Jazz, Interrupted

Laurence Elder

Laurence Elder

  • Ever wonder what happened to jazz?

    The musical genre that rocked the American club scene in the 20s and 30s has seen a steady decline in popularity over the last three decades. What is it about jazz music that makes it seem so inaccessible to the internet generation? I turned to singer-songwriter Laurence Elder for some answers.

    TM: When did jazz start resonating with you?

    LE: I grew up listening to classic rock and classical music – everything from Led Zeppelin to Franz Liszt. I was largely self-taught until a decision in my 20s to formally study music. I joined an eclectic, progressive rock band when I was 19, called “Absolutely Curtains” and after we broke up I was inspired to learn the theory behind music and auditioned to enter Shenandoah Conservatory of music. Even though I couldn’t read music I was accepted ‘cause I had good ears and I could play. It was during the next five years that I really started absorbing jazz and learning the jazz vocabulary. I became so enamored with jazz piano that that’s all I focused on for the next fifteen years. I didn’t sing and wasn’t writing much music. I was absorbing the music of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and some of the more modern groups like the Yellowjackets. I was and still am a huge Yellowjackets fan.

    TM: Why do you think jazz has declined in popularity?

    LE: Partially because of our society’s increasing quick-fix, short-attention-span mentality. It’s much worse than it used to be. Jazz is an art form, and less people care about art than they did twenty or even ten years ago. People can barely get through a three minute song, how are they going to appreciate the nuances of a three minute instrumental solo within a ten minute song? The industry feeds this cookie cutter mentality and enables our short attention spans even more and it becomes a vicious circle. Jazz and other art forms are not taught enough in school, and school music programs in general are undervalued.

    TM: How do you make jazz accessible to the MySpace generation?

    LE: There are zillions of jazz sites on the internet and hopefully it is making a difference.

    But I think it’s also important for jazz artists to extend their reach beyond the so-called boundaries of jazz and make forays into other music sites that aren’t necessarily so esoteric. Otherwise jazz has the potential to stagnate and not benefit from the cross-pollination of styles and tastes. One of the reasons I’m passionate about my music is because it does blend different genres, and while it has won accolades from the jazz community, it is also more commercially palatable, and pulls from rock, blues, pop, world, etc. That’s why I admire artists like Sting, because he has been so successful with that type of thing, and he’s essentially become a pop artist (the good kind of pop) who is clearly very jazz influenced, and that’s the direction I’m taking. I’m reaching out through many of the popular multi-genre sites on the web such as MySpace, Facebook and iLike, and also becoming more aware of the power of blogging and viral video. We all have to reeducate ourselves in this rapidly changing industry and the internet is obviously becoming an increasingly vital tool for today’s musician.

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    This entry was posted on Monday, May 19th, 2008 at 4:36 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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