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miliosr

Median Ages for "High Art" Concertgoers

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In today's Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout discusses the decline in popularity of jazz. As part of his discussion, he includes the following stats regarding the median ages for "high art" concertgoers:

Ballet (46 in 2008/37 in 1982) (Note: I don't know if this includes modern dance.)

Classical music (49 in 2008/40 in 1982)

Jazz (46 in 2008/29 in 1982)

Nonmusical plays (47 in 2008/39 in 1982)

Opera (48 in 2008/43 in 1982)

(Information courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.)

Make of it what you will . . .

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Here's a link to the article.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405...3103850572.html

These numbers indicate that the audience for jazz in America is both aging and shrinking at an alarming rate. What I find no less revealing, though, is that the median age of the jazz audience is now comparable to the ages for attendees of live performances of classical music (49 in 2008 vs. 40 in 1982), opera (48 in 2008 vs. 43 in 1982), nonmusical plays (47 in 2008 vs. 39 in 1982) and ballet (46 in 2008 vs. 37 in 1982). In 1982, by contrast, jazz fans were much younger than their high-culture counterparts.

What does this tell us? I suspect it means, among other things, that the average American now sees jazz as a form of high art. Nor should this come as a surprise to anyone, since most of the jazz musicians that I know feel pretty much the same way. They regard themselves as artists, not entertainers, masters of a musical language that is comparable in seriousness to classical music—and just as off-putting to pop-loving listeners who have no more use for Wynton Marsalis than they do for Felix Mendelssohn.

I don't know that the 'average American' sees or hears jazz as much of anything nowadays. He probably hears more classical music than jazz, I'd bet. I'm not sure what these stats alone tell us, if anything.

I like jazz well enough although I'm no great fan, but my impression is that the music began fading in mass popularity beginning with the rise of bebop. The Jazz at Lincoln Center series symbolizes the pretensions described by Teachout, and I leave it to more committed fans to ask if they benefit the music much.

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In today's Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout discusses the decline in popularity of jazz. As part of his discussion, he includes the following stats regarding the median ages for "high art" concertgoers:

Ballet (46 in 2008/37 in 1982) (Note: I don't know if this includes modern dance.)

Classical music (49 in 2008/40 in 1982)

Jazz (46 in 2008/29 in 1982)

Nonmusical plays (47 in 2008/39 in 1982)

Opera (48 in 2008/43 in 1982)

(Information courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.)

Make of it what you will . . .

I wonder if the median age for all Americans is the same or different now than it was in 1982. It could be that median age of the concert-going audience is increasing simply because the baby boom generation -- a proportionately larger age cohort than, say, GenX-- is aging.

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I like jazz well enough although I'm no great fan, but my impression is that the music began fading in mass popularity beginning with the rise of bebop.

Agreed. With bebop, jazz decoupled itself from dance/party music and went off to live in its own esoteric art world. And rock 'n' roll was waiting in the wings to fill the gap.

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I like jazz well enough although I'm no great fan, but my impression is that the music began fading in mass popularity beginning with the rise of bebop.

Agreed. With bebop, jazz decoupled itself from dance/party music and went off to live in its own esoteric art world. And rock 'n' roll was waiting in the wings to fill the gap.

I'm not sure beauty and excitement are so esoteric. :) I thought a lot of rock 'n roll fans eventually expanded their tastes to encompass jazz, eventually coming to prefer it. I know I did. Don't know why that's not happening so much anymore.

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I thought a lot of rock 'n roll fans eventually expanded their tastes to encompass jazz, eventually coming to prefer it. I know I did. Don't know why that's not happening so much anymore.

I wonder whether jazz and rock 'n roll have enough in common to make that expansion a natural progression. Mind you, I do know of cases where love for Jimi Hendrix expanded into a love for loud Baroque organ music, which eventually expanded into a love for Baroque music in general. This strikes me as a logical enough progression (not unlike the metal heads I remember shopping for Paganini CDs a couple of decades back). I certainly don't mean to suggest that most rock fans will eventually come to prefer classical music! I suspect you're the marvellous exception, kfw.

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Er, thanks for the kind words, volcanohunter. To me it's natural to move from great blue rock improvisation like that practiced by Hendrix, Clapton, and Allman into jazz, so much of which is founded on the blues, and is also improvisatory.

Mind you, I do know of cases where love for Jimi Hendrix expanded into a love for loud Baroque organ music, which eventually expanded into a love for Baroque music in general.

I love it. The anecdote, that is. Baroque organ is for me one of the last frontiers. :)

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I wonder if the median age for all Americans is the same or different now than it was in 1982. It could be that median age of the concert-going audience is increasing simply because the baby boom generation -- a proportionately larger age cohort than, say, GenX-- is aging.

I think this is a large part of it. Although this chart only goes up to 1994, you can see the impact the boomers make on the U.S. median age over time as they age:

U.S. Median Age statistics

In addition to living longer, though, the senior population is also staying in good health longer and many of them are also in better financial condition than previous generations. They are better able to continue the activities they enjoy (such as concert-going) than their parents, and that definitely drags the median age of audiences up.

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It may be helpful to look at the report itself.

highlights: http://arts.endow.gov/research/NEA-SPPA-brochure.pdf

participation tables: http://www.arts.gov/research/SPPA/trends.pdf

I haven't read the whole thing carefully, but the following quote stands out.

From 2002 to 2008, however, 45-54-year-olds--historically a large component of arts audiences--showed the steepest declines in attendance for most arts events.

The decline of college-educated adults attending ballet is also pretty striking, apparently down 43% since 1982.

But try this on for size.

Number of adults attending ballet or other dance in 2008: 15.8 million

Number of adults attending opera in 2008: 4.8 million

Percentage of U.S. adults viewing (or listening) to dance broadcasts (or recordings) in 2008: 8.0%

Percentage of U.S. adults viewing or listening to opera broadcasts or recordings in 2008: 4.9%

Don't get me wrong now; I'm an opera nut. Furthermore, I realize that these stats are probably skewed by Nutcrackers and "So You Think You Can Dance." But given these statistics, why is opera being fed into cinemas live while ballet isn't? Why do PBS opera broadcasts outnumber PBS ballet broadcasts by a significant margin?

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I like jazz well enough although I'm no great fan, but my impression is that the music began fading in mass popularity beginning with the rise of bebop

But beboop was when jazz became great, with Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker (with Miles Davis), and early Thelonius Monk. "Ruby My Dear", "Caroina Moon," "April in Paris" are wonderfully danceable.

For me it's after John Coltrane ("My Favorite Things"), when jazz no longer was based on popular songs, Rogers & Hart and Cole Porter, etc--playing every note except the one you were supposed to play--that it became less interesting. Eric Dolphy is probably the end of that road, though Cecil Taylor still plays...

Jazz no longer comments on the world from the standpoint of an astute outsider, which was its old role--it's now part of Lincoln Center and Whole Foods.

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I like jazz well enough although I'm no great fan, but my impression is that the music began fading in mass popularity beginning with the rise of bebop

But beboop was when jazz became great, with Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker (with Miles Davis), and early Thelonius Monk. "Ruby My Dear", "Caroina Moon," "April in Paris" are wonderfully danceable.

For me it's after John Coltrane ("My Favorite Things"), when jazz no longer was based on popular songs, Rogers & Hart and Cole Porter, etc--playing every note except the one you were supposed to play--that it became less interesting. Eric Dolphy is probably the end of that road, though Cecil Taylor still plays...

Jazz has gone in many directions, of course, but overall it's not lacking in melody and doesn't neglect popular song (ot at least the standards of its heyday).

Jazz no longer comments on the world from the standpoint of an astute outsider, which was its old role--it's now part of Lincoln Center and Whole Foods.

Whole Foods, Starbucks, college radio . . . and it hardly lacks for exciting younger players. All the more ironic, then, that its audience is greying.

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For me it's after John Coltrane ("My Favorite Things"), when jazz no longer was based on popular songs, Rogers & Hart and Cole Porter, etc--playing every note except the one you were supposed to play--that it became less interesting...Jazz no longer comments on the world from the standpoint of an astute outsider, which was its old role--it's now part of Lincoln Center and Whole Foods.

Isn't that a bit contradictory? The jazz you find at Lincoln Center and Whole Foods is usually insipid renditions of standards and that's what most jazz novices are drawn to. Will people be more willing to listen to jazz as social commentary? It certainly can be more interesting, but not necessary what's going to drive the masses to listen. I could try to explain the significance of a recording like Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, but people in my age group, if they choose to even listen to "jazz," will still rather listen to Diana Krall or Michael Buble (he is to jazz what Josh Groban is to opera). By the way, I find the music of today's jazz musicians very danceable, including but not limited to Roy Hargrove, Joe Locke, Christian McBride, etc...much more so than the lounge-y stuff you get from Krall and Buble. If people choose to perceive attending a jazz club as an esoteric experience, then it will be. Otherwise, if the music moves you, please get up and dance the next time you find yourself in one...

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I wonder if the median age for all Americans is the same or different now than it was in 1982. It could be that median age of the concert-going audience is increasing simply because the baby boom generation -- a proportionately larger age cohort than, say, GenX-- is aging.

I think this is a large part of it. Although this chart only goes up to 1994, you can see the impact the boomers make on the U.S. median age over time as they age:

U.S. Median Age statistics

In addition to living longer, though, the senior population is also staying in good health longer and many of them are also in better financial condition than previous generations. They are better able to continue the activities they enjoy (such as concert-going) than their parents, and that definitely drags the median age of audiences up.

I did a little digging, and here's what I found:

US Median age 1982: 30.5

US Median age 2007: 36.7

If it seems as if there are more older folks around, it's because there are more older folks around -- and, as Sidwich points out, they're generally richer and healthier than they were earlier in the 20th century, too.

Re jazz: its metamorphosis into art music seems nearly complete to me -- many of its practitioners now have music degrees from conservatories or four year colleges.

(Comparative median age stats don't seem to be as readily available for the full 1982-2008 period as they should be, by the way. I don't mind my tax dollars funding the Census Bureau, but I wish they'd buy a more easily searchable data base.)

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I did a little digging, and here's what I found:

US Median age 1982: 30.5

US Median age 2007: 36.7

If it seems as if there are more older folks around, it's because there are more older folks around -- and, as Sidwich points out, they're generally richer and healthier than they were earlier in the 20th century, too.

The NEA survey uses median adult age as its reference point since the survey measures adult participation in the arts. In 1982 the median adult age was 39; in 2008 it was 45.

As miliosr already pointed out, in 1982 the average jazz concert-goer (aged 29) was 10 years younger than the average adult (39), 8 years younger than the average ballet-goer (37), 11 years younger than the average classical music attendee (40) and 14 years younger than the average opera-goer (43).

In 2008 the average jazz concert-goer (46) was one year older than the average adult (45), the same age as the average ballet-goer (46), 3 years younger than the average classical concert attendee (49) and 2 years younger than the average opera-goer (48).

So while the population is getting older in general, jazz fans are "aging" at a disproportionate rate.

(Page 5 of the highlights: http://arts.endow.gov/research/NEA-SPPA-brochure.pdf)

The statistics show that jazz has experienced the greatest shrinkage in audiences aged 18 to 24 between 1982 and 2008, with a decrease of 58.3%, as opposed to 37.3% for classical music, 40% for opera, 12.7% for musicals, 23.4% for dramatic theater, and 35.9% for ballet.

But jazz does seem to have kept its core audience from 1982, because its audiences older than age 45 have increased significantly, whereas in classical music and opera they've shrunk across the board. It's worth noting that ballet audiences from the dance boom days seem to have stuck around also, because while they've shrunk in every other age category, ballet-goers between the ages of 65 and 74 have increased by 43.3% over a 26-year period. (For some reason, the NEA deems this rise to be "statistically insignificant.")

http://www.arts.gov/research/SPPA/trends.pdf

I don't doubt that older adults are richer and healthier than they were a century ago, but between 2002 and 2008 the survey found drops in participation among the recently retired in most areas, which the NEA puts down partly to rising fuel costs.

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Thanks, Old Fashioned, I’ve listened to Roy Hargrove, Joe Locke, Christian McBride, online--and I'll try to listen more of them--and I went to hear Josh Redman in San Francisco at Herbst Hall in a “Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Revisited” concert a year or two ago. This music is different than generic Lincoln Center/Columbus Circle jazz. But it seems like a whole different sort of music than the pre-1959 stuff--it’s more technically brilliant and shimmering, with complicated feathering out and long mail-coats of intricate notes, at least that’s how I visualize it. What I miss from the earlier stuff is the stance and the sarcasm and wit; a whole different way of musically being in the world.

When John Coltrane comes in the room on his first phrase, it’s as if nothing existed before, his footing in so assured, it’s in the perfect “wrong” place, somewhat the manner of--if I don’t romanticize too much--Suzanne Farrell or Allegra Kent.

The old school jazz was made in a time when artists were still outsiders--and art was outside and a bit threatening to the normal--which is impossible today. There is no "wrong place" available anymore.

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The old school jazz was made in a time when artists were still outsiders--and art was outside and a bit threatening to the normal--which is impossible today. There is no "wrong place" available anymore.

I wouldn’t go quite that far. It’s still possible for art and music to be ‘transgressive,’ to use the current jargon, although I grant you it’s harder than it used to be.

For me it's after John Coltrane ("My Favorite Things"), when jazz was no longer was based on popular songs, Rogers & Hart and Cole Porter, etc--playing every note except the one you were supposed to play--that it became less interesting.

As far as some of the popular composers were concerned, it was good riddance. Rodgers and Hart once wrote a song on the subject called "I Like to Recognize the Tune" and Jerome Kern really, really hated the way jazz musicians messed around with his compositions.

Agreed. With bebop, jazz decoupled itself from dance/party music and went off to live in its own esoteric art world. And rock 'n' roll was waiting in the wings to fill the gap.

I'm not sure beauty and excitement are so esoteric. :)

I don’t think miliosr was commenting on aesthetics - the point is that jazz began moving away from its popular roots around then and at this stage there is probably no going back. The new versions of old standards offered today don't do much to reverse that trend - those standards aren't 'popular' any more (and are now often treated as a kind of light classical music).

Otherwise, if the music moves you, please get up and dance the next time you find yourself in one...

Assuming you can find a jazz club. They're thinner on the ground than they used to be.

Re jazz: its metamorphosis into art music seems nearly complete to me -- many of its practitioners now have music degrees from conservatories or four year colleges.

That’s my impression, as well.

Great discussion, everyone, and thanks to Kathleen and volcanohunter for looking closely at the stats.

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The jazz you find at Lincoln Center and Whole Foods is usually insipid renditions of standards and that's what most jazz novices are drawn to. Will people be more willing to listen to jazz as social commentary? It certainly can be more interesting, but not necessary what's going to drive the masses to listen. I could try to explain the significance of a recording like Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, but people in my age group, if they choose to even listen to "jazz," will still rather listen to Diana Krall or Michael Buble (he is to jazz what Josh Groban is to opera). By the way, I find the music of today's jazz musicians very danceable, including but not limited to Roy Hargrove, Joe Locke, Christian McBride, etc.

You're mistaken about jazz at Lincoln Center, Old Fashioned. Christian McBride is there tonight. I heard Joe Locke there in 2007. Sunday I'll hear John Patitucci, Joe Lovano & Brian Blade, Tuesday Chico Hamilton, and Wednesday Roy Haynes. People of that quality play there year 'round, in the club and in the two theaters. I have to disagree re: "danceable" too. Those guys make a variety of records and as sidemen play in a variety of contexts.

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Since it must be some sort of barometer of the musical tastes of young adults, I wonder what sort of observations posters could make about the state of jazz on campus radio.

Ten years ago the campus radio station in the city where I live had 3-4 jazz programs on its schedule. Today there is only one. Its host has long since ceased to be a university student, but without him jazz programming would disappear altogether from the schedule. Does this hold true in other cities?

Also, some 6-7 years ago a jazz television network was launched in Canada. What qualified as jazz was interpreted fairly broadly. Every evening there was an old movie musical (great for me), and the schedule was heavy with things like Ed Sullivan, Nat King Cole and Judy Garland show reruns. In time the movie musicals were cut back to one a week before disappearing altogether, and eventually the variety shows went, too. I must admit that at that point I stopped watching, and apparently so did a lot of other people because within a matter of months the network went out of business. Its sister radio station was sold and relaunched as a "soft jazz" station, though my impression is that its programming actually veers closer to easy listening. This isn't an encouraging state of affairs either.

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You're mistaken about jazz at Lincoln Center, Old Fashioned. Christian McBride is there tonight. I heard Joe Locke there in 2007. Sunday I'll hear John Patitucci, Joe Lovano & Brian Blade, Tuesday Chico Hamilton, and Wednesday Roy Haynes. People of that quality play there year 'round, in the club and in the two theaters. I have to disagree re: "danceable" too. Those guys make a variety of records and as sidemen play in a variety of contexts.

I'm aware that the best musicians often perform at Lincoln Center so I guess I should have been more clear about what Lincoln Center represents to me. JALC embodies the whole notion that jazz is "high art" and should be kept there, untouched by outside and popular influences. Not to say it should be dumbed down, but allowed to evolve and grow. This may be a reason why younger audiences feel a disconnect with jazz, believing that it's too cerebral for their tastes. I recall some interview with Wynton Marsalis where he said something about how latin-influenced jazz isn't "pure" jazz music, whatever that's supposed to mean. That's the type of musical ideology I'm opposed to, the idea that this music should be codified in music conservatories.

Editing to add: That's a great lineup they have. But, just as good jazz can be found at JALC, good jazz can also be found at Whole Foods and Starbucks. Miles and Herbie Hancock recordings sit along side Jamie Cullum and whatever cool new indie-hipster musician/band is out there. It's really about what these places embody, not what can actually be found.

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Thanks for explaining, Old Fashioned. I don't remember that Marsalis interview, but I do know that the Center often programs Latin jazz. I guess I don't see JALC as keeping jazz pure and untouched by popular music, which as you and dirac note had such an influence on it earlier. I see it as celebrating jazz history and keeping past traditions going. Programming for their 2009 season http://www.playbillarts.com/features/article/8019.html is quite diverse and includes a collaboration with Alvin Ailey's Hope Boykin, and an evening of . . . the Yellowjackets? They certainly fit my definition of bland and commercial.

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Agreed. With bebop, jazz decoupled itself from dance/party music and went off to live in its own esoteric art world. And rock 'n' roll was waiting in the wings to fill the gap.

I'm not sure beauty and excitement are so esoteric. :angel_not:

I don’t think miliosr was commenting on aesthetics - the point is that jazz began moving away from its popular roots around then and at this stage there is probably no going back. The new versions of old standards offered today don't do much to reverse that trend - those standards aren't 'popular' any more (and are now often treated as a kind of light classical music).

Thank you dirac.

Something can be aesthethically beautiful/wonderful and still only appeal to a minority of people. As jazz moved from swing to bop to hard bop to free jazz, there was a gradual contraction of the audience. (There were exceptions, to be sure, like Stan Getz's bossa nova records, which were very popular with audiences.)

Whatever Ballet Talkers may think of Miles Davis' 70s records (and, personally, I think that music was meant to be heard live rather than on vinyl), I think he correctly deduced that there was nothing noble about going off to live in a musical hermitage and make music that the unwashed and the unlettered didn't "get". (This is the same issue I have with the postmodern dancemakers of the 70s.) He wanted to make music at a very high level but he also wanted it to be accessible enough that the average listener could meet him halfway. Incorporating certain elements from the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly&the Family Stone allowed him to build a bridge to rock audiences and, for a time, his records/live shows were very popular during the 70s. (His touring band of 1973-75 rocked just as hard -- if not harder -- than other bands of the era like the Allmans, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.)

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As jazz moved from swing to bop to hard bop to free jazz, there was a gradual contraction of the audience. (There were exceptions, to be sure, like Stan Getz's bossa nova records, which were very popular with audiences.)

Sorry to misunderstand you before, milosr. What you say above is true of course, but the irony is that only a very small percentage of the jazz that is played live or recorded today is free jazz, or is that difficult to follow. (Hard bop still had great popularity, albeit not what swing did). The point I was trying to make is that a great deal of jazz today is accessible if people will only take a little time to familiarize themselves with it.

Whatever Ballet Talkers may think of Miles Davis' 70s records (and, personally, I think that music was meant to be heard live rather than on vinyl), I think he correctly deduced that there was nothing noble about going off to live in a musical hermitage and make music that the unwashed and the unlettered didn't "get". (This is the same issue I have with the postmodern dancemakers of the 70s.) He wanted to make music at a very high level but he also wanted it to be accessible enough that the average listener could meet him halfway. Incorporating certain elements from the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly&the Family Stone allowed him to build a bridge to rock audiences and, for a time, his records/live shows were very popular during the 70s. (His touring band of 1973-75 rocked just as hard -- if not harder -- than other bands of the era like the Allmans, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.)

Miles apparently didn't want to be left behind, which explains why he changed his style of dress as well as his music. I never heard the 70's bands live, except for on recordings, but what you say makes sense to me. Too bad that, after he came out of retirement in the early 80's, his music never hit that peak again.

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How important is the decline of jazz clubs? My first jazz experiences was in clubs in which you could move, drink, smoke ( :speechless-smiley-003: ), and -- in the case of quite a few fans -- respond to the musicians. Sitting in a row of armchairs bolted to the auditorium floor is quite a different experience.

Also: what about the "median age of jazz musicians"? The Playbill article (posted by kfw) is illustrated with a rather familiar image of a group that's on the elderly side -- and rather over-fed. Ballet and opera are constantly reinvigorated by young performers, even when the rep is old. Is this true about jazz today?

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Sorry to misunderstand you before, milosr. What you say above is true of course, but the irony is that only a very small percentage of the jazz that is played live or recorded today is free jazz, or is that difficult to follow. (Hard bop still had great popularity, albeit not what swing did). The point I was trying to make is that a great deal of jazz today is accessible if people will only take a little time to familiarize themselves with it.

No harm/no foul, kfw. I don't always know what I mean! :speechless-smiley-003:

I would agree with you that there's a lot of accessible jazz out there. Unfortunately, I would also agree w/ Old Fashioned -- the 'Jazz at Lincoln Center' approach (jazz as high art) acts as a barrier to entry for the uninitiated. To me, JALC (the institution and the philosophy it represents) is more like a mausoleum for the jazz past rather than an entry portal into jazz as it exists in the 21st century.

Miles apparently didn't want to be left behind, which explains why he changed his style of dress as well as his music. I never heard the 70's bands live, except for on recordings, but what you say makes sense to me. Too bad that, after he came out of retirement in the early 80's, his music never hit that peak again.

By 1975, Davis had taken his jazz-rock hybrid of the 70s to an undreamed of extreme. Having shepherded jazz through bop, cool, hard bop, orchestral, modal and fusion, all that was left for him was the return, which by definition is always less exciting than the outward exploration.

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Also: what about the "median age of jazz musicians"? The Playbill article (posted by kfw) is illustrated with a rather familiar image of a group that's on the elderly side -- and rather over-fed. Ballet and opera are constantly reinvigorated by young performers, even when the rep is old. Is this true about jazz today?

It's my impression that a good many young musicians are getting recording contracts and bookings. Many also accompany older, more established artists. Singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding, a young woman who had a spot at the Newport Jazz Festival last weekend, just graduated from Berklee in 2005.

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