Thursday, October 29, 2020

Stakes Are High

In the last 12 months a lot in the jazz space has been trending and in particular the standard of jazz compositions has been put under a microscope. It is interesting that the consumers have also become very sophisticated and choosy about what they buy and listen to. The jazz clubs are also upping the stakes as they continue to compete for ‘quality’ membership.

The musical component of jazz has always been a ‘complicated’ matter and many have attempted to tread with caution when handling the subject. Jazz enthusiasts fall under different categories, including those that are old school and have no issues listening to the same music at every opportunity. As a matter of fact, the majority collect the old music by the same artists, and given the nature of people they are, it takes a lot for them to accept new artists and their music. But when they do decide to acquire new music, you can be rest assured everyone in the group will get a copy.

When one of them hosts a listening session, there is a very little difference in the music they play except the order in which they sequence tracks and the number of tracks that can be played in a session. They only search for old music by the artists they follow. In the majority of cases, they choose to collect earlier recordings of the same artist. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find someone from the group with an entire collection from a single artist. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their preference.

However, there is a new breed of jazz enthusiasts who have taken music collection to a whole new level. Not only do they collect the old recordings but the new ones too. Just a little over 4 years ago, they did not mind what was produced as long as they had a copy. We have noted that there are those who believe the collection of anything and everything jazz was driven by the spirit of patriotism. Well, that we can discuss another time.

The scarcity of money changed everything except the love for jazz. Jazz enthusiasts have raised the stakes and they expect more for their hard-earned cash. What does this mean? Instead of spending their money willy-nilly, the first thing they did was to scrutinise the quality of both the composition and the sound of jazz music. It was obvious that, at one point, expectations were bound to change even if they were not influenced by scarcity of money.

One cannot overlook the growth in the number of music literate jazz enthusiasts. The growth in the number of both composers and artists who do everything to put up amazing music is also welcome. However, this is not without its challenges and the first being that some composers and artists operate in cliques. At a personal level, it is a good thing because it provides the necessary support they need for each other. On the other hand, the majority of the compositions that come from the same clique have similarities which one can attribute to the influence by individual styles of members of the ensemble. In other words, it does not matter who composed which piece of music, there will always be that similarity.

Once in a while, not that often, one comes across a multitalented composer and a multi-instrumentalist with a rare talent. Their compositions seem like they have been written by different people and the sound signature of multi-instrumentalists sounds different in every instrument; a good example is Sonwabile Ramcwani who plays trumpet and trombone.  This group of talented musicians is gradually gaining popularity amongst the music collectors. 

It will always be difficult to get the choices right and please every jazz enthusiast, especially when you consider those who are consistently looking for fresh sounds. In fact, the current trends suggest that the majority of music collectors are keen to collect new sounds. Sadly, we do not have accurate statistics to demonstrate this point except to deduce from the new material that is played at gigs and listening sessions.

It would be grossly unfair for one to compare groups of enthusiasts, composers and artists because everything boils down to choice. It is important to remember that the new age composers and artists continue to push the envelope in everything they do. But it does not necessarily mean that enthusiasts move at the same pace. Sometimes, as the saying goes ‘new music takes time to appreciate just like an acquired taste.’

So why did this topic make the It Has to Be Jazz® project review? One thing is certain, jazz enthusiasts have upped the stakes and they are demanding more from composers and artists. The old-fashioned trend of listening to the same old music is changing rapidly. One can be caught up in one specific era or move with the new trends. This also applies to the format in which music is supplied; which is either digital or CD.

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