Gioia Comments on Millennial Jazz

In the beginning of the last chapter of The History of Jazz (in its 2011 edition), Ted Gioia states, “Welcome to the jazz scene of the new millennium, where the music itself is evolving more slowly than everything surrounding it” (369). In the chapter, Gioia contends with the various new trends for jazz musicians attempting to support themselves financially through the music:

professionalism – access to technology allows musicians to cut out or side-step the middleman, thereby forcing all jazz musicians to manage aspects of their careers that were previously the domain of managers, A&R, and marketing specialists. In some cases, appealing to a new patronage system (i.e. kickstarter) has become as crucial to one’s survival as booking gigs.

musicianship – due to the expansion of jazz education, all musicians are expected to be trained to increasingly stringent demands.

versatility, earnestness – many in the new generation of jazz musician take themselves very seriously even as they adopt tunes from a wide variety of genres and sources. Similarly, jazz singers employ a nuanced and subdued approach to singing, while trumpet players and saxophonists seem more comfortable moving between musical camps without calling attention to their own lack of partisanship. Gioia summarizes, “After several generations of heroic jazz horn players who inspired others with their cult of personality […] as much as their methods, this down-to-business earnestness may strike casual fans as a letdown, but the insiders are likely to applaud a new phase in which musicianship and professionalism, pure and simple, have their day” (379).

globalization / internationalization – jazz festivals are much more prominent and successful outside of the United States in locales such as Europe and Asia (especially Japan), an increasingly “self-directed” European jazz scene, and continuing expansion of the types of global music included in jazz, means that drawing geographic borders around jazz practices is becoming nearly impossible: “all addresses are its home, but none are likely to be its resting place” (388).

For tomorrow’s meeting, consider how you would place the assigned recordings within Gioia’s framework. Does it work? Are there trends that don’t fit?


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