With all the bad news one is accustomed to hearing about the state of jazz these days (as bad as being a Cubs fan, it sometimes seems)–low CD sales, clubs closing, etc.–it’s pretty safe to say that the music’s doing well on the Internet, at least. In the past, I’ve sometimes thought that the jazz community was lagging a bit behind the rest of the world when it came to the Web, but that’s no longer the case. The last several years have seen an ever-increasing wave of artist sites, blogs, discussion forums and MySpace pages…was there ever a better way for a passionate but marginalized and farflung audience to gather, in a virtual manner of speaking? Musicologist Phil Ford’s recent speech…no, wait, it was a post…hey, you two, it’s both! and Alex Ross’s musings on classical music and the Internet, as well as his online discussion with New York Times jazz writer Ben Ratliff, all offer interesting observations about the array of possibilities that the dynamic of the Internet has opened up.
For me and many others, I’ll wager, a big challenge is simply finding enough time to explore all of those cyberspace possibilities for jazz experience. Several months ago I was able to listen to Lazaro Vega of Michigan’s Blue Lake Public Radio do a three-hour interview and music special with avant-garde icon Roscoe Mitchell–not something I would’ve been able to tune in for five years ago. Last week I was able to hear a late-December concert in New York City by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, an ensemble that has not yet formally recorded, because the band’s leader posted it on his website. Every day I’m able to check esteemed jazz writer Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides blog for reviews, remembrances, and reflections–or Marc Myers’ Jazzwax, which features fascinating multipart interviews with artists such as David Amram and Hal McKusick–musicians who’ve played intriguing parts in many different aspects of jazz/musical history. (It was news to me, for instance, that Amram scored The Manchurian Candidate.) There are also three jazz discussion boards, all with varying points of appeal, that I visit on a daily basis: All About Jazz, a great place for newcomers and those interested in modern mainstream; Jazzcorner, a good place for improv heads; and finally, Organissimo (basically the old Blue Note Records bulletin board in happy exile), a freewheeling but generally civil forum whose posters include critic Larry Kart and legendary producer Chuck Nessa, as well as many others attracted to the same era of jazz (1945-1990) that Night Lights covers. The conversation there is frank and spirited, as witness this discussion that followed the death of pianist Oscar Peterson. All three boards, though, often have active threads concerning every kind of stylistic and modern or historical jazz.
Now jazz writer Ted Gioia (The History of Jazz, West Coast Jazz) has launched an ambitious and comprehensive new website, Jazz.com, that should be of interest to neophytes and aficionados alike. With features and interviews, a blog to which Gioia contributes, music reviews, an encyclopedia of currently active musicians, a visual gallery, and categorical investigations called The Dozens (non-insulting variety), Jazz.com looks like a great place to bookmark and visit regularly, i.e. kill even more time online. I’ve added it to the blogroll on the Night Lights links page. It’s just another sign that the place where jazz lives these days, more and more, is online.