from The New York Times:

The crowd was robust, lively and engaged at a recent jazz gig in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and by the looks of it most people were in their early 20s to mid-30s — about the same age as the band members. It could have been almost any given night on the New York club scene, though you might not have had that impression, depending on your sources.

Over the last week or so, as Woodstock commemoration reached its happy zenith, the jazz world has been rumbling with a more panicked sort of nostalgia. What set it off was an Aug. 9 column by the critic Terry Teachout — headlined “Can Jazz Be Saved?” — in The Wall Street Journal. A longtime advocate of jazz, Mr. Teachout weighed its cultural advances against its popular decline, reaching the conclusion that “it’s no longer possible for head-in-the-sand types to pretend that the great American art form is economically healthy or that its future looks anything other than bleak.”

Jazz has had more than its share of hand-wringers, and so this Chicken Little lament felt wearily familiar. But Mr. Teachout came armed with data from Arts Participation 2008, a recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. Conducted in partnership with the United States Census Bureau, it found that only 7.8 percent of adults in this country claimed to have attended a jazz performance last year. The figure reported in previous years — 1982, 1992 and 2002 — was closer to 10 percent. A demographic breakdown showed steady upticks among respondents 55 and over, and a downward trend for everyone else. (Attendance also slipped for art museums, classical concerts, the ballet and the theater.)

Mr. Teachout wasn’t the first to sound an alarm: the jazz historian Ted Gioia weighed in last month at the Web site Jazz.com. “The most likely — indeed the only plausible — explanation for these numbers is that very few new fans have discovered jazz since the 1980s,” Mr. Gioia wrote. “The old fans continue to follow the music, but teenagers and 20-somethings have very little interest in jazz.”

But there’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, as many jazz bloggers and commentators, responding mainly to Mr. Teachout, have been quick to point out. Try dropping in one night this week at the Village Vanguard, where Jason Moran and the Bandwagon are appearing. Or head to the Stone in the East Village, which is likely to hit sweaty capacity for each set programmed by the young drummer-composer Tyshawn Sorey. Or stop by the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea on Friday night for a show by the Bad Plus. Scratch anywhere past the surface and you might begin to wonder whether the likes of Mr. Teachout and Mr. Gioia don’t see young people listening because they don’t know where to look.

Continue reading at The New York Times.

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Seattle Jazz

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  1. It seems like this same article has been written about jazz for the past 40 years (you know, since Miles got all “weird”) Maybe for a change the NYTimes should consider writing about the “Death of Classical Music.” Jazz has never been economically healthy but creatively, the future is anything but bleak for jazz. Just try saying this about the sacred cow of classical music–seems to me that this genre has been on institutionalized life support for decades. Ask a 20-40 y.o. when the last time they went to a classical concert (especially if it was not the Symphony or Opera). But I digress…there’s still plenty of people out supporting the jazz scene, even if only by “accident.”

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