Usually I post a ‘rant’ about our terrible jazz free festival before it opens and then, sometimes, post an afterward. This year I was so sick coming up on the 11 days of almost no jazz, that I couldn’t really do it. Nor could I check out what little there was to see.
It was business as usual. Almost a carbon copy of every other year
- An opening weekend with 4 days and 26 acts and only 1 jazz performance.
- Hardly any jazz over the 11 days
- The same people (U of M) recycled in a myriad of bands (mostly not jazz)
- The few that were folks who never have a gig.
- Local heroes and stalwarts sitting at home (Or creating their own gigs Like Walle Larson did)
- Bookings that conflicted with each other
- Paying to see locals (though not nearly as many)
- heavy promotion of non jazz
Some new things
- For years I have been decrying this whole putting locals in a club for a fee when you can see them year round for free. So, yet again, one of my ideas is implemented. At some point we have to stop calling them coincidences. They put a whole slew of performers who, in the past have had club gigs, and put them in Old Market Square for ‘free’. Well free-ish as you had to be 18 to get into this public park.
- Latin night was cancelled and then reinstated after it was leaked and there was outrage. They pretended it was their plan all along but seriously, it was one of their best ideas and cancelling it (or moving it) from the “Free Opening Weekend” was stupid. Sticking it on a Wednesday (and giving someone a second gig as a leader) smacks of disorganization and slap dash work.
- They had 2 lunchtime venues one was the Cube as usual but they partnered with Parlour Coffee. Problem was, only the Cube series made it into the schedule. So if Parlour paid to be a venue, they sure got screwed on the promotion side. On top of it, seems the duos put in there where more of that slap dash disorganization. More than a few were horn and bass. HORN AND BASS! No singers, and very little in the way of harmonic instruments. Oh yeah it was also just people who already had gigs booked at the festival.
- I noticed that the locals had to bring their own gear (another idea of mine) to most of the gigs.
But that is it. They had some good acts like Christian McBride, Donny McCaslin, Post Modern Jukebox, Buster Williams. But they also did the re-run thing with Mavis Staples, Gregory Porter and Gypsophilia (who were just here last year). And for some reason they got on a whole David Bowie thing with 2 Bowie tributes (a little late really).
On both the the Saturdays and Sundays they had no music (let alone jazz) during the day at the Cube.
Weeknights at the Cube (a public city park) was turned into a ‘lounge’ and no one under drinking age was allowed in to see the music. No families with kids, no middle or high school budding jazz players. Gotta sell that booze.
The real story is they had a chance to turn this not for profit arts group around and right the ship.
With very short notice Paul Nolin left. His last fest was a phone in but the one before that was outstanding.
So the board of directors could have used this as a real opportunity to get this thing back on track.
- Get it jazz focused
- Get this job down to the part time position it should be
- Get the festival down to a manageable size
- Get more diversity into the festival without resorting to pop music
- Get the festival off its dependence on selling rock, pop and booze
- Get the festival into 21st century marketing
Instead they went with more of the same.
- A failed musician like we had in Dave Sherman
- A guy who booked the WECC like we had in Chris Frayer
- A guy who knows nothing about jazz like we’ve had since forever. (They even had a listening party for him to introduce him to some basics like Miles Davis)
They could have looked for a guy who likes jazz, knows about jazz, has some successful business experience, knows about marketing, has good organizational skills and maybe even someone who’s ideas have been repeatedly ripped off from their blog.
Instead they went with folky who is buddies with someone’s friend and kept it all the same.
So I can rant all I want about the current or future head of this ship but it is all on the board of directors.
They want to have a big festival with little jazz, that shuts out the veterans, that favours the same players, that uses cronyism as its booking policy.