The Jazz.com Blog
June 29, 2008 · 6 comments
The word "community" has taken on many new meanings since the rise of the Internet. Certainly the often fragmented world of jazz has benefited enormously from new media's ability to bring fans and musicians together in virtual communities. Alan Kurtz looks below at one of the more exciting jazz communities on the web, a new site that has attracted almost 3,000 members in less than a year.
Readers are invited to share their own views by adding their comments or emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. T.G.
In The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Howard Rheingold writes: "My 7-year-old daughter knows that her father congregates with a family of invisible friends who seem to gather in his computer. Sometimes he talks to them, even if nobody else can see them." Given the Internet's ever-expanding reach, such invisible families are now multiplying faster than rabbits on fertility-enhancement drugs. While face-to-face contact remains essential for both our most intimate and our most superficial encounters, online interaction increasingly occupies the middle ground of meaningful social exchange unencumbered by proximity. Overcoming the mind/body disconnect that preoccupied worrywart humanists in times past, we have redefined the Real World to embrace mentality and materiality with equal ease.
Even that musical centenarian called Jazz has quickened its step into virtual communality, as shown by a web site launched half a year ago and already thriving with nearly 3,000 members and a homepage hit counter that recently spiraled past 150,000 with the dizzying determination of prices at your neighborhood gas pump. The Jazz Network is the brainchild of Jaijai Jackson, daughter of bassist Chubby Jackson (1918-2003). Born into show biz, Jaijai strutted her stuff at age 6 on her dad's popular kiddies show telecast locally in New York City during the early '60s. From such formative experiences, Jaijai "felt the pulse of the business," as she puts it. Adulthood found her running a recording studio and representing jazzmen through a family booking firm before joining the Willard Alexander Agency, where she coordinated tours for Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson and other big-name artists. Later, under her alias "Woman of Jazz," Jaijai conducted an Internet radio jazz show. And now, applying her expertise to The Jazz Network, she helps fledgling and established artists alike find affordable new ways to connect with fans worldwide.
Of course, you don't have to be a musician to join this dynamic virtual community, chock-full of member-posted photos, audio tracks and video clips that will delight nonprofessionals no end. The focus, though, is definitely on the artists, who have quickly made The Jazz Network's innovative showplace their own. Jazz.com contributor Marissa Dodge, for example, treats Jazz Network visitors to generous samples of her singing & keyboard playing, songwriting, poetry, stories from her ongoing memoirs, banter from admirers, and a slideshow of Marissa mugging for the camera. (Her balancing a baby grand piano on one hand – with eyes closed – is not to be missed! Eat your heart out, David Copperfield.)
Once hooked, you'll naturally want to set up your own page. No degree in computer science is required, you'll be glad to know. The Jazz Network makes it easy as cake. (Piece of pie?) Covet a slideshow like Marissa's? Simply click the Make Your Own button and be whizzed off to Photobucket, where you can drop your pix into a slideshow "100% free and 100% fun."
Or how about one of those constantly updating Maps To See How Far We Are Networking? Click the link to NiftyMaps.com to customize a map for your own web site or MySpace page that tracks your visitors' locations down to street level. Another free toy or tool, as the case may be, courtesy of The Jazz Network.
Given such an open and welcoming environment, it's no surprise that The Jazz Network has attracted such familiar names as David Benoit, Alex Bugnon, Onaje Allan Gumbs and Lenny White to its member roster, and earned accolades from the likes of fellow members Billy Cobham, Will Downing, Alphonse Mouzon and Buster Williams.
Yet it's not only established artists who hang out together over this electronic backyard fence. There are plenty of tomorrow's aspiring stars as well, such as 15-year-old jazz saxophonist and journalist Mikayla Gilbreath. "I heard Sonny Rollins," she says, explaining her passion, "and I just loved it. I loved the way it sounded, and I wanted to play jazz instead of just music." Has anyone of any age ever put it better? Jazz instead of just music.
Jazz.com takes pride in saluting an appealing, engaging and downright useful web site that has obviously struck a responsive chord in jazz's virtual community. Way to go, The Jazz Network!
This blog entry posted by Alan Kurtz.