All That Jazz

Summarizing Jazz is a bit like tackling the proof of the divine or defining irony. Broad in scope, yet uniquely recognizable, you know it when you hear it and might be hard-pressed to distill it and its significance: born in African tradition against the backdrop of slavery, jazz has gifted us with immeasurable talents, touchstones, and legends. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and countless others are embedded indelibly beside each other and each nuanced version of the artform into America’s mosaic and beyond.

Genre’s timelessness has made it ripe for rediscovery by each new generation since Miles Davis. As 2018 high school freshman are plunking down cash for vinyl, industry insiders are observing the renewed opportunity for identifying and servicing a fluid jazz listener-base.

Though transitioning to digital at a mild place, and perhaps not the most obviously digital-ready milieu, the world of jazz is indeed proving its readiness for prime time. Streaming numbers continue to increase, shining the spotlight on further opportunities and initiatives seeking to reach terrestrial radio ears.  Spotify recently shared with the BBC that the number UK users under the age of 30 listening to their flagship Jazz UK playlist has seen a staggering increase of 108%.  It’s a number echoed by Amazon as well as Deezer.

Scott Hall, director of Jazz Studies at Columbia, attributes the resurgence in interest to musicians’ improvisation and experimentation. “It seems like the barriers have been broken down,” Hall said. Hall has observed the increased interest in his classroom as well. “The younger generation, they understand and appreciate the significance of the jazz language for developing their own personal style.”

“It’s easier for musicians coming from different worlds to collaborate.” Chris Chisholm, co-owner of Chicago’s Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant, recently told the city’s Chronicle that he’s observed a spike in millennial interest in jazz of late, noting more have attended shows at his club as well as others in the area including Jazz Showcase and the Green Mill.  The appeal may in part be due to the youth of the performers. As co-owner (and brother) Brandon Chisholm noted, some of the finest musicians to perform at Andy’s have been between the ages of 20 and 26.

Play MPE is thrilled to be a part in continuing to reach these new jazz audiences digitally. Michael Ambrosino of Jazz Week Summit shared with us recently “Play MPE has done a wonderful job creating a platform that allows record labels, promoters and broadcasters to post, preview and download music in a way that works with everyone’s digital workflow. In an industry that continues to struggle with the dilemma of analog versus digital media, Play MPE has created a clear and powerful way forward.”

Decca Records president Rebecca Allen recently spoke of the transition of traditionally brick and mortar fanbases to digital consumption. “We work really closely with all of our digital partners, and we’ve had loads of positive discussions this year around how we reach the more mainstream audiences that we at Decca have traditionally excelled at with physical sales. I just want to build upon those partnerships and upon those great conversations and the relationships we have with them in the next year, take them to the next level and be able to apply our creative marketing to that.”

The continued increase in the accessibility of tools with which we access music is a continuing and growing factor. As Allen shared, “We know that once somebody has a device in their home that they are more likely to stream music, and we know they are more likely to listen to more music as a whole. So as soon as we can have people interacting with these devices and with the platforms and with their playlists, we know that it means generally that the listening habit will go up. So, it’s just moving that audience, educating them and getting them across that first hurdle. That’s what we like to discuss with our partners and what we are working with them on.”

Ultimately, users continue to evolve at a pace in lock step with the growth of the artform itself. The Thelonious Monk institute of Jazz assures students “traditional, straight ahead, contemporary mainstream and acoustic jazz will continue to prosper just as up-and-coming jazz musicians inspired and influenced by blues, swing, bebop, and hard bop, will continue to push the musical envelop within the traditional acoustic jazz combo setting.”

In sync with an artform devoted to perpetual motion, technology remains fluid, adapting to the ever-changing interest of audiences, those both arrived and waiting.  To check out the latest in Jazz via Play MPE, login into your Play MPE Player!

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