The Enthusiasm of Individuals
To paraphrase the quotation 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers' It is in my view a truism that jazz,has to a great extent, looked for its promotion, venues, and general well-being 'on the enthusiasm of individuals '.
To take the example of jazz clubs. It would be interesting to evaluate just how many were founded and run by individuals who got into it because they loved the music and the jazz life - the majority I would anticipate. Wonderful clubs such as the '606 Jazz Club' that has been active for more years than the owner - - would like to remember - or perhaps the opposite - recollection is perhaps the motivation that makes him continue promoting a style of music that rarely makes anyone rich - or even moderately affluent.
The best jazz clubs do fall into this pattern. For jazz is not the ideal vehicle for corporate ambition and objectives. Love them or hate them - many jazz clubs owners are not particularly easy individuals - the jazz loving public know who they are and quietly admire their tenacity.
The Bierodrome a wonderful venue run by the late Pol Lenders only managed to survive for less than two years after his departure. Bought by the couple of individuals, who thought they were going a turn the place into some species of cash cow, they lacked even the most basic insight into what make a great jazz club function. The punters voted with their feet. The result a very sad hole in the Brussels jazz scene.
I do know that other genres also can depend on individual enthusiasm foe the specific style of music: Classic. Opera. Rock. Country and Western. et al. The essential difference is that potential earnings are astronomic compared to what can be earned by jazz promoters and jazz musicians.
National attitudes also have an impact. What percentage of the American public really appreciate of care about the contribution jazz made and continues to make to their culture. In the United Kingdom where there still exists a solid public for jazz but sadly hardly ever attracts younger people to turn up for the majority of gigs. This in itself is interesting and poses a question. Most will tell you that younger people in the United Kingdom do not like and are not interested in jazz. Yet a couple of weeks ago I went, for the second time, to a very well organised jam session held in a bar in the heart of a student quarter of Manchester. The place was heaving and listening. 'Thank you for the music' said one young couple to me at the end of the gig.
So what place does jazz have in a given national consciousness ?
My very good friend the late Pol Lenders was honoured by the commune where he lived until his death by the naming of a street after him. I think we will have to wait a long time before we see a 'Ronnie Scott Street, London WI'.
However, of one thing I am sure. Jazz is truly a global music and perhaps paradoxically its fragility is the real source of its strength.