I was struck today by two questions directed my way in recent weeks, one about the big picture when it comes to the arts, and another about a specific work.
The frustrating one came recently from a colleague who asked whether it's worth it to pay so much attention to a jazz shows in clubs, when perhaps only dozens of people will be there to see them.
Another has come a few times in the past few weeks, from people who have asked if I've heard the new recording by Twin Cities bassist Chris Bates. His group Red 5 performs tonight at the Icehouse restaurant in Minneapolis, part of its Monday night jazz series.
My answer to both, of course, is yes.
To the former, I would say that it's the quality of the music that matters. There's simply no question that jazz - a storied genre that also is the nation's story of music and race relations - continues to capture the imagination of thoughtful listeners.
As to Bates, his story is one of a Twin Cities artist who is trying to make great music in an era when much of the attention goes to those with mass-market appeal. Here's his take on that struggle.
It's a challenge, that's for sure. We have all this other music that's being popularly promoted quite heavily in our faces. Jazz and improvised music is still around. It's just not as prevalently presented to people. You have to seek it out, you know. You can't just walk into somewhere and be like 'oh, this is where this is happening.'
The Chris Bates Red 5 show starts at 9 p.m. Joining the bassist on stage will be Chris Thomson and Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, Zack Lozier on trumpet, and his brother, JT Bates on drums.
If you ask me, the show, and the music, are more than worth it.