As an example of musical talent and technical virtuosity, the Atlanta performance was unparalleled. Unfortunately, as an example of the stated JALC mission of inspiring and growing audiences for jazz through education, the performance was a dismal failure. It is well known that Atlanta has a dearth of opportunities for jazz lovers to enjoy the genre and that the audience was likely to be relatively unsophisticated and desperately in need of some education, but Wynton totally abdicated this responsibility in spite of his one sentence pronouncement that the jazz world and the classical world would only survive and prosper through “education”. That thought, delivered at the start of the second set (which brought a great deal of applause) was completely ignored throughout. I have been a jazz fan for nearly fifty years having grown up in the Northeast and having seen dozens of performances of virtually every major figure in Jazz in the 60’s, but my wife and I suspect at least half of the audience was attending her first jazz concert. She and everyone else who wasn’t an aficionado was left completely in the dark about what was happening. The music was brilliant as usual, but the ambience was as if the audience was barely there. There was no introduction—Wynton and three of the orchestra simply walked on stage and began to play. That could have been an effective opening had it been followed up with some words from Wynton to the audience but it wasn’t. The remainder of the band simply walked on stage and began the remainder of the first set. There was no engagement of the audience and they acted as though they had a bus to catch. Unfortunately, Wynton’s comment that they were facing a 17 hour bus ride after the concert only seemed to confirm this impression.
A couple of specifics:
1. There was no introduction of the orchestra, its members, its purpose—no nothing.
2. The music of Chic Corea made up at least a third of the evening. Based on discussion we had following the show while we waited for or car, I doubt that half of the audience had ever heard of Chic and fewer than a few dozen knew much about him and his music. He is a fabulous artist, but with no context, most of the audience was lost. The predominant question seemed to be “who is he and why was so much of his music selected”.
3. There was no closing communication at all. The band played it’s last number and simply got up and left. This may work with a sophisticated audience in a more intimate setting, but it was a total bust in Atlanta.
I have a great deal of respect for Wynton and for what the JALC is trying to accomplish, but unfortunately they missed the mark in Atlanta.