What do you say to a jazz musician who has a steady job? "I'll take two Big Macs and a large order of fries."
This is an old joke, but it is still indicative of the status, popularity, and commercial viability of jazz. The genre accounts for only about 3 percent of record sales. Clubs and other venues that offer live jazz are few and far between---or nonexistent--- in most U.S. cities. And mass media seem more interested in how Britney Spears looks in a skimpy outfit than in who's making quality music.
But good news awaits those who have discovered the magic in the music that America invented--and it's also good news for music fans who are fed up with the current pop scene and might be looking for a little more substance in their sounds: The World Wide Web is a jazzy place.
All About Jazz--- Even Gigs from Hell
Launched in 1995, All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com) is dedicated to providing a "haven for jazz enthusiasts, neophytes, and industry professionals," according to the site's mission statement.
"By stimulating personal expression," according to the statement, "we also hope to advance progressive ideas and exchanges which will help shape the future of jazz."
The site fulfills its mission by offering multiple online forums and publishing news, reviews, interviews, and feature stories about jazz around the world. For instance, at press time, a lengthy feature article focused on recent work by English guitarist John McLaughlin, who originally rose to fame with Miles Davis' fusion groups in the late 1960s.
All About Jazz also offers videos, podcasts, and free daily MP3s as well as information on jazz festivals, radio stations, and upcoming releases. Music fans new to jazz will want to check out the site's section on building a jazz library, which includes essential buying tips for building a jazz collection on a budget. All About Jazz also offers an interactive timeline that explains the roots of the music and lets you find significant jazz events in any specific year since 1895.
The All About Jazz Musician Finder and the Music Teacher Finder are two databases you can search just by entering your city or ZIP code. Unfortunately, many categories list only a few names. For example, the list of music teachers for the acoustic bass--an instrument that my wife has always wanted to play --contains a list of only 12 teachers, and the closest one to my old Kentucky home lives in Dallas.
Don't leave the All About Jazz site without sampling the fun features in the humor section. You'll find information on jazz nicknames such as Satchmo, which was given to Louis Armstrong by British fans who misheard the words "Satchel Mouth," one of his other nicknames. Another section explains jazz slang. For instance, you'll learn that "balloon lungs" is slang for "a brass man with plenty of wind" as in the sentence "That cat must have balloon lungs. Stix said he held that note for three and a half minutes!"
The humor area also includes a first-timer's guide to jazz jam sessions (e.g., "If you talk to a saxophonist during a break, you will hear a lot of excuses about his reeds") as well as a collection of anecdotes called Gigs from Hell (a flute, piano, and bass trio getting requests for Prince and Madonna songs, for example).
Jazz--Past and Present
Another jazz site with an extensive amount of content is Jazz Review (www.jazzreview.com). You'll find CD, concert, and even book reviews. For example, featured reviews at this writing note the following:
* The Newport JVC Jazz Festival 2007 was "an international celebration of old meets young, with tributes and accolades for legends of the past and present."
* Bassist Reuben Rogers' recent CD, The Things I Am, "gives us five original compositions as well as a few classics, all done in a very groovy, very unique style. …