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But How Do You Sell It?

[Anthony Dean-Harris]
Editor-In-Chief / @retronius

As we come off the heels of a couple very pulse pounding weeks, I found myself in a bit of a quandary as it relates to writing. I recently went through a case of writer’s lethargy (akin to writer’s block but instead of lacking ideas on which to write, I lacked the motivation to write at all). After that passed, I lacked the capacity to write as I should since my computer died. (Now accepting donations so I can buy a new computer and so these hits can keep on coming.) But one rather difficult obstacle was figuring out how to write a column in a given week in the midst of artist-specific dedicated weeks on Nextbop.

There is a certain challenge in commenting about genre bending. What may sound at the start like an overt novelty like [ELEW] or a sincere curiosity like the heavily lauded [Rusconi] can ultimately sound extremely difficult to describe to others for the purpose of recommendation. Would one’s rock-oriented friends like to hear jazz versions of Sonic Youth songs? Will others be as moved to head bang to a piano? One can never be certain about these sorts of things.

Extrapolate this idea to a much larger scale. I’m having a hard enough time doing this sort of thing as a writer to a modest audience (and hopefully growing like [the consumers of Flintstone vitamins]). Imagine the challenge of being ELEW’s publicist. Oh sure, Eric Lewis is playing for the President of the United States now and was one of the few jazz acts at SXSW (man, I really wished I could have made it there this year), but it clearly couldn’t have been easy to sell this guy at the outset.

With jazz going in so many different directions, especially with the warring factions between traditionalists and new fusionists (I just made up that word for this movement we’re doing here. Does it work?), putting it all into words is convincing others about it is an entirely separate challenge. Knowing who specifically to convince should hear these genre benders is an even larger challenge.

Though artists like Rusconi, [Jacky Terrasson] (in his new endeavors), ELEW, et. al. should not fear the direction of their innovation, they do seem to be cognizant that they will find audiences, even if the waters will be choppy for a while.

As a writer, fledgling critic and journalist, I dwell a great deal on nomenclature. Although, I’ve noted that musicians don’t focus on what to call their work. One could surmise this makes a great deal of sense. Figuring out what to call an artistic period, how to lump a group of musicians together ideologically, or discerning what to classify certain works is more the job of the critic.

If this is the case, folks like me, [Nate Chinen], [Alex Rodriguez], and legions of other writers have a lofty task ahead of us. The music here at Nextbop is only the tip of the iceberg of a steadily expanding genre. It really is an exciting time to be a jazz listener, even more so to be a jazz writer. Still, it has to be pretty rough to be a jazz publicist.

Anthony Dean-Harris is a contributing writer for [African-American Reflections] and hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on [91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio]. More of his writing can be found at his blog, [In Retrospect] and you can also [follow him on Twitter].