I woke up this morning (sure, around noon but I work nights, you know) and remembered a recent conversation with friends, which gives me a chance to drop a long overdue post on wellyouneedit. Ok, asked recently by longtime New Yorkers where to go hear some jazz in the Big Apple, I mentioned a few places, clubs and bars I’d heard of as well as the more hallowed historical venues. Ironically, I’ve never actually checked them out myself as I live in Paris, which also has its own jazz “scene”. So Smalls, Mezzrow, Fat Cat and the like are all pretty much good-sounding music fantasies in my mind, occasionally glimpsed on Youtube when nerding out on today’s musicians improvising after hours. To most people, including those who will half-heartedly admit they like “some jazz”, the music is mostly a defunct museum of long deceased people. Which is an interesting oddity as there are a lot more jazz musicians today worldwide than there were back in the golden age of jazz. The reasons they mostly fall off the radar of the cultural media are complex and difficult to pinpoint and I don’t want to get involved in this discussion.
However, I’d like to say this. The classic oneliner “jazz is at its best live” is still relevant today, and even more prominently I would say. In fact, it may be the only reason the music has survived and shape-shifted so much to this day. Because there is a slew of music lovers and performers committed to pushing the art form forward.
But going back to my New Yorker friends, I thought to myself, there is nothing really new about this. It’s always been hard to know where to go for good live music. Outside the well-advertised (not always advertised actually) top acts, catching a jazz show without anyone tipping you off can be challenging. You might see a familiar name in a leaflet or online magazine and decide to check them out, only to discover that the concert is cancelled or rescheduled. The music hides and its takes some tenacity to get anyone interested in looking for it.
Pianist Ethan Iverson recently spun off his popular and erudite Do the Math blog with a Do the Gig column (sign up here to receive the newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/ethaniverson) reviewing gigs happening in New York city. Here’s a screenshot I lifted from his blog. There are a lot of names I’m not familiar with but there are also big names that remind me how vibrant and diverse the music is. Given time and a little prompting from like-minded friends, I may engage in a similar endeavor some day, listing the acts that drift up on my local radar. Sometimes, you just have to get out – weather permitting – and hit the grimy streets like a hungry hound. You never know, you may stumble on something really, really good.
By the way, if you’re in town this Friday, our trio Fairly Wired will play at la Mairie du 3ème arrondissement, Paris. It will be cold outside. But we’ll make it warm inside.