Thursday, April 30, 2020

International Jazz Day thoughts about our new world of virtual jazz

The world at-large - and the jazz world as we knew it and enjoyed it - have changed drastically over the past six weeks because of the pandemic. No near-term end is in sight for the challenges it has caused.

Unless they were held prior to early March, none of the 2020 editions of listeners' favorite jazz festivals, are likely to be held this year.The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival have pulled the plug until 2021. So have many others. Clubs and concert venues are shuttered. Nobody knows with any certainty when they can reopen.

But there are some positive things happening. Funds have been started to assist impacted artists. Even though their traditional revenue streams have dried up, musicians have found ways to remain creative and help bring some solace to listeners. 

There is a wide range of virtual concerts and jazz sets streamed live from artists' homes or home studios through the internet's social media platforms.

Those I've tuned into include daily or near-daily performances by pianists Makoto Ozone ("Live From Our Living Room") at home in Tokyo, Fred Hersch ("Tune of the Day") from his piano at home in Manhattan, and Ted Rosenthal from his home in New York, trumpeter Mark Morganelli from Tarrytown NY, Hammond B-3 organ player Tony Monaco from his digs in Columbus OH, and guitarist Nate Najar & singer Daniela Soledade from St. Petersburg FL.

Those same platforms have given artists a new technology tool with which to reach eager ears. Educators have been able to work with their students - including ensembles - remotely. Group performances have been broadcast - with each band member sitting in a different location. Check out the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's "Quarantine Blues," an original composition that the players wrote, arranged, and recorded entirely on their respective mobile phones while isolating themselves in their homes. It's posted right here on YouTube.

Yes, we're in unusual times. We're adapting to it - and trying to get through it as best we can.

Today brings the ninth annual edition of International Jazz Day. This is also the global celebration's first virtual edition. Instead of the planned Global Host City all-star concert and activities planned for Cape Town, South Africa, organizers have scheduled an online all-star concert with many featured artists. Tune in at 3 p.m. EDT at the International Jazz Day website or you can watch it stream on Facebook.

Jazz hasn't left us. It's only a mouse-click or smartphone screen away. It's up to we listeners to support it as best we can.

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