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I’ve always wondered if any artists out there were thinking carefully about the economic realities facing today’s creative community.  Then I found Createquity, a great blog that discusses exactly those issues in a very smart and creative way.  The author, Ian David Moss, is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Management as well as a musician and composer.  His thoughts on the arts and sustainability are well worth reading; he also summarized some of his main points in a recent post:

The internet, while making it possible for more people than ever before to reach an audience and establish a public identity, may at the same time be making it harder for artists to make a full-time living from their work over the long term. Reconciling these two impacts might well be one of the major challenges of policymaking in the 21st century.

I can’t agree enough with this.  As I mention in my bio, I recently moved to New Jersey from Oakland, CA, where I tried to make a go of it as a musician, and pretty much fell flat on my face.  I learned a lot from the experience, however, and certainly gained a great appreciation for those out there who are working hard to pay the bills as artists.  For all the celebration of “information wanting to be free” (thoroughly dismantled by Malcolm Gladwell here,) it doesn’t make sense that the only people making any money from an artist’s work are the people who sell the machines that play it.  Every new way to promote yourself (are you following me on Twitter yet?) brings with it the fact that everyone else can, too.  Read the rest of this entry »

No need to add my two cents to the Michael Jackson thing when so many others in the jazz community have posted excellent remembrances.

The one thing I will say, though, is that I was born after the release of Thriller and grew up without MTV.  I did see Captain EO at Disneyland a few times but that was about it.  I didn’t really get into MJ until college, when my band covered Thriller for a Halloween party.  This was a full two decades after its original release, and it still made the crowd go crazy.  Like those to whom I linked above, I’m confident that his musical legacy will outlive the tabloid craziness that has consumed his life, at least since I’ve been paying attention.

I just read a wonderful post by Cristina Nehring at Truthdig (via Koreanish) decrying the state of the modern American essay.  As a writer, I’ve always been particularly interested in personal essays, sometimes to a fault. (That academic paper I was supposed to write for my “Jazz in Film” class?  Yeah, turned it into a personal essay…)  Nehring makes some great points that really resonate, and highlight some of the issues I’m thinking about as I start this blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Sonny Rollins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

A couple of weeks ago, Wynton Marsalis teamed up with New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden to talk on camera about the relationship between jazz and basketball.  The coverage from the basketball blogs was cursory, while the jazz blogs made fun of it.  It became clear to me from the reactions from both sides that neither understood the other particularly well, nor did they care particularly much about the connection.  This is due in part to the increasingly divergent communities that follow jazz and basketball, but also a product of the obvious lack of depth in Marsalis’s and Rhoden’s attempt to explore the common ground that the sport and music share.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big fan of both jazz and basketball, and I believe that there are some interesting parallels and similarities that are worth exploring between them.  Watching the NY times video, I get the impression that Rhoden and Marsalis see it, too, but fail to convey the connection to their audience, only to end up looking like a couple of goofy middle-aged guys dissing each other’s post moves. Read the rest of this entry »

The latest batch of new entries are up at the Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, including a new group of trombone players profiled by yours truly.  I’m a regular over at the Institute of Jazz Studies now, to the point that Ed Berger greeted me when I came in this afternoon, “Hey Alex, what trombone player are you writing about today?”  It’s nice to feel like you have a place in the world, even one as obscure as profiling dead trombonists.

The new entries include Tommy Dorsey, Bennie Green, Trummy Young (currently the last entry in the encyclopedia!), Miff Mole, “Big” Charlie Green and Jimmy Harrison.  Click below to find out what that has to do with Mario Kart … Read the rest of this entry »

The Vision Festival has been touted by some as the new model for arts festivals in the wake of the demise of George Wein’s JVC Jazz Festival and other similar festival events.  Organized by Arts For Art, a non-profit artists’ collective, the Vision Festival is very much by and for the Lower East Side community that has supported “avantjazz” for decades.  The festival gives a very hip, antiestablishment vibe, and a vitality stemming from the passionate devotion of its musicians.  I saw fellow trombonist Steve Swell play with cellist Daniel Levin and saxophonist Rob Brown — I’m not usually that attuned to avant-garde jazz, but I really, really dug this performance.  Part of it was seeing a fellow trombonist doing all kinds of stretched-out awesomeness on the instrument.  But it also had to do with the good vibes that I was getting from the panel discussion that preceded it.  Some have suggested that the festival isn’t doing enough to foster younger musicians; this panel certainly aimed to focus on the younger generation. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been over two weeks since my last post.  As the time has ticked by, I have remained aware of my non-posting but unable to muster the energy to do anything about it, mostly because moving into my new apartment has been completely exhausting.  I have managed to keep up with my internet jazz reading, though, and have seen some interesting discussions emerge.  I know that two weeks is like years and years in internet time, but now that I’m back in the saddle I’d like to help you understand where I sit in these recent conversations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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