Jazz popularity crescendoes with young audiences

Acclaimed Chicago saxophonist Frank Catalano plays for the crowd at Andy’s Jazz Club Sept. 11 in River North.

By Alexandra Yetter

Adam Dib, a second year graduate student studying music composition for the screen, says jazz music catapulted into his life in middle school when his teacher pulled out a trumpet during rehearsal and started improvising. 

The experience opened Dib’s eyes to an entirely new world, he said.

Dib is one of many millennials living in the jazz world. According to a September 2018 report by the Statista Global Consumer Survey, 30.5 percent of jazz listeners are between 18 and 29 years old, 36.2 percent are 30 to 49 years old and 25.4 percent are 50 to 64 years old.

Kavyesh Kavyraj, a senior contemporary urban and popular music major, traveled to America to attend Columbia so he could immerse himself in the culture of the music, he said.

“[New artists] have brought jazz out of a highbrow tense that it has always been associated with and [made it] more commonly acceptable,” Kavyraj said. “This resurgence brings a lot of hope for jazz musicians everywhere,” said Kavyraj.

According to Dib, part of the reason for jazz’s renewal is pop culture. Dib said music styles come back in waves. For instance the “Stranger Things” soundtrack brought back 80s music and “The Incredibles 2” also helped bring back jazz.

Scott Hall, director of Jazz Studies at Columbia, attributes the resurgence to musicians’ improvisation and experimentation.

“It seems like the barriers have been broken down,” Hall said. “It’s easier for musicians coming from different worlds to collaborate.”

Chris Chisholm, co-owner of Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant, 11 E. Hubbard St., said he noticed the uptick in millennial interest in jazz in the past few years, with more of them attending live shows at the jazz club and others, such as the Green Mill, 4802 N Broadway, and Jazz Showcase, 806 S Plymouth Ct.

Brandon Chisholm, co-owner and Chris’ brother, said some of the best musicians who have performed at Andy’s Jazz Club have been between the ages of 20 and 26. These millennials aren’t wearing suits, ties and top-hats either, he added. Instead, they appreciate the casual atmosphere the venue creates.

Hall said he has noticed more interest in jazz from students, particularly in the improvisational aspect of the genre.

“The younger generation, they understand and appreciate the significance of the jazz language for developing their own personal style,” Hall said.

The newfound spirit for jazz may be due also, in part, to widespread access on social media platforms where people discover jazz and seek out live performances, Brandon said. After discovering the art form on social media, Brandon said millennials fall in love with a world they never knew existed.

Artists such as Kendrick Lamar and David Bowie are just a couple of many well-known musicians who have integrated jazz into their sound, Kavyraj said.

“Jazz musicians are discovering new ways of expressing themselves and not associating themselves with antiquity and tradition,” Kavyraj said.