SO THE first Village Voice Jazz Concert was an overwhelming success. No doubt about it. There were crowds and there was excitement of a special sort. The same air that was felt outside the old Wanamaker's Building back in August, and in the Loew's Sheridan Theatre at 3am last month. Those people who were there know what I mean, and it isn't possible to explain it to those who weren't.
I knew it was going to be that way when at 11 o'clock the night of the concert I scuttled through the crowd that was scattered up and down 43rd Street and began to feel the carnival sparks even before I got near the box office. There's such a wonderfully exhilarating sense of anticipation and a sort of oneness with people when this fugitive thing happens that I can't help but feel a small sorrow that life isn't always like that.
The Warmth Grew
It was great. When the curtain finally went up and the proceedings got under way, the warmth grew and grew until the final note, and even then it didn't lessen much, since the people in the crowd seemed to carry it right out of Town Hall with them and on down the street, ad-libbing their way through their own last chorus and finally to the subway and poor old Queens. It was great.
The thing is, though, we can't let this stop here. This is only a beginning, and I have a feeling that this first Village Voice Jazz Concert was the beginning of a lot of things for many of us. I also suspect that it was a mile-stone in the life of the Voice itself. From here on in, The Voice will become more than just a voice on paper (which is damned important these days too): it will become a voice in other cultural fields. For a long time now there has been a real need for some kind of rallying point around which creative people in every media could gather and find both encouragement of a practical sort as well as a channel of communication with the discerning public. True, there are many cultural trade-papers around, but they are invariably parochial in their views because they have either become specialized and have largely shut out news of happenings in other creative fields, or they have fallen prey to the deadening virus of The Formula, whether the formula be low or high.
Incidentally, one of the most refreshing things I've noted about The Voice is the lack of a set formula. The New Yorker is a good example of The Formula in action. Its views on almost everything are about as predictable as the political affiliations of the Chairman of the Board of General Motors. This is true of every department of the magazine, from the "Talk of the Town" to the book reviews. They represent conformity in its most insidious form. Not the bowling-team variety, but a sort that's far more subtle. Ironically enough, when Harold Ross set up the sheet back in the 20's, he noted that he wasn't interested in entertaining or comforting a little Old Lady in Dubuque. Today the New Yorker is the fodder upon which that Old Lady feeds, and she finds nary a discordant note from cover to cover.
During the past year I have spoken to many artists in widely different fields, and I have found that there is a real feeling that America is on the edge of some sort of cultural swell, and that exciting things are growing all around us. This, in direct contrast to much evidence to the contrary. I myself have felt that something was happening. It isn't easy to put a finger on it and say that here it is or there it is, but damn it, it is, and I suspect that The Village Voice could become the spearpoint for much that is to come.
The Ballon Goes Up
Things around the office have taken a new turn. The balloon has gone up, and all of us are fortunate in being around to see it take off: a few of us have even been lucky enough to be in the basket. But those who are neither watching the balloon nor riding in the basket are indebted to The Voice, for all over America newspapers are dying at a time in history when we need more voices than ever before. Like I said, things around the office have changed, and the new spark in the air feels great. Watch it grow man.