by Sam B
Actually, I don’t think I want to ask why you should listen to jazz. Better is, why should anybody make the effort to give jazz a try. I think ultimately there’s an aesthetic payoff–jazz is both fun and challenging, and the challenge makes the fun that much better–but there are other musical forms that are also challenging, other forms that are also fun, and even some that are both. So let me offer two contradictory reasons, plus a third for United States kulturbloggers.
(1) Listening to jazz (and, specifically, jazz by people who are still playing today) prevents jazz from becoming a museum piece. It’s cheaper for record companies to keep releasing old Miles Davis albums, because they’ve already repaid the costs. But if that small portion of record stores that houses jazz is full only of albums by dead musicians (and note that I adore Miles), there will be no call for young, innovative players whose music interacts with contemporary culture (such as, for example, Roy Hargrove, whose RH Factor band plays jazz, funk, and rap).
(2) Having some acquaintance with jazz is necessary to be culturally literate, in the same way that, to be culturally literate, we need some acquaintance with Beethoven, with Hemingway, with Picasso, etc. (I realize that this kind of sticks jazz back in a museum, rather than as a flourishing artform, which kind of contradicts #1, but I think both sides are necessary.)
(2a) For our United States readers, one more reason. Jazz is a part of our shared culture. And in the U.S., we don’t have much of that. In Brazil, the older generation may listen to Roberto Carlos, while the younger generation listens to techno, but everybody listens to samba. Italy and France have what amount to national cuisines. There are folk dances in countries that everybody learns and is familiar with. We don’t really have that. We’ve got some great cuisines, but they tend to be regional. If you think jazz is a lot of work for the payoff, you should try modern dance (which is essentially the United States’ contribution to the dance world). Jazz is uniquely American, and may be the closest thing we have to a shared culture.
I’ll try to get some music into radio.blog tonight after work. For Part I, see here.