By Michael Miller
2:10 PM PDT, October 23, 2013
It's just six years and a couple of months until the '20s — the 2020s, that is — which may inspire a reflection or two from jazz aficionados.
Nearly 100 years ago, the musical form so dominated society that it became a euphemism for an entire decade: the Jazz Age, memorialized in "The Great Gatsby," flapper dresses and other symbols of the time before the Great Depression laid America's fortunes low.
A quarter century later, jazz played an integral part in Beat culture, which helped to birth the social revolutions of the 1960s. But in the age of Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and iTunes, can the art form that documentarian Ken Burns once called "the purest expression of American democracy" still jolt the status quo?
Aaron Egigian, the senior director of music programming for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and overseer of its Jazz Series, thinks it can — though the effects may not show immediately. He noted how musicians still find inspiration in tunes recorded decades ago and said a musician like Esperanza Spalding, who will perform this week at Segerstrom, may influence future generations the same way.
"I think we arrive at the impact of any kind of music on society kind of after the fact," Egigian said. "And I say that looking back at the impact that Miles Davis had with the 'Kind of Blue' album, and that was 1959. It was sort of the waves that came from that continued to move out and reverberate.
"So I think, in a way, it becomes more impactful, and people build on the kinds of musical ideas that were initiated in that particular group of tunes that Miles put together.
"So I don't see it as something that happens now on the spot. I see it as something that reverberates in what we sort of create and experience."
Egigian still regrets that he never had a chance to schedule Davis, who died in 1991, at Segerstrom. Even without the "Bitches Brew" auteur, though, the coming Jazz Series offers more household names than usual.
In addition to this weekend's show by ACS, a trio consisting of Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Best New Artist Grammy winner Spalding, the schedule features blues icon B.B. King, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and singer-pianist Diana Krall. Rounding out the lineup are the McCoy Tyner Trio with Joe Lovano, Dr. Lonnie Smith and the Fred Hersch Trio.
Egigian has organized the Jazz Series since shortly after Segerstrom, then the Orange County Performing Arts Center, opened in 1986. Although the series sports the jazz moniker, it often branches into related genres — the closing show of last season featured a lineup of blues-rockers paying tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
"What we really focus on is getting extraordinary artists here," said center President Terry Dwyer. "We look for the great masters like Wynton Marsalis and, certainly, B.B. King and younger masters like Diana Krall, but one of the things we take pride in is bringing in some of the rising stars of the jazz world."
That was the case with Spalding, who first played at Segerstrom in 2009, and also with another artist who appeared in 1996 in the low-key Jazz Club series in Founders Hall, with four-top tables and drink service.
"In the second season of that, I had booked Diana Krall into that room," Egigian said. "It seated 237 people, and in that sort of year from when the initial booking of the artist took place to actually her arriving here, her star was already on the ascendancy.
"Like Esperanza, in a way, we went from a promising young artist who, by the time they got here, the wider recognition into the household-name category was already beginning to happen."
2013-14 Jazz Series
Friday and Saturday: ACS: Allen, Carrington, Spalding
Dec. 8: B.B. King
Dec. 13 and 14: McCoy Tyner Trio with Joe Lovano
Feb. 21 and 22: Dr. Lonnie Smith
March 14: Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis
April 5: Diana Krall
May 2 and 3: Fred Hersch Trio