Beyond my family, who already accepts that I’m not from this world, anyone who knows me well has heard me rant over the last 40 years about my severe phobia of viruses. Allow me to shed some light on this.
Since my undergrad days as a microbiology major, I’ve regularly opined that whereas world wars, terrorist attacks and the like are all terrible, none of them cause as much devastation as viruses. Knowing this, back when I was working in a hospital — a petri dish shaped like a building — I would scrub my hands all day long, like Howard Hughes. I still scrub often. And ever since my pre-teen daughter began treatment with immunosuppressive chemotherapies for a debilitating autoimmune disease — a year before the current pandemic appeared — my entire family has been on antimicrobial lockdown. When COVID-19 surfaced late last year, I realized how this little contagion checked all the boxes for uber-virulence, and so I pre-emptively urged family and friends to prepare for an era of social estrangement.
If there is a silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that it has become increasingly clear that the way we treat the world in the future is going to be very different than we’ve done in the past. And while we debate about how long we need to self-isolate, we’re concomitantly reminded of things we once took for granted, not the least of which is the importance of homelife and family. In a recent conversation with guitar hero Al Di Meola, he mentioned that during this time he’s been enjoying putting his little Ava to bed at night. Bassist Nathan East, whose shows around the world and tour with Phil Collins were all canceled, now relishes making music in his living room with his son, budding piano protégé Noah East. Proud jazz musicians and readers alike have sent us photos of their culinary creations, their newly planted gardens and other accomplishments. Acts of kindness are many. All of this comes as good news.
The world is changing, and most every industry in it will be forced to change, as well. Which brings me to JAZZIZ. While this magazine literally invented the delivery of a magazine and CD subscription in a clean polybag in the ’80s, that innovation, when CDs were all the rage, was of its time. For the past few years, we’ve been forecasting our future, refining our mobile-friendly podcasts, streaming audio and video — all of which is growing steadily more popular on our website. By the time self-isolation became global, the JAZZIZ team was poised to flip the switch to live streaming with our Daily Brunch shows (11 a.m. EST), which offer a new kind of home entertainment — and, hopefully, a pleasurable distraction — for quarantining jazz fans around the world.
Before and after each daily show, we chat “backstage” with our guests, many of whom point out that most jazz artists today make the vast majority of their income from live performances — as opposed to days gone by, when album sales constituted a greater share of musicians’ incomes — and how all their planning and preparation for upcoming shows vanished in the COVID air. Even small gatherings intended for broadcast — like Bluesound and MQA’s “Master Sessions” with tuba sensation Theon Cross and SEED Ensemble — quickly hit the pause button, while album releases were put on hold as CD manufacturing plants (including ours) were forced to close and record companies went into hibernation. When a representative of the company that prints our magazine called to ask if we were planning to print a summer issue, she divulged that most of the printer’s other clients had canceled future issues until further notice. We decided to forge ahead, all of us working from our homes, to deliver the magazine you now hold in hands — another special issue, this one focused on fusion music.
What lingers in our minds, beyond any impact we’ve had on flattening the curve and whether it’s now safe to mingle, are questions about how to adapt and change as we move forward. As we continue to grapple with those questions at JAZZIZ, we’ll likewise surely continue to change and evolve. Regarding our print magazines and CDs, our playlists and podcasts and other ventures both online and off that we continue to deliver, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at [email protected]. —Michael Fagien