Top 50 JAzz Blog

Friday, July 26, 2013

Top Ten Reasons To Not Eliminate the Soprano Sax.

1. Need something to listen to when on infinite hold with Verizon.
2. Hard to imagine Kenny G. playing the baritone. 
3. Your passport to a lot of notes in a very short time.
4. Only sax named after an HBO series. 
5. Puts the smoooo in smooth. 
6. Weighs less than a Veg-O-Matic (even with the case)
7. Six words: "Do You Hear What I Hear."
8. Continues to provide inspiration for Sidney Bechet to turn over in his grave.
9. Helps stem the tide of the sopranino.
10. It's phallo-tastic!



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tweaking the Jazz Stream


Jazz radio doesn't stand a chance unless DJ/programmers can attract listeners in the new mobile-device-dominated listening environment. 

A group of Boston jazz people have organized to try and snag this growing audience by developing the JazzBird app. I'll be one of the "curators," tasked with trying to set and maintain some standard of quality (which does not involve trying to define "jazz"). 

Jazz DJ/programmers who cut their teeth on "old" radio can't assume their approach will work on smart phones, Androids, etc. They may want to look closely at how people, especially young people and tech savvy elders, now listen to music.

For 70 or so years, bulk/mass was associated with a higher quality of sound, and portability with mere convenience.
Over the last c. 40 years, technology changed all that, delivering hi-fi in small packages. 
At this point, sound in digital form, usually MP3 files, dominates. This is part of a process that's given people access to millions of songs. At the same time, these files come with much less information than LP's or CD's; both musical information (because of compression) and historical information (no liner notes). 

How does radio stand in relation to this? 

I know from experience that the vast majority of young people who do listen to music on the radio tune to a small number of commercial stations, where almost all the talking they hear is ads and other "load," not information about the music. DJ's speak very little, if at all. So, people who have grown up in the digital sound era can either accept a de-contextualized listening experience or go to fan web sites to find out the details they want to know.

Jazz radio generally plays out in a very different way. Jazz DJ's are likely to program several tunes in a row, often long ones, and talk for at least a couple of minutes between sets, telling listeners who all the members of a group are and providing deeper context for the music.

This begs the question: Do DJ's/programmers need to change their approach to keep the streaming audience tuned in on their mobile devices? How much talking should DJ's do and what information should they deliver? 

There's no right answer, of course. People spin jazz because they're emotionally invested in the music and its history. They also tend to be vaguely monomaniacal, with a trace of the didact (mea culpa). Catering to decreased attention spans or dumbing down the music is a non-starter. BUT:

  • You can bear in mind the channels of communication that the mobile audience uses: Twitter, Facebook, etc.. Use them to promote your show and announce your social network handles often to allow listeners easy, quick feedback.
  • As part of this, you can use more "blindfold" tests and ticket offers-this also helps support live music.
  • If the technology really does make it easier for people to find jazz, there will probably be increasingly disparate audiences with varying degrees of familiarity with the music. Finessing that will be tough, but bear in mind that some people snap to when they hear "Jug," while others need to hear the name Gene Ammons. Try to find a balance that doesn't bore one audience and mystify another.
  • Have a web site or find space on the station's web site where you can share supplementary material and links with your listeners.
  • Make sure your program is archived. You may want to edit it after the fact to eliminate dated material (along with your mistakes).
  • Make sure your station's technology allows listeners to choose a bit rate stream that works for them. Paying to make sure you have a wide range of choices is probably worth it.

Readers with ideas about establishing parameters for jazz presentation on mobile platforms, please feel free to share. 

I hope we can make this work.


Make sure to have a nice photo of yourself that people can relate to




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top Ten Lists; Critiquing the Critiquer's Critique

A reader finding an old post and wanting to post a comment about it can be a dose of cod liver oil to a blogger. You re-read the old post with a spirit similar to that of a musician forced to listen to an old solo. 

Thus, I revisited my post "Ten-reasons-why-best-of-lists-suck," written in reaction to a rash of Top Ten Lists. Older but no wiser, I have retractions and emendations to make:

1. Usually there's no commentary at all to validate a listing. If there is, it doesn't.
Mangled syntax(but I still believe it).

2. Hyper-selectivity is anathema to discovery. Stumbling through a thicket of sound leads to real discovery, not following a road map.
No. There's as much to discover on the microcosmic level as there is on the macrocosmic. A careful listening to a single vein of music, if it's fertile enough, can provide as much fuel as a scattershot approach.

3. Listing is something you do when you walk back to your cabin after drinking to forget that the ship is about to capsize.
Well, number 3 on a list is always tough to think of, but mea culpa for this clumsy metaphor.

4. Inclusiveness doesn't work. The more people you ask to help produce a list, the more the juice is sucked out.
True, unless people are asked to critique each other's choices.

5. The Net's about self-aggrandizement; no one argues with that. Can't ya be a little more subtle about it?
Hey-you talkin' to ME?.

6. It may be possible that someone could go to a friend's house for a listening session and say "Play me your top ten Zoot Sim's records." OK, but there are so many more interesting ways to go from one side to the next that if you actually did spend the night with these 10 albums, I'd recommend seeking treatment for OCDC.
The treatment is coming along nicely, thank you.

7. By reifying the 'experts,' lists decrease, they don't increase, the flow of actual communication. Trust your friend's musical advice, not a stranger online.
Yes, except me.

8. At least keep the list short. The larger the list, the harder it falls.
Jimmy Cliff's lawyers are on my tail.

9. Getting on such lists only misleads musicians into thinking their gigs will improve.
Yes.  It has not been and will never be effective publicity to say:"I was number 9 on Joe M. Figgs' top ten list-but he said the list was in no particular order."

10. You've probably stopped reading this list by now, which only goes to prove my point.
At least I was right about this.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Nature-And Roman Drivers-Abhor a Vacuum

Fifteen of us in the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band (SLSAPS) were in Rome last week to play in Sbandata Romana, a festival of street brass bands from Europe (and us) put together by the band Titubanda.

We brought our music to the people of Rome-not just in the park where the festival was held-but in streets, markets, bars and restaurants...While there is some overlap in the music played by many of the bands-especially funk stuff-the New Orleans tunes and tinge that we bring sounded fresh, resonated strongly and the reception was, well, splendida. 
I encountered a fascinating city: complex, sprawling and gritty, with pieces of different epochs sprouting out of the sidewalks next to and sometimes, on top of one other. 

Although my impressions are essentially uninformed (readers of this blog would expect no less), the city I criss-crossed in trams and buses seemed very similar to the city I saw in Italian movies of the 30's and 40's. Films like Open City, Bicycle Thieves and early Fellini films were called "Neo-realist," but the reality they represent-at least the pictorial reality-seems so much the same today that the word "Neo" might, by this point, be dropped.
It's a city which balances "slack" and the work ethic differently than we do in the U.S. You gotta love that no one seems to actually pay to get on a tram or a bus. On the other hand, new metro construction creeps ahead slowly. There are always archaeological concerns, of course, but financing with almost no ridership revenue has to be a challenge.



People do bustle and hustle. Street life is fast and furious. Nature and Roman drivers abhor a vacuum and any and all available space is immediately filled by two cars or 5 motorbikes. (parking spaces that would here be taken up by 2 SUV's have 6 vehicles in them). 



On the other hand, many places close for 2-3 hours during the afternoon; meeting times are, ah, flexible and pulses, while beating at an urban pace, seem less susceptible to fibrillation. 

Trumping up a conclusion to this meandering piece would only be gilding what was a lily of an experience. Let this stand as a paieon to the great hospitality of our Titubanda hosts, the wonderful spirit of our fellow bands and to the people who understood how lost Patricia and I were (several times), took us under their wings, fed us, comforted us and guided us on our way. Un milion di grazis!