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Jazz Early Warning Signs

4 May

Jazz Appreciation Month 2015 is now in the archives. From Philadelphia to Paris, fans turned out to celebrate America’s classical art form.

But there are early warning signs that all is not well. According to Nielsen‘s 2014 Year End Report, jazz is tied with classical music as the “least consumed” music in the U.S. Jazz represented just 0.3% of all music streamed in 2014, a reflection of its aging audience.

However to expand the audience for jazz, it’s not enough to simply showcase young artists. In an interview with JUMP magazine, Philadelphia Jazz Project Director Homer Jackson observed:

The point about young people that is really critical, is that if we have so many young artists working in jazz, why aren’t they able to engage young people themselves? Most young artists I know do not have a huge youth audience themselves. That’s really critical because at some point the elders are gonna be gone and so who is going to be in the audience? So, I challenge young artists to come up with some strategies and I challenge the curators to come with strategies to help young artists to be able to present their stuff.

One of the strategies must be to make jazz fun for the audience. Thelonious Sphere Monk III (T.S. Monk) recently wrote:

If we just add some ingredients from the rest of the entertainment world, people will view jazz as fun once again, and they will come back. If millions didn’t love the music today, there wouldn’t be what we call a catalog, and my father, Thelonious Sphere Monk, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Buddy Rich and so many more, would have disappeared. We wouldn’t have had an International Jazz Day concert streamed to 1.2 billion people in 2013, and 2.5 billion people in 2014. None of that would be possible if there wasn’t an inherent love of this music, ironically by Americans. We often love ourselves, and don’t know it.

So I say to all my friends in jazz — musicians, promoters, club owners, listeners, and everybody — let’s bring back the fun. Let’s go big. That will bring the attention, and the money will follow.

To borrow a phrase, listeners just wanna have fun.

Earth Day 2015

22 Apr

Billie Holiday@100

7 Apr

Today is the centennial of the birth of Billie Holiday. Contrary to popular belief, she was born in the City of Brotherly Love in Philadelphia General Hospital.

The misapprehension about Holiday’s place of birth may account for why she hasn’t been inducted into the Walk of Fame. Despite her arrests and conviction in Philadelphia, she had love for her hometown. It was, after all, the place where she could work in the nightclubs. After her conviction, she lost her cabaret license and could not work in places where alcohol was sold. She could perform at a sold-out Carnegie Hall, but couldn’t get a gig at a hole-in-the-wall in Harlem.

Parenthetically, Holiday was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame yesterday.

Yes, there’s an historical marker noting that when Lady Day was in town, she often lived at the Douglass Hotel.

Billie Holiday

Holiday is depicted in the Women of Jazz mural in Strawberry Mansion. But the mural is scheduled to be demolished by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Women of Jazz Mural Collage - 4.5.15

The Walk of Fame plaque is the highest honor Philadelphia bestows on a musician:

The Music Alliance is best known for the Walk of Fame along Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts. This series of over 100 bronze commemorative plaques honors Philadelphia area musicians and music professionals who have made a significant contribution to the world of music. The Walk of Fame is the City’s most impressive public monument to the people who have made Philadelphia a great music city.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. So today, I nominated Billie Holiday for induction into the Walk of Fame.

Billie Holiday - PMA

Happy birthday, Lady Day. We love you more than you’ll ever know.

UPDATE:The Philadelphia Music Alliance announced that “as a special birthday gift,” Billie Holiday is the newest inductee into the Walk of Fame. In a statement, Chairman Alan Rubens said:

The Philadelphia Music Alliance wanted to present what we think is a ‘perfect’ birthday gift to an extraordinary vocalist, Billie Holiday, and announce her induction on her 100th birthday. It will be an absolute pleasure to be able to walk down Broad Street and see her name where it rightfully belongs, on the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame, with other homegrown jazz giants like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and Grover Washington, Jr.

Again, it’s never too late to do the right thing.

Jazz Appreciation Month 2015

1 Apr

Since 2002, April has been designated Jazz Appreciation Month. This year’s celebration was kicked off with a big bang. The Smithsonian announced the LeRoy Neiman Foundation has donated $2.5 million towards the expansion of jazz programming.

The foundation also donated “Big Band,” a painting by LeRoy Neiman.

Leroy Neiman Big Band

Neiman considered the painting “one of the greatest in his career.” Four of the 18 iconic jazz musicians have been inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame – John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Gerry Mulligan.

The painting is now on display at the National Museum of American History.

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