(photo of Mostly Other People Do the Killing from mercurialn’s Flickr stream)
I was chatting with Harris Eisenstadt last night about the state of jazz, etc. live music in New York in 2009. He mentioned that he and a friend of his, Peter Gannushkin (who runs the excellent photo/documentary site downtownmusic.net) were getting nostalgic about the mid-’90s Knitting Factory-centric scene in NYC, compared to that of today.
It seems to me that there are lots of places making room for live jazz, and more coming everyday. Harris’s point was that there are places to play, yet they’re small and disparate, and tend to create a fractured new music community. In the Knit days, if you were a jazz fan, you could count on something going on down there, saunter in and find a scene. It’s more work in ’09. No lack of talented musicians, but less of an audience.
Truth is, I don’t get out much. I have a couple of small kids, live far away from Brooklyn and even getting to Manhattan is a fairly detailed production. I haven’t been to some of the newer Brooklyn artist-run venues like I-Beam or Douglass Street Music Collective. But, it seems to me, within a certain circle of musicians, there’s something going on every night, of extremely high quality. The Knit scene in ’90s was a golden age.
I’d argue, at least from a listener’s perspective, there’s no better time than now in out jazz. There are more recordings than ever, and they’re more available, yes. But what’s got me hooked is the inclusion practiced by my generation of musicians. It’s a pan-musical approach that sucks in a great swath of ideas, musical forms and non-forms, genres and sub-genres. It’s a media saturated movement built on musicians who grew up playing all kinds of things. It’s a specialist-in-all-styles mentality. While the “downtown generation” was pushing ever to the outer rim, embodying the new, those a generation removed are practicing a more benevolent kind of musical inclusion. A willingness to be up for anything. There may be a disparate scene but wheels are turning, and there seem to be places willing to showcase it. Anyway, I think I’m going to start a “concert listings” segment on my radio show to share info about these gigs, for whatever that’s worth.
What needs to happen? What do you think? Are there a lack of quality venues in New York/Brooklyn? Is there a scene, or are the folks that show up to gigs simply other musicians? Is there support for jazz in New York in 2009? Please leave a comment.