Friday, August 31, 2012

Jazz or Bust? Help Steady a Major Source of Modern Jazz History

UPDATE (10/2/2012): The Jazz Session will end at the end of October, 2012. More about this at The Jazz Session: A Special Announcement

Jazz interviewer Jason Crane today added to his personal blog at a post entitled Tour Diary: The End Of The Line. Here he informs us that, due to lack of funding, his Jazz or Bust tour will not be able to continue, at least for now.

The tour started as a response to his housing status becoming uncertain. It became an interview trek down the east coast from Brooklyn to New Orleans. Crane found great jazz and its creators outside of New York, and did readings of his own poetry along the way. He stopped by here and spent some time at The Gnu's Room in Auburn.

In addition to the tour having to be interrupted, it appears distinctly possible that his interview show, which he's done for free, for anyone, for everyone, for five years, for 400 interviews, may also be interrupted. Reason being that he may have to move somewhere permanently. If it's not NYC, the reservoir of musicians available to interview would diminish considerably.

I am an expert on nothing. But I've listened to about the last 150 interviews he's done, and I have developed a sense that what he's created is an invaluable piece of historical reference. And this was recently confirmed for me.

Below is a quote from Crane's description of an interview of Barry Kernfeld he posted to on June 11, 2012:
"Barry Kernfeld...may be most well known as the editor of both editions of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, a massive undertaking that sought to define the major players, instruments and theories of jazz around the world."
Now, below is a transcription, uh's edited out, of a short section of that interview, starting at around 49:03. The key point is the last sentence.
Kernfeld: But there's been no systematic work on jazz as a Grove entity since 2001, and I think that for financial reasons there is no prospect of there being. I can continue to call myself the editor of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. I am. There hasn't been any other. That doesn't mean I'm doing anything on it. I'm doing other stuff.

Crane: Which makes me sad, because, I mean, a huge part of the reason that I do what I do is because I looked around and realized that no one was talking to musicians of a certain generation. I mean, the--many of the greats who had gone before had, you know, extensive documentation of their lives and stories, and very few people did, you know, around my age and younger.

Kernfeld: And I saw on your website you've got just one new person after the next--hundreds of them--interviews, hour-long interviews that would be, you know, the resource for Grove 3.
So, to paraphrase, or at least infer from Kernfield's passing comment, this tremendous contributor to our world's knowledge of jazz has just implied that Crane's show would be a significantly--even singularly--important repository of source material for a third edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, if it were ever to exist.

Crane is no different than any other great artist has ever been. He makes his money from patrons. On his list of patrons are some--not all, mind you--of the 400+ musicians who have benefited directly from literally millions of people downloading their interviews. I have spent real money on these people's music that I never would have spent without Crane's show. If each of them would commit one gig's pay per year to the show, he would be in a lot better shape, and the modern history of jazz could continue to be recorded.

But even that may be a lot to ask. Arts patrons are not generally artists, or at least not those for whom art is everything. They are other people. They are people who have the luxury to care about the future of something else without having to worry too much, as most artists do, as Crane apparently does, about the screaming right-now of their own lives.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but people who have time to stare at a screen reading 750 words by a small-town, part-time musician are very likely the kinds of people who can be arts patrons.

As Nashville saxophonist Evan Cobb tweeted to Crane today, "How do we fix this?" There are two easy ways. Become a regular member of the show at this link: and support the tour at this one:

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