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Home All About Jazz Jazz Opinion Why Jazz Musicians Can Be The Biggest Jerks

Why Jazz Musicians Can Be The Biggest Jerks

I just can’t take it any longer. I’ve held it in for a while, but now I just have to come out and say it:

Jazz musicians have been some of the meanest, cruelest, whining, egotistical people I’ve ever met!

I have my reasons why. It’s not that I’m an outsider looking in. No, in fact I’m a jazz musician myself, and because I’m on the inside I get to see the worst of it. I’ve been around this unruly cast of characters for so long now that I’ve finally had enough. I’m finally going to say something about it.

Now please don’t get me wrong. Some jazz musicians have also been the most wonderful, caring, nurturing, loving and humble people I have ever met. I’m not out to attack jazz musicians, remember I’m one of them! But because I am a part of the jazz community, I think it’s partly my responsibility to call out some of the bad behavior I see going on.

My intent is not to rag on my fellow jazz musicians, but to kindly remind some of us that we’ve lost our way. No one’s perfect, and that’s okay. Heck, some of the things I’m about to rant and rave about I’ve been guilty of before!

I’m going to list 3 things that I think jazz musicians should STOP doing immediately. Don’t consider this personal, and don’t consider this an attack on your personality if any of this fits your description. But do consider this a call for change!

1. Stop acting like jazz is a superior genre of music.

I’ve seen it in attitudes and I’ve heard it in words. Stop looking down on other forms of music as if they are not just as important as jazz. Jazz is not a ‘better’ form of music than others.

Indeed jazz is a music that requires a certain level of virtuosity. It’s harmonically rich, demands technical ability, and often requires an understanding of music theory. There is no arguing that learning jazz can develop a high level of musical knowledge. It’s these facts that I feel manifests the superiority attitudes and beliefs of some jazz musicians.

But here’s a news flash: more technically difficult, and harmonically complex does not= better.

There are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. Period.

I mostly perform as a jazz musician, and I tell you what, every time I try to play a pop, folk, or rock gig, I get a reality check: you need some serious talent and practice to play those styles well! Some of the best music in the world is not jazz. All of these musicians have put enormous amounts of effort into their style or genre, the same as jazz musicians have put into theirs. It’s okay if jazz is your favorite style of music. It happens to be mine. But if you think that jazz is a superior music you are dead wrong.

Listen to lots of music that is not jazz. If you are not, you are missing out on a lot of good music. Not only that, you are missing out on a lot of great inspiration. I’ve written a number of tunes that were inspired by singer song writers and rock musicians, and adapted them to my own style. Work on playing different styles of music. Every style has something different to teach you about music, and I guarantee you will learn a lot!

2. Stop vibing other jazz musicians.

It’s seriously helping no one…except maybe your big ego.

Camden describes vibing fairly well in his “Why Vibing is Bad For Jazz” article:

 “Vibing” is a mean-spirited attitude toward other musicians and the way they play the music. “Vibing” is when the house guitarist at the jam won’t talk to the singer sitting in. “Vibing” is the snide remark made by another musicians during the alto players solo. “Vibing” is when the famous guitar player tells the poor bass player sitting in to go learn the @#$% changes. “Vibing” is when the drummer starts making cross-eyed facial expressions to the bass player during the horn player’s jive solo.  “Vibing” is the knowing glances the in-crowd of musicians gives to each other around the new-comer.

Now listen everybody, the jazz community is fairly small. What I don’t understand about vibing is why would you want to ostracize someone from our community, or push them away before they can even get into the door? Don’t we want to be inviting more people in?

Nothing ruins a great gig or jam session than some egotistical jazz musician vibing another player. It just kills all of the good energy!

It’s not that I don’t see where the vibing jazz musicians are coming from. Sure, they’ve put in a lot of effort into their craft, paid their dues, probably got vibed by some other big shot musician, and spent countless hours learning tunes. Then all of a sudden some amateur waltzes in to their jam session not knowing many tunes and struggling to blow over changes. The nerve!

But try this for an alternative: encourage the budding musician to practice by making them feel welcome. Instead of putting them down and being intimidating, nicely show them some things you’ve been working on that could help them.  If you are extra generous, maybe consider offering to jam with them one on one some time. Offer constructive criticism instead of an attitude and oppressive words. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and so did you. If someone makes a mistake, loses the form, screws up the changes, relax. I bet you’ve done it before too.

The bottom line is stop vibing! It brings out the worst in everybody, and we don’t need it in our jazz communities.

3. Stop complaining about the “state of jazz”.

I’ve heard it all too often: “Jazz isn’t what it used to be”, “there used to be more work for jazz musicians”, “there’s no more gigs anymore”, “no one wants to listen to my music”, “jazz was”, “jazz isn’t”, blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, we need to stop complaining all of the time. It’s a drag when I constantly hear jazz musicians act like their own style of music is dying. Because it isn’t! That’s just some made up doom and gloom talk. Jazz music hasn’t been popular music since the Swing Era in the 1930’s. In other words, not too much has changed in the last 70 or so years.

Let’s do less complaining and more enjoying. Answer this following question:

Are you trying to make a living from jazz music?

No. Then what are you worried about? Enjoy playing it, enjoy listening to it, and keep on supporting those that do. Go to shows, take lessons, buy records, and just keep having fun! Jazz isn’t going anywhere, and you aren’t paying your rent with it. Being a hobbyist, or a casual jazz fan is a lot of fun! You play/listen to jazz because you love it. You are probably the least likely to complain, but in case you are, don’t because there is no reason to.

Yes. Well, hopefully you knew what you were getting into to, and if you did, you can’t complain too much.

I’ve heard all of the complaints: but no one buys jazz records anymore! As opposed to when? Were small time artists ever making that much money off of record sales even before the internet? I don’t think so. Taylor Swift makes good money from record sales because she’s a pop artist who’s backed by a major record label. Pat Metheny and George Benson probably make some decent money because they are A. famous and B. ventured outside the jazz realm. I’d argue that nothing has changed that much for the average working jazz musician.

Well there aren’t enough gigs and they don’t pay enough! First of all, don’t think that’s how you can make all of your living anyway. If you are in this business you better be doing some other things like teaching, or even playing gigs that aren’t necessarily jazz. If you want to be any kind of professional musician in this modern day and age, you better be prepared to be creative and even become an entrepreneur. People don’t become musicians because they thought it would be easy or make them rich. If you did for these reasons, I’m sorry that someone misguided you.

I studied with a great teacher at the end of high school. One day I told him I wanted to be a professional jazz musician. I wanted to go to college for it and it was a big decision. He looked at me and said “Before you commit to that, ask yourself, is there anything else I can do or can see myself doing? Because if there is something else, you should do that.  If there is absolutely nothing else, and your heart is set on it, follow me.” I have to say my teacher gave me a fair warning!

I get why the average professional musician complains: because it’s hard. I’m right here with you. You can complain all you want, but that’s not going to change anything. Instead, figure it out and do something about it.

In summary: if you are a jazz musician who is egotistical, vibey, stuck-up, and whiny: Knock it off! We’ll all be glad if you do.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. You are so right, I am been playing music since I was 9. I study classical, then i wanted to be a Metal Bass player, I spent lots of time learning. I become a bass player on one of the most important death Metal band in Europe, We got signed, we got the video on MTV and tour for years. We wore considered very technical and original. Then I quit the band, got my degree of Doublebass at the Conservatory of Music in Italy, won international auditions but I still get dose low budget Jazz player telling me that I can't play Jazz so they consider me less then then? I mean, should I even take in consideration someone that can even pay his bills with music telling me that I don't even care about Jazz if I am good or not on what I am doing? Jazz players are not better, they have less education of any classical players, they do not manage the instrument better then anybody because music it is not a competition, if you want to compite try to win an international audition not a jam session. So stop to feel superior and lear real music first, then pay your bills and stop asking mama for money so you can keep to go at jam the sessions to show of not more that licks learned from others.

  2. I got here after a encounter with a jazz guitarist from whom I purchased an instrument. We were talking about the difficulty in getting gigs. I mentioned that my type of music, traditional Celtic, is about a tough for gigging as jazz. He said "Well all you need to play Irish music is a green shirt." It isn't the first time I've heard that type of snobbery from a jazz player, but it was the most dismissive. Now the background: I've been a musician for 45 years. I grew up around jazz. I played the trumpet through college in jazz bands. On the side I started to play the violin. I've played country, bluegrass and classical, as well as Celtic. I play baroque on the side. The point of this is I play Irish music because I choose to, not because I'm incapable of playing anything else. And I work at it as hard as avocational players of any genre. So enough with the 'tude.

  3. Great discussion on human nature and pecking order. Musical tastes grow and evolve. Joni Mitchell is proof of that. Experimentation is a path to push boundaries and explore. It's all good. If you don't like melodic jazz – no problem. Musical snobbery exists in every circle – just as insecurity does. Why not live and let live? Musical tastes vary. If it's not my "thing" I don't feel the need to viciously "peck" that musician to death. Chickens do it and, imo, it's the worst side of their reptilian nature.

  4. So true. I`m tired of trying to fit in, I mostly play with top 40 bands and some small jazz combos, the musicians I play with are all university trained just like me but I always feel I don`t belong in their circle especially when it comes to Bass,drums and guitar players-do I sound good, do i do great solos..heck yeah I do, I practice by butt off, never make mistakes or wrong notes, my sound is stellar, I`m an nice person to hang with, but to your point I do believe your statement is dead on not only with jazz musicians but musicians in general, I don`t know why the business is weird like that but I`m past all that now- since you are not the one putting food on my table I don`t give a flying F..#@ about what you think about me.

  5. I come from an R&B/blues/rock/pop background and have been studying jazz for several years now. I most definitely agree that there seems to be a goodly amount of people in the jazz world that I would categorize as "jerks" (unfortunately a few of those were my jazz teachers). There have been some very cool jazz musicians I've met as well but I've definitely run into a lot more arrogance and jerk-like behavior in the jazz world than with musicians of other genres that I play with. Not sure why that is, but my experience seems to agree with the author's claims. Just my 2 cents, maybe that will change someday who knows.

  6. Early Jazz artists pretty much ruined the popularity of Jazz because they made it a "Musicians Thing". The type of music they were creating was actually experimental. Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Chick Corea. Etc. The average music lover could not really identify with it & that's why I say it was a musician thing, because basically they could relate to it & where the Jazz Musicians were coming from, not so with your average music listener. When Artists like Fat Burger with Steve Laury & Spiro Gira came on the scene, they completely changed the game & made it a listener thing. Some of these Musicians dabbled in music like Rock, thus the rock up beat that permeated there sound. Jazz Musicians are well above any other Musicians on this planet & if they brag, It's really not brag, just fact, because they earned the right too! I fI were to say to you that I'm a very good mechanic would get up in arms about it or I'm a very good Doctor, I doubt it very much, but when it comes to Musicians who may say they think they are very good, it seems to be offensive. I've been playing Guitar for decades now * I think that I'm a very good Guitarist & Jazz artist! What I find is the problem with those who complain about artists & or musicians who think they are very good, is the fact that they are not as good & are envious. If you have to be told your doing something wrong on a regular basis,hen you are not up to there caliber of musicianship & usually that falls on the young musicians, as I notice you are! There are no better musicians on this planet than Jazz artists, so YOU are wrong there. There level of achievement far exceeds any other artists! I get a little envious too, when I compare my playing with some of the top Jazz artists like Steve Laury who far exceeds any Jazz Guitarist that I've heard, even George Benson who is a very great Guitarist. If you want my opinion, rock artist are the ones with the big fat ego's, so you have the wrong musicans you're complaining about. The real reason Jazz Music is not popular, is because it's a music for mature minds, it has entertaining value that far exceeds any other music. It comprises emotions, feelings, melodicness that you won't find in other music. The youth do not like Jazz because it's far above there heads & music that permeates with feelings, emotions along with great musicianship is something they just can't relate too! Since most of the music is purchased by the demographic age group of 14 to 25 year old's, it's not hard to see why Jazz artists struggle along! WE have a society that has never grown up & the oldsters still thrive on the old rock standards that must have growing mold on them by now! Yo're right, Jazz is something you cannot rely on to make a living, even great artists like Steve Laury , Spiro Gira & Benson are having a difficult time keeping there heads above water. When I listen to Steve Laury's CD Keeping The Faith, it proves to me over & over again that Jazz artists ARE the best in the world, hands down! That CD is a master piece & no one can touch his musicianship!

  7. I have been playing the piano and composing music all my life, always kept far from jazz since the scene is so snobbish and condescendent towards others… then I have met the most amazing, ego-less musicians, that allowed me to get to know jazz with the same language and attitude jazz pioneers (losers on heroin mostly) had. No superiority, no vibing, no ego. That allowed me to get close to this wonderful harmony without bias. Now I am addicted to jazz…

  8. The article on jazz and classical here made me think of this blog:
    (Before the 20th C the only recording technology 'classical' composers had was…manuscript paper. The wives of composers like Mozart were often on their case to write down their improvisations, so they weren't lost to the world.) Gives us a different perspective.

  9. I had my comment ready when I read the title of this post on another page….so I forced myself to read the whole article before commenting and what an enjoyable article this was….many good laughs and sighs. Where I live, most jazzers are university students who blow my doors off. I'm in the distinguished league of curmudgeons who don't have a better thing to do than b****. I'm the worst and reading this truly makes me smile. Thanks and for the nay-sayers here….yeah, I'm sure you're right. You should meet Irish musicians sometime.

  10. One thing's for sure…you hit a nerve. You should explore this topic further. There's a lot more to say about jazz elitism than what you touched on in this article.

  11. I disagree about vibing! Most jazz musicians have the students, and they still have the patience to work with them. The question is – in what framework meets the beginner with professionals on same stage. "Time to pick up stones and the time throw them. "

    • Have you ever gone to a jam? Completely different when they aren't getting paid to "have patience." I am speaking generally. But the regulars can be very nasty to newcomers who struggle with the changes or play very simple solos.

      • Oh yeah, for my life I've been on one or two))) I was also a witness (and participant) , how a drummer with crooked hands and rhythm feel within 15 minutes successfully ruined the jam on international jazz festival.

  12. I just want to make an important point. You emphasize in the article that music shouldn't be about being elite, okay…suppose that it should be about a community, expression, motivation, positivity, and mainly…about the music. Assuming music, especially jazz music, is a community that brings all people together through, well, music… then posting silly articles like these do the quite the opposite. This article is cheesy and it is clear that you cannot take constructive criticism and most importantly don't care about music (not just jazz music) enough to ignore egotistical people, focus on the music and people that bring the best out of you, and when someone says to you learn the chords to a song, he's probably helping you out man. I've been told i played something wrong ALL the time not just in jazz music…but I don't sit here and complain, writing long silly articles…No, I learn the shit and improve myself because he told me that to get me better (most of the time). Writing articles like these makes this already unpopular style of music even more hated, which is unnecessary. You're basically making people discriminate against the style of music that you play and love by posting shit like this.

    By the way. James walls……you're missing the point as well. Nobody said jazz is superior, and if they did they're either stupid or screwing with you.

    Lastly, and most importantly… This style of music deserves respect. All the people that died and went through racism to help this music become alive today is why the word jazz is not just a genre. Look up "jazz for lack of a better word". The fact that you haven't even spoken about the history of jazz music and actually decided to click the button "post "shows your lack of knowledge in this area. My guess is you studied jazz in school, got vibed a lot and then got vibed at a big city jam session so you go and post this article. I can't blame you though since not everyone has the opportunity to study and learn from people that were around when this music was being developed. My advice is to rethink this post you made and try your best to get the right idea of what this music is really about.

    • Uh, no, that guy freebeer DID say jazz is superior music. It's still there if you want to read it. And I have heard as much from snotty college kids at the jams around here too. Takes a while before they learn to just stick their noses in the air and ignore people rather than actually speak such thoughts, but it's clear from the smirks, sneers, ear whispering, private joking, etc that arrogance is the rule, not the exception among jazz musicians. At the jams around here you can cut the smug with a knife, and I am among many who won't set foot in them anymore for that exact reason.

      • Wow you totally missed my whole point. Whether he said it or not if you take that comment seriously I question your musical awareness. If I were you i would spend your time reading the history of this music and work on something productive instead of spending all your time commenting some nonsense. I'm not promoting bad attitudes, but if someone gives someone good advice I definitely think it's a good thing. If you don't want to hear advice because you think music is a creative art form and everyone has their own story, well then fine… although that's true, with that closed minded attitude you probably won't get better or be in a place to write good songs. There's a reason we all know who miles Davis, bird, and trane are. They took advice to heart and worked. None of them cried like little babies about someone telling them they played the wrong chord on the 8th measure of "Groovin high" lol!

      • What does "musical awareness" have to do with whether or not he was being serious? That makes zero sense, as well as sounding snide and uppity as hell.
        And who the hell is talking about advice? Sneers, smirks and smug whispering are hardly advice at all. Neither is acting like your preferred genre is superior music.
        Or are you talking about what you said to me? That didn't sound like advice either. Everything youve said does sound like the typical condescending arrogance of the very type of privileged white "jazzhole" this article is all about. And the fact that you're whining butthurt about it prettymuch confirms that.
        And why do you assume I don't have respect for Miles, Bird and Trane? Love them all, as artists though, not so much as entertainers. Showmanship, playing to please an audience, thats more Louis and Duke's department. Sounds like youre the one who missed MY point.
        Frankly I can't make heads or tales of the reply you just posted. Be specific and comprehensible or go make better use of your time somewhere else.

      • Jesus christ you're a lost cause I give up. No more comments from me it's a waste of time. You didn't comprehend a word I said. Privileged white Jazz Hole… ha… whining…ha! Look in the mirror to see who's whining

  13. So true! Why kill your own buzz?

    I like the Charlie Parker anecdote about going to a coffee shop at three in the morning after an after-hours session. He put a dime in the juke box and played a Hank Williams tune. Maybe it was 'So lonesome I could cry'. And he got some eye-rolling from his mates, and he said, "No! Just listen to it! Listen to the story!"

    I think jazz was born when musicians opened doors to many possibilities. It won't flourish if we try to close them.

  14. Thank you for saying those things in a balanced way. I have experienced the negativity of "vibing" and it can practically scar a fledgling jazz player for life. I also found many jazz musicians pointing out the deficiencies of their peers. That's like standing on the back of another to appear taller. This bahavior was so common I had no idea that it was not normal, until I started hanging out with musicians who didn't play jazz, they were encouraging and maybe not as schooled but so much more friendly and enthusiastic about playing together. I left the jazz scene in my town and changed my ways to become more inclusive and encouraging and this did a lot for my career path.
    Thanks to the encouragement of the new community of musicians with whom I started to hang out, I became what I dreamed of being – a full-time musician who plays all styles of music in my act. My decision to change whom I aligned myself with was life-changing. I would encourage people to bury their negative attiudes and try being more positive – it puts more money in your pocket and is actually a healthy change internally-speaking.

    • Jazz has become an elitist music, both audience and players. It couldn't possibly drift any further from it's roots than it has today.

  15. like sonny rollins said jazz is king of music. everything started as jazz at one point. like when your writing a tune and you like a lick you played you liked it and you wrote it down. just improvised and liked how it sounded and wrote it down. jazz is improvised music. I like and listen to unimprovised music a lot and respect it a lot, but jazz is just the best. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion. the problem is that jazz is very pretentious and people think you need to have gone to music school to play and like it. That is just not true! Jazz is too related to academia. its art not math class. that's what stinks unless you go to music school in a city or live in a city. its impossible to find any musicians to play with. that's why jazz is just limited to mostly privileged kids.

  16. My first time to sing with a combo at a local jazz jam, "Autumn Leaves" in French. i'm a singer AND musician, sing all day at my job. Nervous, hadn't worked with a mike much less a group backing me up….wasn't horrible, but could have been better. The kicker? The organizer actually came up to me while others were playing and said I was not allowed to singer ever again in "his" jams. I still PLAY at them, just not sing. Talk about putting a damper on things, crushing the positive vibes, That was three years ago and I still get nauseous thinking about how he sidled up to me with a very polite smile on and zinged me with the news. Lost all respect for the guy, he's supposed to be an educator…..yet others sing in a similar if not worse manner. Wonder if he realizes how many musicians he has negatively impacted by carrying on this way? I am still planning on working up one tune to break out of this funk, still sing among friends who encourage me to go do it.

    • I've seen newbies get run off the same way many times. They should encourage people who are still learning, not mock them and make them feel otherwise unwelcome. It's not the music it's the people who play it. Rude, intolerant, mean-spirited. That's not what music is supposed to be about, and that's probably another reason so few people listen to jazz anymore. I am speaking generally of course. I have a lot of good friends who aren't like that. And it's usually the younger ones with the worst attitudes, but there are definitely some older, very accomplished musicians with those nasty high school attitudes too.

      • As jazz shrinks out of sight outside the biggest cities, the cynical, shit talking, big city attitude has become the jazz attitude to an alarming degree.

      • there are more trust fund babies coming up now than ever before in history. many don't bother going into business and the sciences because they don't have to, they'd rather study the arts because they don't need to earn a living. the jazz scene is infested with these brats, and their attitudes are generally very exclusive, elitist and mean-spirited. the irony to me is that this great music that started as the music of poor black folk has become perverted into competitive academicism by rich white people and sounds nothing like what it started as. the silver lining to me is that no one listens to it anymore except for pretentious rich aficionados and other jazz musicians. jazz is dead, and the phony, elitist culture of the wealthy and their spoiled children is what killed it.

  17. Wow the stuck-up douchebaggery of the jazz scene isn't just my imagination, thank you! This is why I don't go to jams anymore. I never met so many trust fund babies with their heads trapped permanently up their own asses. It's also why I decided to go trad. I am a working class kid, I want to play music that appeals to working class people, and trad appeals to everyone not just those who have an ear for straight-ahead and avante garde (or only think they do.)

    What makes music worth it to me more than anything is making people happy, seeing them smiling and dancing, curing bad moods with fun, and trad is more about fun than showing off. It's still the most listener-friendly form of jazz, very difficult for anyone not to enjoy.

  18. Hi Brent, in my opinion this is not exclusively the case with jazz musicians. I had a friend who was a classical musician and he could not hear or talk about other kinds of music because he thought everything outside classical was shit. Although I once started as a jazz musician I played for about 10 years on clarinette in classical music to learn to play from sheet music, but for me it was not challenging enough playing exactly what was on the sheet music. But that does not mean I hate it. Sometimes I watch the Andre Rieu orchestra and I like it, for an hour. Or the Rolling Stones or Adele, for an hour. I think listening to all kinds of music can make me a better jazz musician and I respect them all, but I like playing jazz the most because to me it is the most challenging kind of music. Composing something on the spot is very challenging. And rewarding if you succeed in playing what you had in mind at that moment. To me jazz music it is not better or worse, it is what it is. Take it or leave it!

  19. Attracting an audience for your music is the acid test of economic success in the music business. A band will only draw an audience if there is an emotional connection to the music to which the audience can relate.
    Now, most people only connect emotionally to music that they listen to while courting, which deals with the various emotional issues of love.
    The problem with a lot of jazz, especially progressive jazz, is that the band plays a catchy melody for 2 choruses, and then starts solos for each band member for the next 15 minutes that are, in effect, just lateral arabesques, that have no real connection to the original melody, and are, in fact, just an exercise in musical gymnastics, designed to impress the musical cognoscenti (meaning, local jazz musicians, who might drop in), that only drives the paying audience into starting conversations about the hot chick or hot guy sitting three tables away.
    And then jazz musicians wonder what is wrong with peoples' taste in music, that they don't intellectually appreciate the convoluted solos that took 5 years of intensive study at a famous college of music.

    • Improvisation is not just "designed to impress the musical cognoscenti". It is, however, "musical gymnastics" which is fun (operative word) for the gymnast as well as the "cognoscenti". At jazz concerts, even small venues, the audience, even non-players, has as much fun as the performers. As for "attracting an audience", accessibility is the objective for success. When I was a kid, I was shocked to learn that Eddy Arnold had sold twice as many records as Frank Sinatra. One of my favorite movie lines is in "Song of the Thin Man" when Keenan Wynn invites Nick and Nora to an after-hours jam that he says is "strictly for hipsters and intellectuals." Or put another way, Jazz = 3,000 chords/3 audience members. Rock = 3 chords/3,000 audience members.

      • That's because music is an art, not a soccer match. Treat it like a competitive sport and you end up with, well, bebop. I respect that there are purists who don't want to play for their audience, they want to push boundaries. But they can't have their cake and eat it too. If you want to be a purist and and/or an academic show off, don't expect to have an audience.

      • I agree that music should not be a "competitive sport". The original intent was collaboration. However, I think your take on the purist and/or academic as a "show off" is not necessarily mistaken, but misinterpreted. Naturally, when a player has spent a significant part of his lifetime pursuing the depth of his/her art form, they would want to display the result of their education. Unfortunately, upon release from academia, many players are shocked that their education is not validated by the public as it was when they were in school with other academics.

        As a player, and because I just happen to live in the epicenter of the "cultural wasteland", I gave up long ago expecting an audience. But, now and then, I find people who are at least curious about WTF I'm doing, so they will stay awhile and watch and listen – even though they may not be hearing… I do try to make my music as accessible as possible, though, while still keeping it interesting for myself.

        The problem with learning and playing jazz, is that only a small portion of the general population has the sophistication to appreciate the beauty of its complexity.

        BTW, bebop has its tiny audience too.

        Speaking only for myself, I would rather have silence than "smooth jazz" with its sax+reverb and constant accented 3.

    • Right on dude! I spent 25 years of my life studying jazz and I still love practicing it but I try to avoid playing jazz at all cost- I love funk, R&B music, I play mostly at weddings and I can`t believe the response I get when I solo on a pop well know tune, I even get money given to me as I`m soloing .LOL

  20. "Do something about it" is the pitfall here, Brent. Musicians (any kind really) are supposed to devote every waking hour to the direct pursuit of the art and the profession. There should be nothing left for serious involvement in your community or the world around you.

    This is common wisdom, of course, but that doesn't make it right. Look at folk musicians. They are much more open to community, because their music has that history. Jazz doesn't. It's hard for us to even think of being involved the way they are. But what if the music, and the profession, would benefit from learning the ways of other arts?

    Of course, if it cuts down on practice time and the drive for perfection, forget it…why be more plugged into your world if all you can be is great and not perfect? We have a creed. It's not always adaptive or healthy, but it comes with the music and our training and we don't question it.

    • Jazz IS folk music. Urban folk music. Since the academy adopted jazz in the '60's, there's been a constant drive to transform it into a "legitimate " art form. What we've ended up with is over wrought arrangements with very little improvisation or ugly non-melodic self indulgence. The best jazz is still being created at parties, in garages, and in small obscure places.

      • Agreed, jazz is folk music and there are plenty of folk dancers who need this music and jazz musicians in order to develop, enjoy, and advance their hobby (and likewise, we need the dancers to have performance opportunities to grow as artists) – there are so many of these early jazz and swing dances, Charleston, Lindy Hop, Balboa, St. Louis Shag, Collegiate Shag, Peabody, and on and on. The swing dance community globally has embraced early jazz, promoting those musicians who perform it, developing community jam sessions at dance events and localities for those who want to learn more about jazz and performing, and some dancers have made the transition into performing jazz as competent musicians as their love for jazz grows. I keep seeing articles like this casting a negative light on the jazz community, and I see some of that in my local jazz community in a broader (i.e. modern jazz, academic jazz) sense, but I'm glad I can retreat to this other community on the weekends that has a lot of heart, motivation, and some really stellar musicians who understand the fundamentals of what makes something swing, both as a noun and a verb.

      • But what Derrick says is especially correct in one sense – where jazz has that folk (i.e. community) presence, it is in <i>only the largest urban areas</i>. Even there it seems to be a separate, spin-off community, with minimum involvement from the mainstream, academic jazz players.

        There is much jazz being played in small-to-medium metros, but it is controlled by local academics. Younger people do not gravitate to older or danceable jazz in those places – perhaps because no local players want to get involved with those styles.

      • I would respectfully disagree, there are early jazz and swing bands and jams popping up all over the Southeast in places I would not consider to be only the largest urban areas – Asheville, Huntsville, Durham – and these bands and jams are not controlled by academics and are being driven by the swing dance community, out of necessity to have music for dancing (and out of love for the music, too, but it's so nice to have an audience). The people who are gravitating to older/danceable jazz in these places are mostly younger musicians. It's a part of this movement Vanity Fair wrote about two years ago, and there's a network of these younger jazz musicians all over the country playing this music and inspiring musicians in smaller localities to take up their instruments in the name of early jazz and swing. There are also music jams at dance events where musicians and musician/dancers come together and jam, so people from the smaller urban areas come together at these events (that don't always occur is larger cities – more often in smaller cities because hosting events in larger cities is cost-prohibitive) and meet to perform/jam together. pwlsax, I think we are operating in two different spheres. 😉

      • I'm in the greater Des Moines area, and it's very different. In the Midwest, music doesn't run in everybody's heritage the way it does in the south. People like just a few styles that "everybody" likes. The traditional jazz players are all over a certain age – I'm 50 and just about the kid. In the under-30 demo, there's nobody but dancers.

        That's what makes me think we're not a big enough metro, or else not a southern or eastern enough culture.

      • You are making some pretty broad generalizations in your comment. This phenomenon is not limited to the South or the East, and, while it may night be right in your backyard, early jazz bands lead by younger musicians are in the Midwest – Josh Duffee's bands out of Davenport, Iowa, Miss Jubilee in St. Louis, and Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles got their start at the University of Iowa.

      • all true…however they can't work much hereabouts. The Pickles are a Denver band now, and Josh, happily, has the world as his territory. In Des Moines and even Minneapolis there's virtually nothing, and as far as I can see, little desire for the music.

      • It sounds like you need to get out of Des Moines, LOL. In Minneapolis, Robert Bell and Naomi Uyama.

      • Laura is correct. I'm part of that same sphere. And I guess it is somewhat separate from the 'established' jazz community. …so much so that many of you probably don't even know it's happening. As someone who organizes one of the events of the sort that Laura just mentioned, I can tell you that it's the younger people that are driving this thing.

    • OK, let me say it more politely this time. If the "folk" aren't listening to it, it's not folk music. And the common, working class people (the "folk") don't like it. Except for everything before bebop, they never really did. Once jazz became "adopted" as another put it, it became an institutional art music, started becoming more and more harmonically complex, solo-oriented, and frankly uninteresting to most people. I know very few people other than jazz musicians who can even listen to bebop without feeling annoyed by it. It alienates the ears of the common folk. They tend to like simple harmonies, danceable beats and music that expresses THEIR feelings and THEIR stories.
      Jazz has it's roots in the folk music of simple black folks, but today it sounds entirely different as the music of privileged white kids with music degrees. It has become a musicians' music, competitive academicism and theme music for upper class elitism.

      If you want to play jazz that most people still do like to hear, play tradjazz. Trad styles still have universal appeal, still make people want to dance, and are still more about fun and making people happy than showing off Mach 10 noodling skills for people only pretending to have an ear for it.

      • Jimmy, I wish people would open their ears up and get with that universal appeal. Unfortunately, there's a thing called cool, and it's standing in the way. Trad is just forgotten enough that only jazz players know about it. And 95% think it's beneath them. At the same time, it's just jazz to the rest of the public, music to stay away from.

      • I respectfully disagree. I played trad all summer long last year during the festival season, private parties and busking at farmer's markets. I saw with my own eyes the crowds this music still draws, the smiles, the spontaneous dancing. More than a century later this music still has broad appeal, to hell with the cool factor. And youngsters are getting into it again. The thing I love most about my band is having mixed age players from teens to 70's. We all love trad and our band sells. And the cool factor is becoming obsolete in the internet age anyways. Trends are fractured into infinite pieces now because mass media has become an endlessly diversifying spectrum of choices. The one-way mass media of the 20th century is over and so is the monoculture of that era.

      • working class people arent listening to it because there not exposed to it. I was lucky enough to stumble upon coltrane and miles when I was 17 wish I heard them earlier. all my music teaches in public school never talked about these people. I have turned people on to bebop that just actually like listening to music and arent academics. Sucks that its so hard to find anything in pop culture that mentions that jazz. everyone thinks of jazz as just trad. trad is cool and all but bebop and post bop is just the most fun to listen too. by trad do you mean swing big band?

      • That's really not true. Working class people are aware of jazz, and they generally dislike it. When I was younger I tried playing all the best jazz for my non-musician friends and most of them couldn't stand it or just ignored it. And I'm mostly talking about straight ahead and avante garde genres, and while they tolerated big band better, it was still a bit of a tough sell.

        A good example was when I was working on a loading dock in my 20's, loading freight trucks for route delivery, and the guys would fight over whether the radio would be on rock or country, finally settling on alternating it every day one then the other. To change things up one morning I put it on the jazz station, and nearly got my ass kicked. They were literally screaming they hated it so much. I also worked in a restaurant with some other jazz players and the rest of the employees go so sick of us playing jazz they got it banned from the CD player. That's how working class people feel about jazz.

        However I have gotten a much better reaction from trad. And by trad I mean real trad, as in dixieland, gypsy, New Orleans, hot jazz. I consider klezmer and early latin genres to be close cousins of trad too, and definitely have that same universal appeal. Trad has such broad appeal because it was the pop music of the day, written for the audience to dance and sing along to, or play it at home on sheet music. It wasn't trying to be some great art music like everything from bebop forward, it was music for the people; just simple chords, fun, feelings and stories, like all popular music, but still a hell of a lot more fun to improvise over for a soloist than rock, blues, etc.

        It IS making a comeback too, though like another commenter said a lot of jazz players think of it as beneath them, but I think the truth is they can't really play it. It's a different style that doesn't sound right played with bop chops. It has it's roots in blues, tin pan alley and ragtime and that's the style you have to learn to play it. And you really have to know how to land solid on your chord tones, not just blow past them with fast scales and licks.

      • because they already have a preconceived notion of what jazz is. (usually they think just big bands with horns). They did not listen to this stuff when they were kids thats why. for a majority of people they stop seeking out music after I say 16. (not everyone but people that just dont follow music really or like it cause its a trend). The media just doesnt care about jazz and dont promote it. they make a lot more with boy bands and rappers. Its harder to open minds when people are older. bebop is trad. its just more interesting to listen too and has a better rhythm section. its called tastes. the older stles played inside only knd of boring. and any proficient bebop player could play that stuff. what makes it bebop? fast melodies? What can we do? actually invest money into making it cool for kids again. And about working class people. if you put on country in some places that would never fly. Thats with every genre. I think people that listen to jam bands need to listen because I will show one of them a trane song and they go who is this guy its awesome? its seems they only know about rock music. beacause thats all they ever heard.

      • Lol, smh, hey I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but you should research this stuff. Bebop is NOT tradjazz. Look it up.

        Furthermore, no amount of money can make anything cool. Trends happen spontaneously, and the media takes advantage of cool things that emerge naturally, they do not create cool, they don't have that kind of power. It's like trying to create a viral video. No one can intentionally create a viral video. They happen rather unpredictably, but when they happen the media exploits them as much as they can. It's the same with music. If every music label, radio station, music website and magazine dumped their entire budgets into trying to make bebop cool the result would be disasterous failure.

        You can compare tradjazz and swing to pop music (rock, country, R&B, rap, etc) because it's easy to dance to and has great stories, good feelings people can relate to. Bebop and straight ahead is more of an elitist music, culturally speaking, because it's highly cerebral and artistic. The working class generally don't want to stop and contemplate art music, they want to get down and boogie to music that grabs at their emotions, and gives a context for dancing, meeting people to hook up with. Bebop is worthless for dancing. It's too fast and too syncopated, and regular folks can't feel it, they just feel irritated by it generally. Tradjazz and early swing are wonderful forms of pop music. Bebop, straight-ahead, avante garde and even modern big band are not, and that's why their audience stays small and getting smaller. No amount of marketing and media attention can change that.

      • trad jazz just used different instruments and was not from the north I guess, you have to stop being obsessed with genres the repiortoire they play is very similar to bebop but just like I said the rhythm section is a little different and in bebop they play outside a little more. when it got to new York that's when they added more harmony to it. I don't know about you but I could definitely dance to art blakey. I don't what bebop your listening too, Horace silver I can really dance too. majority of people never heard of these guys. record companies are to blame. because they stopped signing jazz artists because instead of making a million they want to make 100 million. If there is no platform for people to find this music of course its gonna stay niche. What Makes trad so to different bebop, hard bop, post bop swing really hard. I know about trad jazz, Watch it all the time were I live at the college because its the only jazz bands they will hire because of all the seniors that live around me. I talk to a lot of seniors and a lot of them never even heard of Horace silver, art blakey, coleman Hawkins, john Coltrane even Charlie parker. which I find amazing. I live in New Jersey too. They were never exposed to it. The old people don't seem to know artists just songs.

      • No, trad jazz made it up North too. It's called trad or traditional jazz because it's the original jazz, what all other genres were spawned from. It started the first jazz craze up north and it's what the hot jazz era developed from. Bebop developed later as a competitive kind of music the musicians were playing after hours, just for themselves, not really for an audience. And it pretty much stayed that way and that's why it never had the popularity swing did. Maybe YOU can dance to bebop, most people can't, and that's why old people haven't heard of those players. They remember the artists from tunes they were dancing to. Bebop is too fast and syncopated to dance to so it had a much smaller audience. Besides that, most people didn't really like it. It was the first true "musician's jazz," more an art form than a popular music, and true art forms push boundaries whether it alienates the audience or not.

      • no hot jazz was from the south and made its way up north and the north refined it they remember the tunes on the radio that companies pushed on them. One good reason Miles Davis Became worldwide successfully because Columbia backed him and got his music actually played. not all bop is fast and unlyrical what are you listening too? I don't know How you cant dance to a groove from Horace silver?

      • Hot jazz IS trad jazz, and I never said it was from the north, read more carefully. It started in the south and migrated north and became a craze that lasted many years across the western world. Record labels are just like everything else, they take advantage of trends, they do not create them. Miles had the sense to lead jazz out of the bebop era and back into slow, steady grooves and simple melodies, and THAT's why he is the most famous jazz musician. He knew what people liked to hear, and it wasn't Dizzy and Bird noodling at Mach 10. There is SOME danceable bebop, just like there is some undanceable swing, we are speaking in generalities and as a general rule bebop is not dance music, it's art music.

      • you said hot jazz era started from trad jazz. you know Jazz is just improvised Music. Bach and Beethoven improvised all the time except you couldn't record so they wrote it down so other people could play it and so they could remember.

      • You're splitting hairs. Never said it was different music. It wasn't called trad back then, it was called "jass," then "jazz" then "hot jazz." Different words for the same thing, as the styles started to differentiate by region into their own flavors, but all essentially the same style of music. Nothing was radically different until bebop, and it WAS radically different.
        You should read a jazz history book or at least an article. It's fascinating and will give you a comprehensive understanding of the different styles and eras and where they came from.

      • I have read about it and I listened to it. and its all just music, there is good music and bad music. Its improvised so that's what makes it fun. There is good in those types, there's is also really bad. bebop and trad are not radically different at all. How? people start trends but the media is what makes it popular. so if I started a trend with no corporate backing its gonna takes years for me to get noticed worldwide. Miles did not pander to his audience like you basically said He just did what he wanted that's why he is the man. stop thinking I don't know about jazz history. I HAVE READ ABOUT IT. It goes both ways people that only play bop don't like trad and people that play trad don't like bop. that's the wrong attitude. there both cool and I definitely think both are great for dancing. your way off for thinking that people being jerks at jams is hurting anything. being a comedian is probably the roughest. other comedians tend be huge pricks to one another and constantly criticize other comedians. But comedy is huge because the media loves it and they can still make 100 million.

  21. Right on the money (no pun). Somewhere there is an interview with George Wein in which he says: "Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Lester Young…….that is hard to sell" (or words to that effect). For a long time I thought that by working hard at jazz I would contribute in advancing the state of jazz. Then I found out I was not advancing anything. I was working at maintaining the status quo of the precious music. Well, that is good enough for me! Joep van Leeuwen

  22. i think youre pretty right.jazz musicians especially the school musicians are the less open minded people. I think that comes from A. a frustration of seeing other people having fun on simple music while they practice 7 hours per day and B. Frustration because nobody recognizes their talent
    I like what you say on pop, it's true. Good music is just something that enhances the good we have in ourselves, our sensibility and proudness . there is no objectivty in musical quality. nobody cares if you play a D or a D°7+5sus4 in 13/8 you just got to make it live and to believe it

  23. An issue that caused me to leave a saxophone group on FB recently, was the elitist attitude I met when declaring a dislike of some jazz music styles.

    I've been told that I lack the musical maturity to understand it – even though I could read music when I was 8, and have played most genres on various instruments. Well, that was the politest response. I've also been verbally abused in the strongest terms, some of which are probably banned from most social network sites.

    It's as if there is a fear that the secret might get out that all jazz is not all good. So, dissenters are "gagged" as quickly as possible.

    Jazz musicians and lovers of the music can rest assured that it is a highly technical and complex form that has a lot to offer the world. To foster an atmosphere where it's possible to accept criticism of the less efficacious aspects of the genre, would be a sign of maturity.

    Sometimes, the Emperor really isn't wearing any clothes.


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