My mother once told me that she liked jazz because it was relaxing and you could have a good conversation to it. I know she meant it as a compliment, but I don't know of any jazz player who put in hour after hour of practice so people can have good conversations. Artists in general do not strive to relax people with their work. I can't imagine John Coltrane being flattered if someone were to walk over to him and say, "Gosh, Mr. Coltrane, I love your tunes. If I ever can't get to sleep at night I just put 'A Love Supreme' on the turntable and, before you know it, I' m out like a light!" Yanni might find that complimentary, but I doubt Coltrane would. Pat Metheny once said in an interview, "I hate the concept of jazz as background music. When it really comes down to it, pop music is background music. It's music to dance to, music to party to. With jazz you have to really listen."
Who listens."in Louisville? The noble attempts at establishing jazz clubs have been disastrous. "Jazz Society members, while attending big-name concerts, do not support local musicians like they should. The number of jazz musicians in this town who make their living exclusively by playing jazz can be counted on one hand. Do we even have a jazz scene here? We're certainly not lacking in good players, but where's the audience?
I once told Harold Maier long before he opened is coffeehouse (Twice-Told Coffee House, I604 Bardstown Rd.) that I believed jazz would go over with followers of the so-called. "alternative" scene if it were only presented in the right context. The connection is subtle but it's always been there. The early punkers were initially inspired by the free jazz of the Sixties. The Grateful Dead collectively worship Miles Davis. Frank Zappa has a tune entitled "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue." The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grammy in hand, publicly thanked their influences, including Coltrane, Ornette and Miles. If jazz musicians do not recognize the connection, the rock musicians do.
I stopped in the Twice-Told Coffee House one night to hear Jimmy Raney and Jack Brengle. In the back room Jack and Jimmy sat and played. No one talked. All attention was focused on the music. Most of the crowd were younger. Many looked like they might hit Tewligans later. After their set, Jack told me, "Man, it' s so weird to play to people who actually listen!"
Jazz will always have a large following among the coat-and-tie, uptown crowd, but never underestimate the younger generation. I can't tell you how many coat-and-tie concerts I've been to where people paid good money to I get in – and talked the whole time. Jack and Jimmy were playing to people half their age. They may not have been swearing ties, but they were listening, giving these artists! the respect they deserve. With jazz, you have to listen.