Jazz Is Dead. Long Live Jazz.
Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship
When I read "Vijay Iyer and the Outreachification Of Jazz" by Chris Kornellis on the Seattle Weekly's blog, my immediate response was something like, "Aw, hell no, you don't mess with Vijay." Maybe because Accelerando, the pianist's album released earlier this year, the same one that Kornellis used as a springboard-slash-target, might be my favorite jazz record to come out during my lifetime. If you are reading this and haven't heard the album's immediate title track, I encourage you to do so even if you hate jazz as much as Paul F. Tompkins.
-Vijay Iyer is Excited to Return to St. Louis, Where a Track from The New Album Was Born
-Vijay Iyer and the Outreachification of Jazz
-The Six Strangest Crossover Attempts By Jazz Musicians
This essay is neither a defense of Vijay Iyer nor a criticism of Chris Kornellis, but the article brings up my own tumultuous relationship with jazz. I went to college for jazz guitar performance for three years, where I realized I did not really love the music as much as I loved being able to major in playing guitar at college. This is a common problem among my peers, many of whom practice Charlie Parker tunes by day and listen to metal or bluegrass or reggae at night hoping that nobody is watching.
Jazz is almost harder to like than it is to love. When you love music, you give it some slack. Just ask yourself, is King Of Limbs actually good or are you just predisposed to like Radiohead? Very few people have a romantic, mind-blowing introduction to John Coltrane in which a single song changed their lives forever. People more often learn to love John Coltrane, like it or not.
Kornellis' article spoke about Vijay Iyer's "Jazz Outreach" workshops, where he teaches kids about jazz. Chances are, these kids will have to learn to love this music, since a twelve year-old whose older sister just introduced him to dubstep is unlikely to have his world turned upside down after hearing "So What" by Miles Davis.
Some bash on jazz because of its relative inaccessibility, but I find this somewhat hypocritical given the tendency for the modern music lover to dig into inaccessible music. I am firm in my belief that people are listening to weirder music more often than ever before. Shit, dubstep is pretty weird.