It has taken more than a decade, but it seems that a fair number of jazz journalists are now taking advantage of the Web to augment – and in a few cases, circumvent – their traditional avenues for communicating with their audiences.
Some have launched blogs, others use more traditional Web sites that stay static longer. One of the most enterprising, Washington, D.C.-based Bill Shoemaker, has even created his own monthly alternative publication, Point Of Departure.
Frankly, I’m surprised that more haven’t jumped in sooner. Back in the very early days of the public Web – circa 1994 – the discussion group rec.music.bluenote attracted a number of wired music commentators. It’s hard to believe from this vantage point but, despite being a public forum, the level of discussion was high enough and the volume of traffic sane enough that musicians like Steve Coleman and Vijay Iyer were regular participants. Through rmb, I struck up lasting friendships with several regular posters, including Aaron Cohen – now one of my editors at DownBeat – and the late Eric Nisenson.
The level of intelligent debate didn’t last long, of course, driving a number of people to less-public venues like mailing lists, and some off into who-knows-where.
More recent technologies like blogging and MySpace have now lured some of those people back; a good development.
Jazz journalists are a surprisingly non-techie lot (the stories I could tell!) but whether through their own devices or with the help of friends or children, some have now found regular homes for themselves online. None have pushed it further than Bret Primack (a true pioneer in the area) and Shoemaker, but several like Jazziz editor-at-large Larry Blumenfeld and Doug Ramsey are now offering regular commentary beyond what they publish in other places. I’ve started a list of those members of the 450-strong Jazz Journalists Association who have an online presence, which you can find here.