Is Jazz a Young Person's Music After All?
But that’s not what I want to write about. I want to write about the fact that the set was jam-packed, and with more young people—including young women, in their early to mid 20s—than I’ve ever seen at this or any of New York City’s other major jazz clubs. Some of these people were familiar with jazz, even with Potter; others clearly were not. But they all seemed to be enjoying it; they were quiet—as quiet as any jazz crowd I’ve been in lately—and very appreciative with their applause.
What was going on here? The answer: The cover charge was just $15, about half the Standard’s usual fare. The set was part of the CareFusion Jazz Festival, which was going on all over town, some of it at places like Carnegie Hall, some at places like the Standard. The festival’s organizer, George Wein, made a deal with the clubs: He would pay for the musicians; the clubs could keep all the door fees, as long as they charged no more than $15. A very good deal for all concerned.
As a result, young people flocked. Maybe it’s not true that the new generation doesn’t like jazz; maybe they just find it too expensive.
The critic Gary Giddins tells me that, when he took the Long Island Railroad into the city to go to the Village Vanguard as a teenager in the late ‘60s, the cover was $2.50. Adjusting for inflation, $2.50 in 1969 is the same as just a little under $15 in 2009.
I don’t know what to do about this. Obviously, George Wein (or some jazz-loving millionaire) can’t subsidize clubs like this all the time. But what if some clubs held a jam session, or a player’s or composer’s series, one late set, one night a week, for a much-reduced cover? (Barbes in Brooklyn, which holds 30 people, who each put $10 in a jar that’s passed around, attracts excellent musicians, who use the forum to try out new material.)
Maybe young people would find out that they like this thing called jazz and, once they had a bit more money, they’ll come back.