Terry Teachout asks, "Can jazz be saved?" here. Blowhard Donald Pittinger has a few thoughts on the matter ("Jazz Goes Geriatric"), generating commentary over here.
My ten centavos? I have to wonder about the parameters of the survey, as formulated by the National Endowment for the Arts. I can't help but suspect that the focus of the survey was indeed, "Geriatric Jazz" of whom the most contemporary act might be Diana Krall -- precisely the sort of station my parents have pre-set on their FM tuner. If you go to a Medeski, Martin & Wood concert, the hall is usually full and the median age is 30, possibly younger. As danceable as their music can be, I'd still have to call it "jazz." Then there's all this other weird stuff the kids are listening to: Acid, Ambient, Bebob, Funk, Fusion, Hip Hop, Trance and a few other sub-genres I know little about. Purists will argue these genres might contain elements of jazz, but they aren't the thing itself. But I'd say the only time jazz has ever been the thing itself is when it crossed the threshold into smarty-pants music -- the kiss of death for any genre. Nah, kids are listening to jazz music. It's just that geezers like Teachout, the NEA and myself prefer the older stuff.
Speaking of which: The Bright Mississippi by Allen Toussaint is quite a find. Toussaint is one of the genre's elder statesmen who's proved himself adept at keeping the music fun. This time, with Joe Henry sitting in the producer's chair, the music is bathed in a different, almost unsettling aura. The album is definitely not as creepy or dissociative as a David Lynch film, but that's who first comes to mind. When I first queued up the disc and stepped inside Henry's muffled echo chamber, I felt like I'd cleared through a hallway of cobwebs and discovered a nearly empty, amber-lit dance hall. Here's where Toussaint and his mates are playing, and as the disc proceeds the life force within their music gets stronger and stronger. This is marvelous music, especially for those of us who want "traditional" jazz to stay around just a little longer.
Post-Script: I was so pleased with myself I went ahead and posted the bulk of my argument on Pittinger's post.