Over the last few decades, our culture has all but abandoned the notion of jazz as a living, breathing art form. I'll even bet that, if you're not already a fan, the moment you realized this post was about jazz, you considered clicking away. It seems distant and boring; a highbrow art form that takes some musical proficiency and a large wallet to enjoy. And if you are a fan, you've noticed that jazz nowadays exists in three places: New Orleans, behind glass at institutions like Jazz at Lincoln Center, and in a handful of old venues that require a steep admission and drink minimum to enter. It's as if somebody took this music, which is inherently underground and rebellious and locked it away, leaving us with Kenny G and a History Channel box set.
What's truly unfair is that the enormous attention we place on jazz's glorious past shapes our view of its present as being less popular and inferior by comparison. So, while Coltrane's records continue to inspire young players around the world, its no wonder the genre as a whole fails to resonate with the my generation. Kids today can't access the spirit that once surrounded jazz as an underground musical revolution. However, I'm fairly confident my friend, Adam Schatz, has discovered a way to provide this access.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard that Adam, founder of Search and Restore, an essential resource for new jazz in New York City, launched a highly ambitious and risky fundraising venture on Kickstarter. He hopes to raise $75,000 to fund the most comprehensive documentation of new jazz ever. By filming over 200 concerts in one year and integrating the footage onto his site, Adam will give a taste of this amazing music to thousands more, who would have otherwise never found it, inspiring them to go out and see the real thing live.
When Adam arrived in New York in the fall of 2006 to study Saxophone at NYU, he began seeing shows right away. Like a good jazz student, he wrote down the names of every player, who blew his mind and like a great jazz student, made sure to see that player every time he or she performed thereafter. Naturally, this led Adam to a lot of shows. One for every night of the week in fact. What he began to notice, contrary to his previous beliefs, was that jazz was not this distant, fading artifact but a vital and exciting new music, who's varied and brilliant sounds went wildly unnoticed. There existed an enormous semantic gap between the jazz, which our culture has found irrelevant, and the jazz, which continued to move Adam night after night. At the start of his sophomore year, Adam made it his mission to close this gap.
He started a monthly concert series at the Knitting Factory called Search and Restore. Using the connections he made as an avid fan, Adam put together impressive bills in a unique format--tickets under $15 to bring an audience out and two headliners a night to keep them around. After only a few shows, the response from audiences and players alike was so great, it became clear that Adam had stumbled upon something this community needed desperately. An organizer. Since then, Adam has worked closely with such leading artists as Vijay Iyer, Kneebody, Theo Bleckmann and Miles Okazaki just to name a few, he has received some wonderful praise from critics and the players he admires most, and, this Monday, November 29th, he will host a benefit concert at (Le) Poisson Rouge featuring non-stop duets by some of the biggest names in the new jazz scene.
While I have played jazz for much of my life and feel invested in its well-being, it has been the privilege of knowing Adam and feeding off his indelible devotion to this music, which has inspired me most to help him succeed.
Recently, I've come to learn the value of a person's ability to follow-through. So many of us, especially at my young age of 22, dream up truly great ideas but never act on them. It is that process, after the initial creative magic wears off and all that's left is the work, which frightens us onto the next idea. This has been a problem for me, especially, and I find that the closer I get to Adam and his indefatigable work ethic, the better I feel about my own capacity to act. This is what friends are for, I guess, to help each other along the way.
So, if you have a moment, check out his Kickstarter. Check out his website. Donate if you'd like. And remember, if you're a kid beginning to discover John Coltrane's later records, this music is for you. If you're into rock music and are looking for the heaviest live show around, this music is for you. If you are an older jazz fan, clinging to your 45s but uninterested in anything else, the music is still for you. What I'm trying to say is this music is for everyone. Enjoy it!
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