19-year-old saxophonist Grace Kelly has been voted Best Boston Jazz musician for the 4th year in a row. As I have often said, there are no Golden Ages and that includes a Golden Age of jazz audiences. However-and I hope the talented and charming Ms. Kelly doesn't take it personally-this development bespeaks an Age marked by a baser metal.
Boston voters have made their priorities clear: Entertainment over artistic challenge; standards sung and played, audience by-play and mini-skirts. Believe me, I'm a long-time advocate of relating to the audience, love standards and have absolutely nothing against mini-skirts, but the fact that these have been "privileged" over musical originality and daring by Boston jazz audiences for the last 4 years is not heartening.
It feels to me like the cuddly prodigy phenomenon in full swing, deftly promoted. Good grief, Grace has been getting significant ink and showing up on Youtube for years, with the likes of Frank Morgan, Phil Woods and Russell Malone, playing at all the major festivals.
This isn't quite the hoary "selling out" discussion that follows Chris Botti or, say, early-versus-late George Benson. Nor is Grace, in her sylph-like fashion, a 900-pound jazz guerilla, as she is not really displacing other young musicians-and that's part of the problem. Lacking her demographic appeal and effective promotion, no other musician is likely to contend for her spot-on the bandstand or in the polls.
Maybe this is wolf's elitism in sheep's clothing. No one's being swindled here. This isn't the Hunt brothers cornering the silver market. But there are so many great (albeit admittedly scrufulous) jazz musicians in Boston, that it just doesn't pass the smell test.