L.A. Jazz - A Look at the Enduring Legacy

By Paul Suter ~ March 1, 1998

Jazz vocalist Tracy Todd has been working in the L.A. scene for the past ten years and exemplifies the younger musicians who are showing signs of the aggression with which young rock artist work. Sufficiently talented enough to rise to the top of the local scene, Todd has played Catalina's twice, and is about to release her own CD, rather than waiting for the labels to bite.

For Todd, it's the lack of money being spent on jazz that is something she's eternally frustrated by. "It's a catch 22 situation," she notes. "You can't increase interest in jazz without spending more money to promote it, but until you increase the interest and the sales, there isn't any money to invest in promoting it."

I've always believed that you should target who you want to reach, and then make it appealing to them. A lot of young people aren't going to be interested in sitting in a jazz club listening to the greats jam, but I've often thought it would be a good idea for jazz people to attach themselves to non-jazz acts who are bigger - maybe it could become a trendy thing for a jazz band to open for an alternative act."

Something a little more fruitful on the jazz horizon has been the way "retro" has slipped from clothing into music, leading some to rediscover swing music at venues like the Derby. "It's become a kind of trendy Melrose-type thing to go the retro-fashion route," says vocalist Tracy Todd, " and get into bebop and swing."

Indeed, musicians of all genres in L.A. would agree with that assessment, as well as what vocalist Tracy Todd had to say: "It all comes back to fan support-without it, there is no cash flow, and after paying your band, you can be paying to play. I've been lucky enough for that to be uncommon, but you certainly do jazz for love. You don't choose it-it chooses you."

Yet some jazz musicians are doing what they can to bring about an evolution to help the growth of jazz, without diluting the music. Tracy Todd has some ideas, based largely on the increased use of jazz in TV and film soundtracks, as she believes that new jazz fans are there, just waiting to be reached.

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