It’s difficult to put into words how much jazz musicians have to constantly prove their worth in the music industry. Our validity as modern musicians is an apparently debatable thing in today’s realm of artistic expression and to be brushed off as nothing more than a relic from the swing era is an unfortunately common occurrence. Over and over I have heard the question “why not perhaps consider putting on an event that is less old fashioned?” and the statement “jazz is an extinct genre”.
It is difficult to really blame people though, because jazz simply isn’t the popular music of the times anymore, regardless of all of the stylistic and technical innovations which are constantly being infused into the music. Many people just don’t typically gain immediate access to the jazz music of today because they don’t actively seek it out, or they think that because they have seen Talladega Knights they can identify all jazz as sounding like Charlie Parker. It also isn’t difficult to discount the fact that the majority of today’s music has been formed or greatly impacted by jazz if one hasn’t taken a glimpse at North America’s musical timeline.
Why does this impact jazz musicians so much? This is because when we step out into the world and try to promote ourselves, many promoters, venues and events place an expired stamp on our heads, potentially jeopardizing our income which we need in order to sustain ourselves off of our craft alone. We are then faced with the obstacle of having to justify the reliability and enjoyability of our music.
I think that perhaps one of the most overlooked features that jazz musicians have is versatility. I honestly believe that all music has a place in the world and that nobody can establish a particular style or genre as superior to another. Having said this, to completely discount jazz music as, at the very least, a helpful (and sometimes crucial) stepping stone to bettering ones self at music in general is a huge mistake. There is so much to be taken from studying jazz and through knowing people who have studied it (including myself), I can undoubtedly say that it improves the way you hear, see, feel and play music by far.
Jazz is a highly demanding kind of music to practice and to live by. It commands hours of practice and abstract thinking to come up with different ways to contextualize a melody or a set of chords. It’s one thing to see these concepts and learn them down on paper but with jazz and improvisation you can’t fake that knowledge in practice. This is why we have taken the considerable time and energy to ensure that there is a place here in Toronto for emerging artists to immerse themselves in a professional, educational and welcoming environment where they can network and establish the credit that they require to carry forth into the working music world, regardless if they should continue with jazz as their sole genre or not.
- Becky Hargreaves