Magazines, Mehldau, Music Minus One: The Friday Link Dump

Where we are doing this Terence Blanchard live concert tonight. Listen at 8:30 p.m ET.

Why Music Magazines Are Dying: Earlier this week, a Slate essay on why music print mags are inordinately struggling in this recession made the Internet rounds. Author Jonah Weiner identified three reasons: fewer superstars in general, less exclusive content in an online age, and the rise of online social media are making the magazines obsolete, in addition to questionable business practices within individual publications. Which puts the recent struggles of JazzTimes into some perspective. One could point out the odd editorial and business decisions being made in the jazz press (why, for instance does Downbeat have no useful Web presence?). But as aging jazz legends are replaced with sorta-stars, more jazz bloggers are born every day and the jazz community is migrating to less hegemonic, more flexible online discussions. Very slowly, it seems often, but you can sort of notice it happening if you pay close enough attention.

Here's what I don't quite get, though. I notice the Jazz Internet expanding, but very, very gradually. Any fan of pop music who knows how to use "The Google" can illegally download their favorite artists' album leaks easily. Or at very least, they can find tracks on The Hype Machine, or at a publication like Stereogum. For whatever reason — I surmise lack of people interested in leaking stuff, really — you still can't do that with many new jazz releases. And while some artists get it, with that whole "nowadays people are demanding free content before they purchase, and I'm not going to make any money off this CD anyway, so go ahead: preview my record online" thing, others don't even put up full tracks on their MySpace pages, if they even bother to have those. Meanwhile, many older artists have been burned so often by bootleggers — when that was a serious problem to a jazz artist's revenue stream — that they don't care to adapt to music in the age of Web 2.0. So because there are fewer free opinions floating around out there, that would theoretically make jazz mags more essential as gatekeepers, right?

Sort of. It seems to me that the very lack of "free" in jazz — of anybody wanting to put music out there on the Web — is hurting the audience. Given the choice between the constant on-demand stream of free music that is the modern pop music world, and having to pay to hear what your jazz nerd friend told you to check out, why would the average consumer pick the more expensive substitute? And that's the real problem with jazz magazines: the audience itself — by which I mean the potential audience willing to pay for magazines — is diminishing. The slow pace of the migration of jazz to the Internet is both helping and hurting JazzTimes. It's helping because it keeps magazines important as lifelines to the jazz community. It's hurting because that jazz community has shrunken, in no small part because young consumers now expect to be able to hear content they are to care about. The entire jazz business, including JazzTimes, would do well to understand this.

Brad Mehldau On 'Ideology, Burgers and Beer': Speaking of the Old Media, this Brad Mehldau essay ran in JazzTimes in 2003. For my money, it's some of the most meaningful and approachable of Mehldau's writing. It muses crisply about something we can all relate to: namely, why we defend the music we love. If you're into that sort of philosophical rabbit hole, you can read more of Mehldau's gappings at his Web site. And as a side note, why do people complain about the man's often-lengthy liner notes? If you don't like them, why don't you just ... not read them? (Via @accujazzradio, where I get, like, half of my links.)

Interview With Nate Wooley: Sigh. Print mags may be dying, and bringing long-form features with them. But at least sometimes there are some people willing to do big features for Web publications, presumably for little money. This Bagatellen e-mail chat with trumpeter Nate Wooley, who is very much a free improviser, gets it right because Wooley is willing to go on record at length about his creative process and the history and community behind it. I especially appreciate the discussion about why he's into such a generally difficult style of music: "Usually, when it is a work that is 'difficult' for lack of a better term, I find there is an unarticulated quality in it that draws me in. I WANT to understand it. I WANT to unlock the secret."

The Difficult Listening Hour, And Vijay Iyer's MIA Cover: [LATE ADDITION] I know, but I just saw this, and it was so on point to all of the foregoing that I had to link it somewhere. Seth Colter Walls writes about some "difficult" improv that went down recently in New York in exactly the right way, methinks. "But the cultural activist in me would like to see this scene blow up a little bit more, bring in some more lay people. ... you'll have to take my word for it that this music is totally able to be enjoyed without having an advanced music degree. (I sure don't.) I mean, it's complicated—perhaps 'difficult'—but it's not emotionally or physically remote." Uh, YES. He then rewards us with Vijay Iyer's cover of "Galang." Yes, that "Galang."

Setting The Record Straight On George Russell: Chip Boaz goes in on an important mistake in the AP obituary about George Russell: that his "Cubano Be, Cubano Bop" was the first melding of Afro-Cuban music with jazz. That assertion even made it into other coverage, such as this Washington Post obituary. This may seem tetchy, but I can assure you it is not. Misremembered history is bad for jazz; it neglects the dynamism of cultural forces that makes learning about jazz so interesting. (Related: the Boss Lady on this very piece.)

Jamey Aebersold Profiled: Finally, Jamey Aebersold, he of the play-along record empire, is an actual human being, and a real jazz musician based in Louisville, Ky., of all places. (Article here.) Somehow, I never made that connection. Apparently, he also lectures his students about the ills of smoking. Huh.

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