group, because that magazine clearly identifies the overall

interests of that cultural subset. This group also now has some traction culturally (look

at the programming of the new jazz festival downtown - it's primarily of this type). This

group is also 'heritage-based', it just tends to preserve a slightly younger heritage - that of the straight-ahead elements of 60s and the fusion-laden part of the 70s, as well as the 'classic era' of hiphop in late 80s/early 90s (these people are probably incredibly excited about Michael Rapoport's Tribe Called Quest documentary). Though it does seem modern and hip, it is also partly retrogressive as its interests partially coincide with that of people aged 45-65 (the kind of core audience that would go to see a Return To Forever concert) even though those two demographics may not often attend shows in the same place. This group is also multi-racial, but a good number of its cultural leaders are black. A noticeable minority are women - female organizers seem prominent in this group (at least in Pittsburgh). However, this is an audience that does go out to clubs the most, and likes to dance and drink.

3) People aged 20-45 who primarily enjoy avant-garde types of jazz and even free improvisation (which came from an intersection of jazz and academic classical music).

These people came to the avant-garde from general interest in experimental and underground forms of music, perhaps branching off from indie rock (many avant-garde

jazz label owners started off in indie rock) or experimental/industrial electronics, etc.

Many of them also arose from the college-radio network of the 90s/early 00s, giving them

an advantage in open-mindedness since the best of those radio stations are freefo

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