Last week, during a Critics Roundtable (“The Year in Jazz,” sponsored by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem), I found myself saying things I expected to say—“the best jazz story in 2013 was the best story in 2012, and among the longest running in jazz: The deepening and broadening of Afro Latin influence”—and things I hadn’t planned: “The jazz wars are over because wars only rage when they are spoils to win.”
Mostly I found myself alternately challenged and validated by the astute thoughts of my colleagues—Kevin Whitehead, Greg Tate, Nate Chinen and Seth Colter Walls. Yes, we submitted Top 10 lists for the year, but we were gathered to place that music and more in context—to talk about the stories behind and questions raised by the music. That makes for good conversation.
How about you: Want to talk jazz? Want to hang out with musicians and jazz insiders? Have pressing questions about your music or your work? Simply a fan with an attentive ear?
Blogs can be useful and even insightful—my favorite is pianist Ethan Iverson’s Do The Math. But real-time, interactive conversations with multiple sources have a whole different dynamic. The virtual world has much to offer on that front.
The Jazz Journalists Association, a nonprofit organization perhaps best known for its annual and notable awards to musicians and journalists, now hosts a worthy “webinar” series, “Talking Jazz,” which continues tomorrow, Dec. 18th, at 8pm (also archived for later listening) with a discussion of: “Jazz ‘Diplomacy’ Now: Can Jazz Promote International Peace and Understanding?” The panelists include: Pianist Danilo Perez, who directs Berklee College of Music’s Global Jazz Institute, and who created a festival in his native Panama that emphasizes cultural exchange; Simon Rowe, director of the University of the Pacific’s Dave Brubeck Institute; and flutist Jamie Baum, who has performed on several U.S. State Department-sponsored tours.
Then there’s Bret Primack. You may know him as the Jazz Video Guy, responsible for some must-view material on the Internet, especially of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins (Primack has posted some 1,200 video, he said, with 23 million views). Or maybe you recall him as Pariah, whose “Bird Lives” was among the earliest of jazz blogs, and whose impassioned diatribes ruffled many a feather. Now, Primack hosts a weekly YouTube show, “The Hang.” Last week’s episode featured a “Master Class with pianist and composer Hal Galper.”
The upcoming schedule includes:
December 21—Why Can’t Musicians Make Money from Spotify, Pandora and Apple Radio, with attorney Alan Bergman.
December 28—A Chat with the King of Jazz Email, Jim Eigo. Mr. Eigo has worked in all aspects of the jazz media business and runs Jazz Promo Services.
January 4—Horace Silver Tribute, featuring musicians who played with Silver, including trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassists Jon Burr, Todd Coolman and Larry Ridley, and drummer Alvin Queen.
You can watch live or on-demand here.
Here’s how Primack described the genesis of “The Hang” and his goals in a recent email:
People started putting up websites, and initially, that wasn’t easy. Then blogging arrived, and more people began to do something on the web because it was easier. Then, with the widespread use of mp3 files, audio hit big on the web. Video wasn’t far behind, but it took a few years for people to get broadband to make that possible. I’ve been posting video as the Jazz Video Guy since March, 2006. I was the YouTube content partner to establish a Jazz channel on YouTube. Within a just a few years, YouTube became an outlet for everyone’s creativity. Then Social Media jumped off, because people wanted to interact, not just view or listen. Now, we’re at the beginning of the next phase of the Internet.
Video conferencing has been around for several years; many people are using Skype for one-on-one video conferences. Now, Google has introduced Google Hangouts, where groups of people, up to 10, can get together for a conference. And if you’re a YouTube content partner, these conferences are streamed live on your channel and then available on demand. It’s to new way to produce programming.
That’s what I’m doing, adding interactivity when viewers “Tweet” their comments and questions, and post on the Facebook page. This is just the beginning because people want to be involved, they want to interact with their communities. When the internet first started, it was like Woodstock. We went, watched and listened.
Now it’s more like Burning Man, which is more about everyone building a community.
And that’s what’s social media enables, and video conferencing, one on one, and in groups— community involvement in a very dynamic way. My goal is to create a 24/7 interactive Jazz information channel. The Hang, my new show, is the first program to do this. I’m seeking people who want to participate. Do you have a webcam?
Those who do and are game can reach to Primack directly: the firstname.lastname@example.org
The Jazz Journalists Association is a vital international organization with influence and offerings that have greatly expanded during the past two-plus decades. According to its website, the “Talking Jazz” webs series are “90-minute unpackings of issues vital to understanding the contemporary development of the music as a functional art form.” It goes on to say:
The panels convene top experts and activists of both jazz-specific and more general cultural arts fields. They are aimed to engage professional practitioners of the musical and performing arts, grassroots supporters and also the general public.
Attendees will be able to pose questions to panelists, for real time responses. Attendance at the panels, to be held on Google Hangouts on the Air, is free, but advance registration is required and may be made HERE. All sessions are archived for later free access, and can be found here:
Howard Mandel, executive director and president of the JJA, said via email that online attendance has averaged 50 to 70 registrants, not counting those who watch it in archived form, and that the panels have led to “interesting and candid discussions from top professionals with jazz credibility and serious insight into what’s going on about their topics.” He explained the mechanics:
During each live panel, questions come in from the attendees, which I convey to the panelists, so there’s an element of live interactivity. The Google Hangout technology — free as a new Google application, readily available to anyone who has a Google account (like a gmail address) — has served us well, with live video as well as audio of the panelists. After the live panel is over, it’s immediate archived for ongoing free public access on YouTube.
Tomorrow’s panel on “jazz diplomacy” resonates not only in terms of a long history (think Dizzy Gillespie going to the Middle East, or Benny Goodman to East Asia) but also in terms of the JJA’s own current efforts, which include support of “International Jazz Day,” a UNESCO-sponsored campaign jazz’ global reach and its potential to foster positive connections. The following one, titled “Museums Keep Jazz Alive,” (Jan. 22) seems like one that will raise both awareness of institutional programs and lively debate.
(l-r) Photo by Raj Naik/ Photo by Dmitri Savitski Courtesy Wikicommons