© Lorenzo Duaso
By George Wein
Did you see that jazz has finally reached its zenith of importance in the American music scene? Zenith means the top, however, the newly published Nielsen Soundscan report says that jazz, along with classical music, is at the bottom of the pile in terms of sales.
We've got some nerve in saying that the bottom is actually the top, but our reasoning is that classical music has always (and will always) be with us, as it is supported by the cultural hierarchy across the world. Jazz belongs to this wider world of culture, not just pop culture, which has its own icons.
We've been involved with the presenting of jazz for over 67 years and it's only in recent times that nonprofit subsidies, thankfully, have permeated the jazz world. What does this mean? It means that the sale of recordings is incidental (but not without importance), to the success and prominence of jazz in the cultural mainstream. Jazz festivals are now prolific and our own festival in Newport shows more vibrancy and a more diverse audience each year. Jazz clubs in cities throughout the world are full every night with eager and curious onlookers.
One who becomes interested in jazz feels that he or she is adding something to his or her life that, in a sense, separates them from the masses that absorb what is happening in pop music.
So, jazz fans, don't be upset that we're the bottom of the totem pole. Realize that you are something special. I know I felt that way when I was a kid. None of my friends were jazz fans and I really believed that I had something in my life that was lacking in theirs. Feel proud that you love jazz.
Don't lose the beat.