Back to the chicken shack, and onto the Internet.
--Ramsey Lewis On 'Can Jazz Be Saved': Far be it from me to argue with pianist Ramsey Lewis about widening the jazz audience, as he is one of the greatest artists to find success with people who wouldn't normally listen to jazz. The first half of his WSJ letter to the editor, in response to the Terry Teachout "Can Jazz Be Saved" op-ed, is completely on point. Jazz musicians do need to reach out to audiences, and interesting bills could help that process. But the latter half misses the point that audience outreach these days happens online. Lewis' suggestions about wardrobe choices and calling for CD giveaways to students may help the cause marginally. However, the real problem with image and exposure is that artists and record labels aren't reaching out on the Web. You know where you could market your own image, and give away music to both students and fans in formats today's youth audience is accustomed to, and where this is already happening in seemingly every other genre except jazz? The Internet. Just sayin'. (Related: a brief interview with Lewis.)
--Kind Of Blowout: A taste of our office humor: "You know what we really need at NPR Music? Another story about Kind Of Blue." So rather than note the 50th anniversary of the album release with some sort of blog-stravaganza, I'll point you to Slate's coverage. For those who need a refresher course (or introduction, period), Fred Kaplan's gloss on why the music is good is worth reading. But more intriguing (to me, anyway) is a look at Kind Of Blue as film music, and a photo gallery of the artists behind the album (dig those Newport '58 shots). (Related: Ashley Kahn on Kind of Blue for NPR, from earlier this year.)
--Federally-Supported Jazz In Washington, D.C.: Howard Mandel looks at the jazz lineups for the coming season for the three major players in town here: the Library of Congress, then the Smithsonian and finally the Kennedy Center. He concludes that the Kennedy Center, because it offers far and away the most jazz (and a respectable lineup too), is D.C.'s best presenter. Which is cool and all, but we also ought to note D.C. has an active club scene as well: not all the jazz in this city has a stamp of "officialness" to it. This city's jazz network isn't completely non-market-supported -- at least not yet. (Also the fact that the individual Smithsonian museums sometimes present their own concerts, often for free: see the summer Jazz In The Garden series at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.) There's also a tangent possible about government lip service to jazz (service often weighed down by "historical" repertory, at that), but I'll not indulge it here.
--Metro Detroit's Best Jazz Club To Close: Or so it would seem in this article about the Firefly Club: the venue owes the state of Michigan a collective total of over $120,000. That, upon the recent struggles of Baker's Keyboard Lounge, means that Detroit's scene -- which produced so many and still houses many great jazz musicians -- is officially struggling. (Meanwhile, Ann Arbor won't have a jazz club for the first time in ages.) It certainly seems as if the state is being a rather harsh mistress here: the club was tied to a payment plan of $2000 a month, but only managed to put together $1500/month during June and July. So the state is responding by seizing the property and demanding the entire payment of $120,000 within 10 days. Seems awfully cold of the Michigan IRS to come down so hard on something that means so much to a certain crowd over such a relatively piddling sum, but I doubt anyone up there cares.
--Iconic Jazz Album Cover Homages: The Oakland Jazz Music Examiner -- anyone know just how Examiner.com works? -- has a look at classic jazz album art that has been riffed on by later artists. Part two here. It's not all there is, certainly, but a good sampling is here. For what it's worth, this Blue Note meets Wu-Tang Clan/side projects mashup is also pretty great.
--Chris Albertson Has A Blog: He wrote the Bessie Smith biography. And he writes now at Stomp Off, Let's Go too. Lots of historical tidbits here so far.
--Take The El Train: A musical train is set to ride in Chicago this Sunday, featuring a local trio of saxophone, guitar and bass. Not your average gig. More information at the Jazz Institute of Chicago Web site.
--The Difficulties Of Leading Large Ensembles: The seeming rise in interest in leading large jazz ensembles lately -- the post-Maria Schneider crowd, one could say -- seems to coincide with the exact point in time that it's becoming less sustainable than ever. Which makes this All About Jazz piece -- a series of interviews looking into the real difficulties of trying to put together a modern big band, and why it's still appealing to many -- a worthy read.
--Lawrence Lucie Passes: Finally, rhythm guitarist Larry Lucie has died, age 101. He played with Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday and Fletcher Henderson. And personal reports say he was quite lucid, especially for a 100-year-old, as of last year. May he rest in peace.