Thursday, September 25, 2008

Muggsy Spanier- At the Jazz Band Ball

The party's over.

I write about jazz at Plastic Sax.

It's a lonely, largely thankless pursuit, but I continue to believe it's a worthy endeavor. And it keeps me thinking about stuff like this:

The majority of the jazz fans here in Kansas City can be grouped into one of two categories. There's the aging white audience for whom Glenn Miller is still the king. This crowd would blissfully sigh at the mere mention of Muggsy Spanier's name.

Then there's the primarily black fans in their 40s, 50s and 60s who came of age to Grover Washington, Jr.'s Mr. Magic and Ramsey Lewis' The In Crowd.

The first group's communal vigilance has kept the scene together for decades. As their numbers dwindle, jazz clubs continue to change formats. For the second crowd, the concept of "jazz" is less rigid. Norman Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Najee and Mary J. Blige all have equal merit in this more liberal world view. While I applaud this perspective, it's not going to sell many tickets to a Cecil Taylor concert.

If the economy continues its downturn, the federal funds and the charitable grants that have propped up area jazz series and institutions might disappear. Toss in a rapidly aging fan base, and you have to wonder what's to become of jazz in this town.

Who's going to pay money to see the Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey ghost bands? What will happen to the careers of trad jazz guys like Scott Hamilton? And who's going to buy wonderful Spanier collections like this?

I know there are plenty of local musicians willing to step up. But will there be an audience to support them?

"At the Jazz Band Ball" was recorded in New York 69 years ago. I'd love to be able to say that this timeless music will live forever. But seriously- in another 69 years will anyone want to hear it? Watch this appropriately hazy snippet of Spanier in 1963 as an entire culture evaporates.

I'm having a hard time believing that it's Bruce Hornsby and not the late Chris Whitley singing on "20/20 Vision" on Charlie Haden's new release. The entire album streams here.

Kansas City Click: My friend C. would strangle me with his ponytail if I didn't recommend Xavier Rudd's show tonight at the VooDoo Lounge.


bgo said...

Where do I fit into all of this. Hey, I'm an aging boomer who embraces the Hot Fives & Sevens, loves Glenn Miller, Mainstream Jazz, Ornette, Trane and I don't turn up my nose at early Kool & the Gang or EW&F.

But then I love the original singing brakeman too and he made a record with Satchmo.

But I love R&B, Jordi Savall, Ciwan Haco, R&R, C&W, and so on and so on and scooby scooby do.

Happy In Bag said...

I'd like to think we're "Everyday People," BGO. It's just that not everyone agrees with that sentiment.

bgo said...

Happy In Bag,

You're one SLY fellow ;)

Some of us I guess just know the secret handshake, eh?