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In Jazz World, "A Major Paradigm Shift"

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NEW YORK - “Let's get small" was the name of a popular Steve Martin comedy routine in the late 1970s, but it's also an apt description of how the jazz community reacted to the sometimes dramatic changes in the music industry over the past year.

Accordingly, the benefits of thinking small echoed throughout the 34th annual International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) conference. It was held Jan. 10-13 at the Hilton New York and Sheraton New York and included a strong San Diego contingent among its approximately 8,000 attendees from 45 countries.

With more major record labels cutting back, consolidating or eliminating their jazz divisions, the necessity of thinking small is greater than ever.

That reality was reinforced by last month's near-implosion of Verve Records, one of the oldest, largest and once most respected jazz labels in the country. The home to such top jazz artists as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Diana Krall, Verve will now be operated under the Universal Music Enterprises umbrella.

Verve's downsizing came the same month that the Tower Records chain, which offered the country's most comprehensive selection of jazz albums, closed its doors forever.

While these developments are a major blow for pop music, which is reeling in this age of digital music and legal (and illegal) file-sharing and downloading, jazz as a niche music has been hit even harder.

“It's a major paradigm shift," said Bill McFarlin, IAJE's executive director.

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