Originally Posted by keep it simple
In my experience, especially with younger people starting their musical appreciation journey, an interest is sparked by something attractively transient. Once a surface interest is established, many are motivated to look deeper in a never ending search for greater gratification. It's along that journey that newcomers to the genre eventually encounter the best of performances & concepts. It's the barrier at the start of the journey that would worry me if I had an interest in the future of jazz.
Imagine, if you will, that all jazz lite material was wiped from the face of the earth. Only the purest, most progressive, most competent material remains. A younger listener with no previous exposure to such material is likely to find it, as a minimum, perplexing, and at the other end of the scale, dismissed as rubbish. Why, because to those with simplistic taste, either by age or preference, there's no hook, no discernible melody.
The likes of Kenny G offer something that is easy to access. It might not be great, but it does at least offer an introduction to a different sound than the electro puke computer processed garbage that rules the airwaves. Real instruments played by musicians and a "flavour" of jazz is surely preferable to the younger generation regarding jazz as untouchable technically motivated stuff played only by those permitted into the inner circle.
I think that jazz, as many other minority interest genres such as classical, can only exist by evolution & that can only happen with new blood. New people and new ideas are essential to progression and keeping the genre fresh & challenging. Gateway music has a vital part to play in that IMO.
I hear you, Andy. Let me share with you two personal instances. One that backs your point and the other, mine.
My entry into jazz was by way of Chick Corea and Weather Report. Not what you'd call the purists picks by any stretch. I was basically a rocker who got totally seduced by the displaced rhythms and the crazy chords.
I then went backwards to discover Bitches Brew and Miles and further backwards to Ornette and Coltrane and Monk all the way back to Parker, Lester Young and then forward again to some of the crazy wonderful modern stuff thats going on now... so did I come in through a wider access point like you recommend? - YES!
My 16 yr old loves and listens only to jazz. No overt influencing on my part in the least. All his friends are head bangers and metalheads ( obviously ) and he's the odd one out. He loves Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra. For the uninitiated, these arent the easy listening variety. No trainer wheels were needed for him to find the road to the music that spoke to his heart..He found his own access point. Probably the only 16 year old Jazzsnob in the world.
Ying & Yang. : )