Your points are well taken. Part of what I'm trying to say is that jazz
evolved through a series of styles and fashions at a very rapid pace:
developments that took decades and lifetimes in classical music, took
years, months, WEEKS, in American popular music and jazz.
While innovation and novelty may drive style, they needn't dominate our
perspective in retrospect.
Do we all turn our back on Haydn because his music wasn't revolutionary
enough, went out of fashion, was derivative of what went before and was
'surpassed' by others later, or because he explored and elaborated a
limited 'classical' form in great depth.
The idea that early classic jazz, swing, bop were all "surpassed" by
somehow superior forms has become an irritating and unsupportable stance
for jazz researchers, writers and critics. Way too many second-hand
opinions and unsupported prejudices abound. Naturally they're repeated in
most writing and media presentations about vintage or early jazz forms: see
Truth to tell most of those presentations fall victim to the amateurish
'remember when we all danced to Harry James' category that is death to the
music. Or like Ken Burn's regurgitates the common wisdom of critics,
writers, academics and their often inherited biases.
But the size of the social movement worldwide associated with the
Watters-initiated traditional jazz movement in the 1940s and 50s is
consistently underestimated today. Dixieland was a cottage industry
precisely because it was *alternative.*
From the start the New Orleans and trad jazz revivals happened largely
outside the view of the big newspapers, radio and TV networks. As a social
movement among college kids in the 1950s it should not be underestimated.
Almost every big name in jazz and swing played fraternity events in the
1950s. Just because it was not celebrated by mainstream media does not
mean it wasn't happening.
For instance, researching newspaper jazz listings for San Francisco in
1959-60 its abundantly clear that revival jazz was one of many jazz genres
heard widely in commercial venues. And in those days, gigs were for two,
three or four nights per week because the audiences were there to support
it. Yes, gross record sales were small. So were those of the Austin gang
or even Eddie Condon.
It was only later in the 1960s with tastes shifting to rock music and other
music forms that Dixieland was pushed to the margins.
That was when the Jazz Societies and Dixieland festivals became a
widespread phenomenon since the music was being otherwise marginalized and
embargoed by American media, always obsessed with novelty. The music,
musicians, organizations and festivals imitated by the wave that began in
San Francisco in 1940 did not subside for a half century. And still exists
as a classic -- baroque if you will -- music form.