It is my opinion that in America, the general public actually likes jazz music, but they've been trained by TV, and modern pop culture to dismiss it, make fun of it, and to think that they hate it.
Jazz. It's a dirty word and you know it. Even in musician circles the very thought of "jazz" conjures up all sorts of eyeballs rolled and moans and groans. "Oh, he's one of those JAZZ guys..." The general public feels the same way. Why do people hate jazz so much?
I don't think most people have even give it a chance. Yes, jazz is an acquired taste and it takes dedication and patience to start to understand the language and vocabulary used in this complex musical style. My point is that no one puts on a Sun Ra record for the first time and says "I LOVE this!" It's something that has to gradually seep into ones consciousness. Here's the thing, I don't think most people in America have ever heard actual jazz in real life, performed by a live band on a stage in front of them. It's pretty sad actually. Think about it, would they even know where to go to hear some live jazz? Most small towns in America don't have an outlet for such "high art". Even if you do live in a major city where maybe there is a jazz club or two, do you know where it is, the name of it, or if one even exists?
I live in Nashville (Music City!) and I've talked to neighbors, folks who have lived here for MANY years, and they're not even AWARE that there is a jazz club in town, called Rudy's Jazz Room. I also play jazz 3 nights per week at a restaurant/bar called Skulls Rainbow Room. Many nights, I look around the room when we start playing. What I usually see is smiling faces, some who are surprised by what they are hearing, and a general feeling of "Hey these guys are pretty good!". It helps that we are playing soft enough that everyone can still enjoy their meals, carry on with their conversations, and it's not a pretentious atmosphere. The image of Miles Davis performing with his back to the audience has hopefully been lost on the previous generation. But Miles was Miles, and he could get away with that BECAUSE he was Miles. There will never be another Miles.
So to all you jazz musicians out there, play your music but don't be pretentious about it. It's ruining the jazz name. Smile. Have fun. Talk to the audience on THEIR level. They'll be interested, I almost guarantee it. They might even enjoy it!
To all you music listeners out there, I ask that you give jazz a chance. Take an active role in giving a listen. Maybe there's no singer to focus in on, but try to hear patterns within the music. Listen for repeating motifs. Listen for a "dialogue", or a call and response between the musicians on stage. Pretty soon, you might start to enjoy yourself. Remember, it's the only really true American art form.