“Keep jazz alive?”- Here’s the best way

Elsa Armengou, Barcelona, 11 years old - and she can play!

Elsa Armengou, St. Andreu Jazz Band, Barcelona, 11 years old – and she can play!

It’s hard to look at the music “industry” and not conclude that there’s a conspiracy to elevate garbage music to global monopoly status and leave everyone else to fight over the crumbs.

What’s fascinating is that in spite of the multi-billion dollar efforts of the small handful of corporations that control music distribution worldwide, good music like jazz survives.

And what’s really encouraging is that young people, though near-drowned in a barrage of sonic nonsense, are still discovering jazz, embracing it, and making it their own.

The great news is that young cats like the amazing young pianist Joey Alexander are just the tip of the iceberg

All over the US and around the world, there’s a movement to make jazz education and the experience of playing in a jazz orchestra available to young people and the results – when these programs receive support – is electrifying.

You might ask: “Why haven’t I heard about this?”

Well, it goes back to the “commercial” thing.

High school jazz orchestras don’t cut records, they don’t tour and they don’t have the money, or inclination, to promote themselves on jazz radio or in jazz industry magazines.

You know the old saying: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Clearly, these bands are making a sound in their home towns and that’s a very good thing.

But the world would be a better place if they were making a “joyful noise” to a larger audience, wouldn’t you agree?

The history of jazz is the history of great educators…

“Captain” Walter Dyett of DuSable High School in Chicago taught (make sure you’re sitting down):

Gene Ammons, Nat King Cole, Jerome Cooper, Richard Davis, Bo Diddley, Dorothy Donegan, Von Freeman, John Gilmore, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, Johnny Hartman, Milt Hinton, Fred Hopkins, Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Clifford Jordan, Julian Priester, Sun Ra, Wilbur Ware, and Dinah Washington.

G.A. Baxter of I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth, Texas taught:

Ornette Coleman, John Carter, King Curtis, Prince Lasha, Charles Moffett, Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill, and Ronald Shannon Jackson.

Peter Davis of New Orleans reached out and provided musical education to countless young people, many who could not afford lessons or instruments and came from troubled homes.

Two of them, Louis Armstrong and Dave Bartholomew, literally changed the world.

As they say in the military: “Once is a happenstance, twice is a coincidence, three times is a conspiracy” – in this case a positive conspiracy.

It’s a simple equation really: No great education, no great musicians, no great music

So who is covering this flowering of jazz education in America and around the world?

With the exception of an occasional short piece in an industry magazine or a documentary here and there, this movement is taking place completely off radar.

In other words, if you don’t already know about it, the chances of you learning about it are slim – even if you’re a passionate jazz fan.

We’d like to do something about that.

Here’s what Jazz on the Tube would like to do – and we need your help to do it:

Priority #1: Become an active dues paying member of the Jazz Educators Network (JEN), the world’s largest organization of jazz educators

Priority #2: Participate in JEN’s annual conference this year January 4 to 7, 2017 so we can meet with the world’s largest concentration of high school music directors, youth jazz orchestras, and the musicians themselves (by lucky coincidence our friends from the youth jazz orchestra will be attending this year.)

Priority #3: Attend this year’s Havana’s “Jo” Jazz Festival Nov 16 to Nov 23, 2016 which is Cuba’s Caribbean-wide jazz education conference and competition. While in Havana we’ll be able to take care of other Jazz on the Tube business including opening up a travel infrastructure of guest houses and guides especially for jazz fans.

All this will make it possible for us to cover this vitally important part of the jazz scene in a serious way.

Jazz on the Tube already provides free to the world:

* the Internet’s largest annotated collection of classic jazz videos

* the only up-to-date online source of information on jazz clubs, jazz festivals and jazz education programs worldwide

* the only place to get the up-to-date weekly jazz listings of Havana’s jazz clubs (you can’t even find this in Havana!)

Unlike some of our other ventures which we’ve been able to fund with “sweat equity”, airlines and hotels cost real money.

Because we’ve already broken the ice in Havana and New Orleans (where JEN is being held this year), we’ve cracked the code on how to travel as cheaply as possible in these places, but to accomplish all these ventures is still going to cost a few thousands of dollars when all the smoke clears.

If you think that creating a news and support service for jazz education is a worthwhile activity, let us know by making a contribution to the effort.

If we can fund all three efforts, it’d be great.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Click here to contribute:
Support Jazz on the Tube’s Jazz Education reporting efforts

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

PS: If you’re not in a position to support these efforts financially, your spiritual support is appreciated every bit as much.

To quote Duke Ellington: “We love you madly” – and we’re not kidding about that!

A night at the Palladium Ballroom
Chris Behrens and the Beloit Memorial High School Jazz Orchestra