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PJ, Ditto

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius
Photo of the Undead Jazz Fest by the highly lauded Patrick Jarenwattananon

To be quite honest, I don’t really have a topic this week. Part of that is because things are a little topsy turvy here at Nextbop but we’re sure to come out of it really soon to continue to bring you quality content to show the best that jazz can offer. The other reason why is because I frankly think our good friend, Patrick Jarenwattananon has said everything I’ve wanted to say quite perfectly this week.

Over at NPR’s A Blog Supreme, Jarenwattananon wrote two spectacular posts on Tuesday on jazz’s influence in the press for a new generation. He began with a [post taking JazzWax’s Mark Myers to task] for blaming the small jazz audience on the iPod-tethered Millennial generation. Too often our media has spoken disparagingly of the Millennials for their flippant nature with this world of options. We get our coffee how we like at Starbucks, our ice cream how we like at Cold Stone. We communicate constantly and have the world at our fingertips through our smartphones (I’m as connected to my BlackBerry as Seb is to his iPhone). In this era of conveniences, it can be said that we may not appreciate how astounding all these things are.

With this massive access we have to music, it’s easy to say, “well, they just hit ‘skip’ constantly. They can’t possibly be paying attention. The whole lot of ‘em are braindead fools with their buds in their ears!” Yet this rather lazy claim doesn’t pay any real attention to the music to which this generation is listening. If Nate Chinen is right about [indie rock being jazz’s cousin] (I will continue to link that story until you click it and you will like it, damn ye!), and if the genre is steadily growing with complexity (for Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion made numerous Best of 2009 lists and you’d be surprised at how complex that album is), or if other genres are reaching out for inspiration and crossing all sorts of boundaries, the complexity of music truly isn’t an issue. PJ is most certainly right in his stating that the Millennial generation isn’t listening to jazz because of skips on an iPod but moreso because this kind of music isn’t on their iPods in the first place.

Jarenwattanon then continued this ideology in his subsequent post, [“On Pitchfork and Jazz”]. He continued the sentiment that the current foremost music website on the internet should likely more often throw jazz a bone if they don’t seem to hate the genre overall judging by their occasional reviews of the likes of [Vijay Iyer], Rudresh Mahanthappa, and others.

This all rather ties together and PJ did such a masterful job of highlighting the problem that I really can’t come up with a much better way of saying it. The issue is exposure to the masses. Just as Jarenwattananon and the rest of his NPR cohorts make it a point to make jazz a thriving force on the intermet, Nextbop has the same goals in mind. Jarenwattananon has positioned himself as the foremost Millennial jazz journalist (I’d want it to be me but let’s face it, I pretty much editorialize too much to be an objective journalist right now), and because of that, our goals and thoughts are often aligned (and I totally wish I could have made it up to the Montreal Jazz Fest to hang out with my dear president and PJ).

As I seem to often say here, jazz is well on the road to recovery. With folks like Patrick Jarenwattananon continuing this sort of discourse over the internet, where everyone is these days, we’re continuing the fight to give this genre the exposure it needs to thrive. Hopefully, our blogosphere won’t be the only ones doing so and this crazy generation of habitual track skippers can get The Claudia Quintet on Pitchfork as Best New Music.

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].