The Pitchfork of Jazz

Some time ago, never mind when, I spent my usual time making my travels across the internet, hitting up my normal gamut of websites. As link leads on to link as the internet tends to do in some byzantine fashion, I eventually ran across Ian C. Rogers’s blog post challenging the jazz industry to step up its Internet game. His post essentially proposes jazz musicians finally run decent websites to promote themselves as any 21st Century musician should and to create a real network of jazz promotion over the internet. Rogers decried the aesthetic of All About Jazz and its waning ability to bring new fans into the fold. Rogers wrote a post about what I like to call a “noticeable absence.” It takes a gifted mind, specifically a trained mind, to see what doesn’t exist. Rogers in his post highlighted why jazz’s fan base is floundering where other niche genres are currently succeeding. The funny thing is Rogers made this claim in September of last year, sometime around the fledgling stages of this very website.

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It seems quite odd that I’m advocating for this website while writing for this website, but that’s sort of what I’m doing in this preliminary post. In an odd, preaching to the choir sort of way, I’m explaining why I think this website is important. This is why I’m currently contributing to this website for free. I had actually intended to write a post like this for my own blog, In Retrospect, about a couple of guys from Quebec who answered the call to bring jazz enthusiasm to the 21st Century. It was going to be a well thought out but sparsely read scribe talking about some scrappy little upstart website I like and think shows potential. It would talk about its capacity to grow and how it’s taking the proper place that it should in the newfound jazz internet.

Yes, I say “newfound” jazz internet because while there may have been folks out there traveling that “Information Superhighway,” no one was carpooling. True, there have been folks on the internet who have done blogging for years. I’ve followed Ethan Iverson’s writing for some time, cerebral as I may find it on occasion. Destination: OUT has been churning out the avant-garde jazz gems for going on four years now. Willard Jenkins has maintained a good presence online since 2007. Still, there hasn’t been a cohesive force between all these elements until very recently. I personally haven’t noticed much of the jazz internet until very recently, actually since the Terry Teachout fiasco. I’d like to think most folks around these parts didn’t see what I saw until that fateful editorial made the rounds.

Whether or not you think he was accurate in his claims, Terry Teachout may be the most important force in jazz today, for he united those of us who are truly interested in jazz to change the way we talk about it, the way we appeal to others, and the way we publicize it on the internet. Teachout planted the seed that Ian Rogers watered. Now we are seeing the true fruits of that process. Patrick Jarenwattananon helms probably the best jazz blog amalgamator on the internet today at NPR’s A Blog Supreme. Darcy James Argue is not only a visionary in his compositions but also a visionary in his approach to how a simple website should express and artist’s intentions and make his work known. Josh Jackson has set the bar quite high on what a jazz podcast should be with The Checkout. And to get back to my point, Sebastien Helary and Justin Wee are on the ground floor of making that aforementioned “Pitchfork of Jazz” with Nextbop. The jazz community is just now finding its legs and finally following along with its cousin Indie Rock, as Nate Chinen once claimed.

If jazz is to move forward artistically, which it certainly has done, it must also be noticed. There are those of us in the community who have followed it quite diligently through its highs and lows both in the realm of creativity and notoriety. 2009 has most certainly been a high point of that creative edge with Vijay Iyer releasing Historicity, the best album since sliced bread, and Darcy James Argue making us all rethink what a big band can do. The genre is certainly moving forward, now is the time we need to get out the word. The jazz internet came together in part to prove Terry Teachout wrong. Now we are continuing the work to prove to everyone else that jazz certainly is something worth hearing and something worth loving.