They don't buy it

By Eric Boehlert

By Salon Staff
July 10, 2000 11:12PM (UTC)
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The idea that jazz music is dead because it doesn't sell CDs is ludicrous. Jazz music isn't simple three-chord progression (like pop music) and takes some musical knowledge to appreciate. Since music appreciation isn't being taught in schools anymore, it's little wonder fewer people appreciate its creative and complex sound.

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And the idea that a newbie to jazz music would begin with Thelonius Monk is a stretch. Monk's style is both complex and beyond what a less-than-sophisticated ear would consider harmonic. He is spectacularly stylistic, and consequently usually not heard on "smooth jazz" radio stations.

As for "Kind of Blue," this set sells year after year because it is the exact opposite of Monk. It is tonally harmonic and readily enjoyed on a visceral level without having to comprehend the incredible genius of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, James Cobb and Wynton Kelly. Yes, these are the masters, and forever young!

-- George Chapman

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Re: Your article about baby boomer tastes in CDs. You should have mentioned the Naxos classical label, the real success story of this decade. Through shrewd marketing and an understanding of the current classical music scene, this label has been undercutting labels like Sony and offering quality music. I buy Naxos all the time.

-- George Hook

While I thought that your article on the state of classical and jazz record sales was interesting and well thought-out, I'm more than a little surprised that it never occurred to an Internet publication to discuss how Internet retailing is affecting the market. While the Internet market is small, it is growing rapidly, and the ability to stock many more titles than a retail store makes it an ideal venue for niche markets.

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As someone who has purchased many classical and jazz titles online, I have found that the biggest advantage is the cornucopia of information about different titles that is available to the shopper. If you want to get your feet wet in jazz or classical, it's easy to get started online, and once you have the basics, it's easy to learn about less widely known releases.

As broadband connections become more common, the other thing that has a lot of potential is online radio. With the dozens or hundreds of easily available online radio stations, it's easy to find a whole selection of jazz and classical stations, which can give you an opportunity to hear interesting music before you buy it. And while it may be easy as pie to go find the new Britney Spears CD on Napster, you're a lot less likely to find the Duke Ellington catalog, and even if you do, the dynamic range of jazz and classical titles will make you want to go out and buy the CDs.

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-- Andrew Norris

Your article on lagging jazz CD sales ended with the quote, "Jazz is not dead. It's over." I believe the late Frank Zappa said it better when he said, "Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny."

-- Jim Knapp


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