Here is a recent article from Scott Martelle of the L.A. Times regarding the big band ("Best Jazz Large Ensemble") category of the Grammys. I never enjoyed hearing/using phrases like "the big band era is over," but at first glance, sales figures seem to bear that out. On the other hand, creative writing and superlative performance seems to ensure the genre's longevity.
Dave Holland's Overtime deservedly sold the lion's share of the total big band sales for the category's five nominees: 12,000 copies of Overtime sold with the remaining four nominees selling 3,000 units between them. Tenor saxophonist and Accurate Records founder Russ Gershon is the leader/arranger of Either/Orchestra, a ten-piece band from Boston that has been giving us equally intriguing arrangements for over two decades. Maria Schneider was able to fund her $90,000 album Concert in the Garden through ArtistShare by soliciting participants' donations even before she went into the studio to record it. She went on to win a Grammy having sold the album through her website only.
Though the sale of 5.2 million copies of Mariah Carey's latest album dwarf jazz's figures, stories of endurance and success like these may signal a future for jazz and big bands. As long as composers continue to innovate for large ensembles (Holland, Schneider, E/O, Jason Lindner, Bob Mintzer, Mingus Big Band, etc.), there should always be thirsty ears.
P.S. I couldn't hold back from including the picture of Maria and me. I interviewed her and Ingrid Jensen when she came through L.A. last week and will be producing features on both of them for KJazz to air in March. Stay tuned... and sorry for acting like a star-struck scenester.