anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius
I have never personally met Sébastien Hélary. He and I have never spoken on the phone, nor even a call over Skype or Google's nifty new way to make phone calls through Gmail. The organization of running this site has been through textual correspondence-- emails and Facebook and instant messaging. In what's going on a year and a half of my involvement with Nextbop, the building, molding, and promotion of this site has been done in Montreal, Quebec and the forming of the site's editorial voice and infrequent maturation of its writers (who we'd be glad to have many continue contributing and are open to more) has been done from San Antonio, Texas. Neither individuals involved have crossed paths, yet. Our modern technology has bridged this gulf which leads me to the question-- how important exactly is juxtaposition today?
This question has come to my mind recently because of discussions Seb and I have been having recently about the future of the site. Oddly enough, there's actually a considerable number of people who head to this site regularly (which blows my mind and humbles me immensely) to check out the best in jazz today, so many that at some point a few years from now, it's not too farfetched to set up offices somewhere. These are still pretty distant hopes but it also raises the question of where should this office be? The state of jazz today dictates the clear choice is New York City. It is Jazz Mecca. The city is home to a ridiculously large concentration of musicians; one could see a gig any night of the week. It would be preposterous not to seriously consider being located at the heart of the action, constantly having such close access to anything and everything jazz. The authenticity of being involved in New York's jazz scene is irreplicable. But then we'd have to consider other things like the nigh-prohibitively high cost of living, the notion of being just another jazz publication in NYC, and figuring out how to move our Canadian founders to the United States with no problems. When these things are taken into consideration, one must pose those factors alongside the aforementioned question of the necessity of juxtaposition.
It is an oft-spoken truism that jazz is a music that is best consumed live. It undergoes permutation and adaptation in the moment based on the musicians' reading of one another and of the audience. While we can live stream performances, post recordings on YouTube, send mp3s as attachments to emails (By the way, artists, why do you think I'd want a physical copy of your music? It's ending up on my iPod anyway. Why can't you just send me a .zip file of your album and a nicely written .pdf of your press release, liner notes, and some photos? Actually, let’s tackle this issue another week.), and use every other digital platform around to tie artists to fans, it's still a mere shadow of the visceral connection one gets through live jazz. Yet does this also mean that outside of New York or even New Orleans, absolutely everyone else is having an insufficient experience with jazz music? While part of me feels that Nextbop could grow exceedingly well from an office in Brooklyn, there's another part of me who feels that we should take a stand to show that this music can flourish and grow without being confined to the Five Boroughs (and really, one could whittle that down to maybe just two, I don't hear a lot about really sick shows coming out of The Bronx). There are a great many of us across the globe who relish in this music and there are many more who have yet to appreciate it. They can't all go to New York to experience it, so it's worth asking why we should as well.
It all comes down to the oft aforementioned question of value. One must determine if it is worth it to relocate to one of the most expensive cities on earth to immerse oneself in a genre that's best experienced live. As a giant enthusiast, this doesn't seem too out of the question but there's also a side of this stance that feels like this thinking perpetuates the genre's latent elitism. In an era in which technology is breaking down boundaries, it feels like it is right in Nextbop's wheelhouse to buck this elitism.
The wonder of this digital landscape is its ability to be so quickly traversed by all with a fast enough internet connection. It places us all on the same field and gives a sense of equality in access that has rarely been seen at such a level before and its continued development only shows more promise. As society continues to navigate the tricky problems of rising above the din of voices that saturates the web, being compensated for work when so many people have figured out how torrents work, and other such quandaries that have to deal with existing on a plane where nothing and everything is real, it also is working more and more to give more access to more things both real and digital in mind-bendingly new ways. It's becoming decreasingly less necessary to physically be where the action is... But it still doesn't hurt being in the middle of it all, either.
Anthony Dean-Harris is a co-editor of the online literary blog, SunDryed Affairs, 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.