Jazz fans are frequently at odds not just with one another (you say Marsalis, I say Masada) but with themselves. After crowding themselves out of their apartments with albums and CDs, they'll claim that jazz, as a largely improvised art form, defies technological representation. I don't say they're wrong, just that they talk as if theirs were the only music whose nuances depend on being there in the flesh. If this were so, what need would there now be for live performances of Beethoven or Mozart, especially given the superiority of the best home sound-systems to the acoustics in modern concert halls? If recordings matter very little in jazz, they matter even less in cabaret and what Will Friedwald calls "adult" pop—genres in which an icon like Julie Wilson or a has-been like Vic Damone goes on drawing audiences year after year without benefit of a new release.
The relationship of recordings to live performances is more complementary than acknowledged by the typical jazz fan, who dismisses the former as a necessary evil. It's often also far more problematical. Most of us, for example, have heard Charlie Parker and Lester Young only on records; without this audible evidence of their genius, would we be inclined to assume their legends were exaggerated, like Buddy Bolden's? On the other hand, I for one sometimes resent mediocre live jazz because it's keeping me from my Parker records. We haul our collections with us into a concert or a club, and when we go home and pop a disc into the changer, our idealized memories of how the performer in question sounded in concert also receive a spin.