Jazz Hot n°664

The need for jazz lovers’ presence in large numbers at jazz festivals for the sake of the artists and for jazz

Summer is almost here, and while we have to be patient, it is always a long-awaited event for jazz lovers, especially in Europe where many jazz musicians of all backgrounds come to celebrate jazz for about three months. In all objectivity, it is nothing like the meaningless institutional events, like the Music Day. But its genesis is entirely different.
Whatever your preferences are, during three months, there is a festival somewhere that will satisfy your tastes with known and lesser-known artists to discover or favorites to enjoy seeing again in a big, spectacular festival or a smaller one to experience jazz in more convivial atmosphere for a week or a weekend.

The density does not always depend on means and size but rather on the artists and programming. Jazz is a music that is rich in artists whose worth isn’t necessarily in correlation with the their earnings and notoriety. The music is diverse, democratic, popular and it is always possible to make a good, authentic jazz program depending on the means and choices. Many festivals currently illustrate this.
At the root of this plurality is a history of passion. Despite some deviations there are organizations that reflect this spirit. Thanks to the tremendous energy of volunteers, the true jazz lovers only have one thing to do: be present and come numerous according to choices, tastes and budget, to encourage the organizing forces to keep the running festivals and to support the musicians. This is the best way to keep artistic creation alive and diverse, independent of the authorities, cronyism and clientelism.
But the the jazz audience has a duty: to use a faculty (not only in jazz, but in opera and theater as well) that is tending to disappear, that is criticism. Sometimes they make mistakes but to conserve the quality and strength of jazz, they need to use independent judgement, resulting in true freedom of emotion. To develop criticism and to encourage it is to allow for everyone, the liberty to determine the meaning between himself and jazz, art, and the artists, far from gregarian events where individual emotion is replaced by mass communion. What is unique about jazz, stemming partly from religious roots, is the free and direct relationship between the artist and the listener, far from the crowd phenomena generated by mass events. As long as we think critically and use this freedom of access with the artist, jazz offers the tools to resist mass standardization that is killing humanity.
So besides the obvious pleasure, jazz lovers have a great responsability and a genuine duty to preserve jazz, by putting pressure on the programming an on the quality of the music that is presented to them just like on the spirit of jazz in general and the atmosphere of the future events. They have an educational role to play for future generations to pass on this criticism and acquired knowledge and memory of jazz.
It is not simple, sometimes we think that this art de vivre -jazz- is fading away. But by remaining vigilant and with the support of jazz lovers and musicians, jazz has a stronger chance to resist the escalation of mass produced events, which are incompatible with its essence. Jazz would lose its soul.
In a festival context of a larger crowd, jazz lovers play an essential role. They are the only ones that can curb today’s tendencies by supporting the diversity of jazz without denying the roots that makes jazz so special. This theme for sure has no end and is probably controversial. But if jazz lovers want jazz and its state of mind to live on with its values, then they must numerously attend festivals. It is essential for the independence of jazz and the authenticity of the artist’s expression, even if it means to boo a performer off the stage sometimes (this rarely happens anymore…) and to make mistakes as long as they are sincere, individual and founded in an independent appreciation and sensitivity and not the sign of mass conformism, panurgism, a lack of curiosity, laziness or fear (of making mistakes, being isolated, being different, …).
The number of festivals, which reflects many branches of jazz and so in a way of its history, depth and vitality, reminds us that most of jazz relies and will always rely on its popular character and on the specific relationship between the artist and the jazz lovers. It is a constructive and liberating dialogue since the birth of jazz.
< Yves Sportis >
Translation by Mathieu Perez