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What We Lost, and Gained, In a Livestream Age

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Livestream From The Village Vanguard: Joe Lovano's Trio Fascination, with Ben Street and Andrew Cyrille.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been sorely missing live music. But in at least one sense, we haven’t lost the experience of real-time musical exchange.

If you’ve been following our coverage, especially in the Livestream Hub, you know that lockdowns have sent artists and venues online. And if you’ve been tuning in, you probably know that the learning curve was steep for all involved.

Musicians are now their own promoters, engineers, curators and videographers. Clubs are facing a sudden pivot to video — and the hard truth that streaming revenues don’t add up to a revenue stream. The challenges are many, and yet we’ve both been encouraged by so much of what we’ve seen. 

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So that’s our topic of conversation in this second episode of Jazz United. We’ll reflect on what’s missing, and the key role that jazz clubs have played in our lives. We’ll talk about how our viewing experience has evolved over these last several months. 

And we’ll shout out a couple of beacons in the dark — like ACT4Music, a series spearheaded by Anthony Tidd, and The Village Vanguard, which began its stream last month with the Billy Hart Quartet. (Given that the two of us first bonded over a set by saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, we’ll also throw our endorsement behind his gig at The Jazz Gallery, which streams on July 9.)

The livestream ecology keeps evolving, almost faster than anyone can track it: among the latest news is an announcement by the Detroit Jazz Festival, which will be livestreaming on site over Labor Day weekend. And we keep seeing bold initiatives like Live From Our Living Rooms, which has branched out into webinars as well as performances. That’s beyond the scope of this discussion, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation — maybe to check back in again, from some unknowable vantage point down the line.

Jazz United is produced by Sarah Kerson.

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Music in This Episode:

  • “United” (Wayne Shorter), performed by Woody Shaw
  • “A Light,” from Gerald Clayton’s Happening: Live at The Village Vanguard
  • “Song of Freedom,” by Dara Tucker with Greg Bryant
  • “The Greatest Performance of My Life,” performed by Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner

For Further Reading:

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A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.
Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.