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The Jazz Community Starts at Home

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius

photo: "Harlem 1958" originally published in Esquire magazine in 1959

As I say quite often, I have a show on my local jazz radio station, [KRTU San Antonio], that deals primarily with the kind of jazz in which Nextbop specializes. If you ever wanted to hear the voice attached to the posts you read every week, you should probably tune in Fridays at 9pm Central time (we have a [webstream and audio archives], you know). Yet while my little hour on the radio plays nothing but (to hijack Seb again) SiCK modern mainstream jazz, the rest of the station runs the whole gamut of the genre.

I don’t want to sound like some effete, judgmental bloke who harps constantly about [buying organic food locally], but I do want to stress the importance of supporting jazz where it matters: your own community. I distinctly remember listening to my local jazz station when I was in high school and learning more about the genre through the guidance of Aaron Prado as the affable, nerdy dj. (Prado currently lives in New York where he’s pursuing his master’s degree and has studied under our very own [Vijay Iyer]. He also just got married so extra congratulations to him.) What I learned from my local jazz station has stayed with me and shaped the way I have listened to music ever since I found 91.7 FM on my dial and it continues to shape the way I think about radio now that I am a small part of that station today.

As time and technology has advanced, our perception of local has changed. Considering the fact that you’re reading this post right now, one could surmise you are a citizen of the Internet (I even capitalized it just now, Associated Press style). We have even closer connections to folks across the other side of the world than we may have locally. Our community is not relegated to mere proximity. The need for the larger jazz community to garner support is just as essential as supporting one’s local community. With the tearing down of boundaries should come the ability to see a broader horizon.

Yet, one cannot deny that the overall jazz community could use our support. This may in effect be preaching to the choir right now, but there isn’t a more important time to become a [member of your jazz station], go see live music, or [stand behind that certain website that you may love so much]. Just as the challenge has been posed to [rethink jazz’s branding] (which is something to consider on a label/publicist level), [rethink jazz’s interpretation] (which is something to consider on the critical level), or [rethink the necessity of jazz’s ideological split] (which is also something to consider on the critical and audience level), yet another challenge is posed to the jazz audience: put your money where your mouth is.

Because of the situation jazz is currently in, the idea of community seems more important than ever. This is a genre that needs support from its base just as much as it could use NEA grants and European festivals. As much as we look to external sources to act as jazz’s patrons, we could be doing more to visit clubs, buy albums, and show genuine interest in the genre we love so much.

Every part of the link (that hermeneutic circle I talk so often about lately) has its role in moving jazz forward, but I can assure you, we’re heading on the right track.

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].

Also, KRTU San Antonio is wrapping up a new membership drive, so please make your way to [http://krtu.org/] to become a member of the station.