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Selmer La Voix II alto, Martín “The Martín” tenor, Yamaha YTS-21 tenor, Altus 907 flute
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I suspect that modern jazz has always been background music/something to drown out with conversation for most people. Listening to Bill Evans' "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" it sounds like everyone in the joint is talking and/or buying drinks (on a decent system you can hear the cash register opening and closing). I listen to this and think, "Is nobody listening to this timeless genius being created?" Now if you go to a club nobody talks because it's so freakin' expensive to get that 75 minutes of music. But if you're playing anything resembling jazz in a restaurant or at a party, most people will ignore you, unless you play too loud to ignore, in which case they'll complain to the manager or host. Ironically, if you play recorded pop music at ear-bleeding levels through godawful sounding speakers in a bar, this is considered ambience, and people are happy to shout their conversations over it. There was a study some years back where they had Joshua Bell play in Union Station. Most commuters didn't even stop to listen for a second, let alone put money in his case. Point being, I suppose, that the appreciation of art depends a lot on context, and today there aren't a lot of live, in-person contexts for audiences to engage with complex music not made for dancing. But this is not entirely new. Personally, I'd love to be a wallpaper musician rather than just a basement practice room musician, though this too has its charms.
 

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Theoretically, I suppose there's no reason why jazz, or horns in general couldn't make a come-back. If modern pop artists started including more horn lines, eventually horns might be more "in" again. I'd guess that the music scene is too saturated though. A few decades ago, with no internet, and limited access to recording equipment, there were fewer bands, so by my estimation, if you cut a record, chances were decent that people would be listening to it. Now we have the internet, and people can make passable recordings in their basement, so there are millions of artists pushing their tunes. There's no way everything gets heard, and if people don't like what they hear, they can go to Spotify and find near-limitless other options.

I know I'm straying a little bit from the original point of this thread here. Just musing on how technology has changed how the music industry works.
 

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Theoretically, I suppose there's no reason why jazz, or horns in general couldn't make a come-back. If modern pop artists started including more horn lines, eventually horns might be more "in" again. I'd guess that the music scene is too saturated though. A few decades ago, with no internet, and limited access to recording equipment, there were fewer bands, so by my estimation, if you cut a record, chances were decent that people would be listening to it. Now we have the internet, and people can make passable recordings in their basement, so there are millions of artists pushing their tunes. There's no way everything gets heard, and if people don't like what they hear, they can go to Spotify and find near-limitless other options.

I know I'm straying a little bit from the original point of this thread here. Just musing on how technology has changed how the music industry works.
True. Some modern pop artists have added horn lines, but I don't think it has made any more jobs for horn players. Like you mentioned about technology, for so many if they want horns they just pull open the technology and throw it in via computer instead of hiring a horn section. Maybe if said artist ends up doing a massive tour they will hire some guys, but other than that a lot of it is just done via technology now.
 

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One of my combos did wallpaper jazz before the pandemic killed the large scale corporate/civic events market. They're some of my favorite gigs. You play music, you keep it cool and you can get vast enjoyment from it along with a paycheck.
Grumps, you are so wise... sounds like you feel gratitude instead of resentment.
A preoccupied audience is surely a challenge, and not all musicians might be up to it or have charisma. But if you can't use that opportunity with a live rhythm section to make musical conversation amongst yourselves and take some risks, shame on you?
And if you make an effort to engage the audience, even just one, isn't it worth it? Unexpected stop time--see who looks up, then hook them with a flourish or a fill and a nod. And then maybe they nudge their neighbor to check you out. Very flattering to have the band play to you! Kill you to quote a Stevie Wonder horn line? The conditioned herd responds. Dangerous to underestimate an audience. Attitude? Make an effort? Catch a wink or a smile from a pretty gal, that could be a worthwhile evening, yeah?
 

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There seems to be a bit of "hand wringing" in this thread about the decline of jazz venues and jazz audiences. I would counter that with the fact there are 60,600 members on SOTW most of whom work at learning to play jazz styles and improvise and are active consumers of recorded music and attendees at live performances. The thing the majority of these saxophone enthusiasts have in common is varying levels of music training at the secondary and university levels. Granted there are not that many job openings for those who study performance at the university level, but many of them become professionals in other fields and make a good living while playing for fun and join others like themselves in the select audience who keep the art form we call jazz alive and well. The role of music education in our public schools and universities is to not only train performers, but to teach those who will become the knowledgeable consumers of music of the future.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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If modern pop artists started including more horn lines, eventually horns might be more "in" again
I'll let them know ;)
Just musing on how technology has changed how the music industry works.
Indeed, either embrace it or just be wallpaper, or worse, wallpaper paste.

I do sessions still (sometimes) and jut gat a track with a guide saxophone part played on MIDI guitar with a saxophone VI. I got back to the producer and suggested they don't waste their money on me because the guide part was probably the best thing for the track. Better than I would do anyway (thinking in commercial rather than artistic or authenticity terms)
 

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There has always been wallpaper music and I've taken part in gigs like that over the years...many, MANY times! Usually for the very wealthy. Example: The most I've ever gotten payed for an hours worth of work ($2,000, and it wasn't Jazz or classical music) was a blues gig. Stole the gig from Koko Taylor. Saw the contract on the organizers desk. Organizer said she wanted too much ($15,000) I offered $12,000 for a group of legendary Chicago blues sidemen and got the gig. The venue was a huge world famous Chicago museum. 450 guests (Global audience of filmakers, editors, titans of industry) No one watched, no one listened and no one commented. Within an hour I had $2,000 in my pocket and it felt like it never happened and we were really well rehearsed and killed it. There will always be a market for every genre. Enough to sustain a living? Hell no.
 

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There has always been wallpaper music and I've taken part in gigs like that over the years...many, MANY times! Usually for the very wealthy. Example: The most I've ever gotten payed for an hours worth of work ($2,000, and it wasn't Jazz or classical music) was a blues gig. Stole the gig from Koko Taylor. Saw the contract on the organizers desk. Organizer said she wanted too much ($15,000) I offered $12,000 for a group of legendary Chicago blues sidemen and got the gig. The venue was a huge world famous Chicago museum. 450 guests (Global audience of filmakers, editors, titans of industry) No one watched, no one listened and no one commented. Within an hour I had $2,000 in my pocket and it felt like it never happened and we were really well rehearsed and killed it. There will always be a market for every genre. Enough to sustain a living? Hell no.
I can't decide if that sounds like a good time, or a disappointing time. Still, 2k for an hour is nothing to scoff at! By the sound of your description of the event, my guess is the blues combo was a just a check in the box for the organizer. "Mmmmyes, band playing in the background while the guests compare wallets, good..."
 

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I can't decide if that sounds like a good time, or a disappointing time. Still, 2k for an hour is nothing to scoff at! By the sound of your description of the event, my guess is the blues combo was a just a check in the box for the organizer. "Mmmmyes, band playing in the background while the guests compare wallets, good..."
Like any high end gig, your anticipation is high so you work hard to make sure everything is right. I was the organizer so all the details were up to me AND the event was for an organization I had been a part of for 20 years. This made me hyper aware off all the details and determined to make the music outstanding! Thus my disappointment at the lack of care from the audience. Yet, as I've said, this wasn't my first rodeo and had long learned to expect ANYTHING and just show up and do the best job. I believe your right in the check box theory....Chicago..... so blues, check. We could have been playing klezmer or disco death metal and it wouldn't have made any difference...
 

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There's a difference between whether there's a "market" for something, and whether it's worth doing in some greater sense of worth.

Speaking about the US in particular, we do a poor job of supporting music and the arts, especially homegrown forms of which jazz is a primary example. Not just supporting as in making life financially easier for artists and live music venues, but education: music classes are often near the first to go when there's a cutback. I didn't have a music class past about 2nd or 3rd grade - and that was in the 1970s. I'm still kind of amazed when I read everyone's stories about learning a band instrument at school.

A couple of years ago I got to go to a big conference in Vienna. There is music everywhere there (mostly classical given their heritage), even though I was there in August when the major orchestras are all out of town. Sure the music is to bring in the tourists, as Austria relies on the tourist income, but it is understood and supported by the people and government. Some of it is tourist-trappy, but even in the touristy places you're seeing highly trained musicians. At the conference, they hired conservatory students to play duos and trios at the coffee breaks, and a student orchestra to play at the closing assembly, because that's just how things are done in Vienna.

Playing at the coffee break in Vienna may be wallpaper music (although we all listened because it's a special thing for us), but there it's respected, in a way that the US still fails to respect jazz in particular.
 

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Nothing today is what it once was in my opinion, FWIW. Amongst other musical endeavors (rock, R&B, soul and funk on the saxes), I grew up in a polka environment. My dad had a band for 50 years. Back when I was small (early 70's), he was out nearly every Saturday night gigging. From about May to October, he'd do a 1-5 wedding on Saturday then have a 9-1 gig. When I played in his band starting in 1982, we had at least 1 gig on most weekends. If you go back even farther, guys were gigging 5 to 6 nights a week with restaurant/lounge work then weddings and dances on the weekends. I was told stories by some old timers that are passed on now that all you had to do to fill a dance back in the 50's was put a sign outside the hall that day. The venue would be full. My dad payed off his house that he built in 1962 in 5 years with all his gig money going towards the mortgage. Now while there are some young people who are fans, the old folks keep dying off, leaving a gap.

Most of the jazz clubs are long gone as are the rock and roll clubs where I used to play in the 80s in my area.

Oh well, enough whining. As you were.
That quote about what you had to do to fill a dance hall - I’ve often wondered what kind of music scene you could jump-start or resurrect if you could just convince people to dance while actually touching each other. Like they used to do. Instead of, to quote Iggy Pop, dancing “like hypnotized chickens”. If you‘re going to dance and hold on to somebody at the same time, you’ve got to pay attention, coordinate, pay attention to the rhythm etc & some music is better for that than others.

One of my combos did wallpaper jazz before the pandemic killed the large scale corporate/civic events market. They're some of my favorite gigs. You play music, you keep it cool and you can get vast enjoyment from it along with a paycheck. The trick is these days is to make jazz palatable. You're not generally going to be playing for an audience comprised of musicians with an ear for complex patterns and a flurry of notes. No. They'll want melody. They'll want something snappy. And if you keep that in mind, you can add a jazz number or two to your pop and rock combos and you might just be surprised to find that your audience will appreciate the diversion.

Jazz is just music. Any you can ruin it like any other genre if you don't know your audience.
I loved jazz from an early age, even when - maybe especially when - I didn’t understand exactly what I was listening to. So I used to be surprised when I heard somebody say that they “hated jazz” - I would wonder which kind of “jazz” they meant - but at some point I figured out that a lot of people just don’t like music where they can’t pick out or predict a clear melody line or rhythm, and that requires their attention. That’s how it goes, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in our (fragmented) popular culture that’s going to change that anytime soon.
 

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As a scientist I often travel to major cities around the U.S. for week-long scientific conferences. About a year before the pandemic started, I realized this was a great opportunity to perform. So far in each city I have been able to find 2-3 jazz jam sessions to play at during the week, many in packed clubs which have jazz every night. Usually it is a mix of mostly professionals (maybe some teach or recently graduated), music students from nearby universities, and amateurs who can play. Being in the house band is probably a good steady gig once or twice a week with good networking opportunities. I been privileged to play with some great musicians at these. Usually the house band knows most of the tunes that are called. If the band is good and those sitting in are good, audiences tend to be on the younger side and some are enthusiastic. So far I have done this a few times in Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Boston. There is some level of interest in and respect for jazz in cities where a critical mass can form. True it is not like the old days, but there is a niche. I hope the venues will make a comeback -- some were already struggling. I would guess some cities have more activity than others.
 

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When I was active in the music business from the 70's to 2008, one of my band got booked for a lot of corporate trio gigs. I had a lock on all the venues that the richest family in Wisconsin owned, and it included the only 5 star hotel in the state, plus numerous golf courses. I had a lot of trio gigs, bass, keys, sax, for these events that lasted and hour or two for cocktails and dinner. No P.A., and we got treated very well. We played for big corporations, and although we played jazz in a background music kind of way, we would try to sneak in a Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock song here and there. Usually the entire room ignored us which was fine, but often there were one or two people in attendance who knew the music, loved it, and let us know.

These were functional gigs, and we provided what the customer needed and wanted, which gave me a lock of all the gigs for decades. We had fun, but it was always nice when someone in the audience actually was listening to the music and appreciated it. Sometimes you can have it both ways, and we made a lot more $$$ than playing in a jazz club for 4 hours. It was never work, we had fun.
 

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the question is remains, are you still eating Ziti?

 
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Such different experiences to mine, it makes great reading, and I understand more about why Jazz is so dominant on these forums, it's the schooling.
Public schools in South Australia -
Primary school, learn Lily the Pink, Roll out the Barrel, and other old English drinking songs, a few Australian and Irish folk songs, and a few odds and ends from other countries.
High School, learn Deep Purple, The Troggs, The Animals, Beatles, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Bob Dylan and various other 60s folk artists, and perhaps a fairly recent song or two you might have heard on the radio!
I assume you'd come across Jazz in university or college, but other than that, unless it was a favourite of a relative, the chances of being exposed to Jazz are pretty slim!
The vast majority of the "standards" I've come across learning saxophone are completely new to me, but apparently it's assumed that you know them, or at least know of them. I looked through dozens of possible first songs to learn, the only one I'd heard of was "When the Saints", and even then, only because of Bill Haley really. I'm pretty bleepin' sick of it now though! 😁

There is (/was?) an annual Jazz festival in Mt Barker, where I lived for over 30 years until recently, so it must have some following here, but where and how I don't know.

I think here, the market for jazz would be very limited, but possibly lucrative for the select few.

I'm just enjoying people relate their musical journeys and experiences! 🙂
 

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Ok, I have to chime in. Great thread.

I gotta tell you, my wife and I had breakfast a few Sunday's back and she typed "Coffee Shop Music" into YouTube on our laptop to give us some background tunes. What began streaming was nothing more than consumer-friendly piano jazz trio music. It wasn't super "hip" but it was definitely jazz, good ballad/bossa/light swing feels and improvisation. The YT channel was, oddly, a live stream with a fake record player spinning a fake record and a steaming cup of coffee that never seemed to get cold displayed on the screen.

Because this was a live stream there was also an accompanying chat box. I poop you not, thousands of people were logging in from around the world and many were making comments like "wow, my kind of music" and being friendly to each other. No politics, no trolling. Just people enjoying their breakfasts, saying hello to people from around the planet and enjoying the (jazz) music.

Yes, maybe this is the definition of "wallpaper" music, but there were an awful lot of people checking out a "dead" art form. At this point in my 20+ years as a freelance musician, if I'm offered the opportunity to play ANYTHING that has actual chord changes and allows me to improvise, I'm taking the gig. I'd sign up in a heartbeat to blow "chill" jazz on a Sunday morning to people eating, drinking and being merry.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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No politics, no trolling. Just people enjoying their breakfasts, saying hello to people from around the planet and enjoying the (jazz) music.

Yes, maybe this is the definition of "wallpaper" music,
It's probably true that background music is where a lot of jazz has been relegated. I remember hearing Giant Steps in an elevator.

But there is also movie and TV background music (where I make much of my income from). I once had a message from a student who was on holiday in Australia, she was excitedly writing to let me know one of my tunes was playing at the bungee jump. Made my day!
 

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but at some point I figured out that a lot of people just don’t like music where they can’t pick out or predict a clear melody line or rhythm, and that requires their attention.
I had a boss years ago that told me he didn't like jazz and his reasoning was this verbatim. On the converse, I have a friend who doesn't like Irish Trad music because the A and B parts keep repeating. Well yeah, the music is designed for people to dance to. It's a tough audience out there.
 

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I can’t stand house and techno and all of that because it isn’t music but, hey, lots of people like it

rhythm in 1
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I can’t stand house and techno and all of that because it isn’t music but, hey, lots of people like it
Lucky you didn't come to my Amsterdam gig with planetary Assault System then :) But thanks again for the loan of the tenor.
 
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