Long past due for my yearly diatribe on the local excuse for a festival that is supposed to be about furthering an appreciation of jazz music through presentation, promotion and outreach.
I won’t go whole hog this year because, quite bluntly, all of the same problems are still there and much has gotten worse. I don’t think it has been this bad since a failed punk rock bass player ran the thing.
Over all I believe that a publicly funded non profit arts group with a mandate to promote jazz should do just that. It should also live up to it’s name International Jazz. Only 7 ‘over a 100 ‘ acts are international jazz
Even if all they booked was: jazz, latin, blues and music mistaken for jazz, and as long as the majority was jazz, then we jazz fans would be happy (or at least have no legitimate reason not to be)
- it is still less than a third is jazz (31/100) and less than half jazz appropriate (42/100) so your 58-69 acts are mostly made up of popular types of music. You know the kind that is on the radio, played in clubs all the time. Stuff you can see and hear 365 days of the year.
- still have samey bookings that conflict with each other
- still blatant favoritism to a handful of locals
- still having that same handful of people rearranged to make ‘new’ groups
- still run by a bean counter and a DJ
- still using posters to advertise
- still padding the bio’s to deceive you into believing you are getting a jazz act
- still trying to make it seem like a year round full time job with non jazz concerts through the year
- still having most nights with little or no jazz (2 with 0, 1 with 1, 1 with 2, 2 with 3)
- still relying on beer sales on the opening weekend with 4 out 22 acts jazz 11 out of 22 jazz fest appropriate.
- still zero jazz on the opening Saturday (you know the biggest day and night of the weekend).
- still too long at 11 days and is one day longer than Montreal’s (who has 10 Stages, 150 concerts, 300 free concerts and 3.000 artists)
- still having acts play for free on one day expecting you to pay on another day
- still giving the pop acts multiple bookings
- still having locals opening for major stars forcing us to pay real money to see someone we can see for free year round. (headliner wants to do a short set? charge less)
- still having locals you can see year round for free playing in clubs for a fee
- still giving gigs to people or groups who have had as few ZERO gigs in the past year
- still promoting the ‘sure fire’ money grubbing non jazz more than the ‘supposedly’ struggling jazz
- still losing money
- still an artistic failure
- still leaving many local veterans out of the festival
To add to the ‘not the sharpest knife in the drawer’ organizing dept…4/5 of this years TD jazz labs are freaking blues players!!
I also waited a long time to write this. In year’s gone by I started the conversation early (at the time of their ‘big’ schedule announcement) but with all the encouragement coming in private I thought I’d wait till the day of the fest opening. I also wanted a picture of who was in the area (playing other jazz festivals)
Well if you know your jazz you don’t need me to show you but…
GEORGE BENSON. Great guitarist and singer. But before you hope this tour is in support of his Nat “King” Cole tribute album. Check again he is doing his ‘sex funk’. But to me this is on the list of things that get mistaken for jazz so you decide if you want to see the former prodigy who was to have the jazz guitarist torch passed to him after Wes Montgomery who, instead, sold his soul.
Saxophone. If Micro tonal jazz is your thing. The Guitarist plays fretless so kinda interesting. But I can think of more accessible artists with great artistic cred. This seems like a bad booking, particularly main stage and on a Monday
Singer Pianist. Real deal
PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND
If trad is your bag (but weren’t they just here?)
Singer. Don’t know what your getting with her serious jazz cred but has started to ‘genre cross’ and we know what that means…downward pressure to do pop and sell more units
Saxophone. If you only go to one show this might be the one
Glenn Miller Orchestra…
Just kidding, this is on the 25th of June and not part of the festival but since they have nothing the week before they could have been. Ironic that it has no place in our Jazz Fest but DJnotalent does
Because the international jazz bookings are so thin, even my “I don’t care what else they have at the festival as long as I can see some great international jazz” people are complaining for the second year in a row.
Too little and, with the exception on Rudresh and to a much lesser extent Pine, too samey and too safe.
Little variety with 3 singers one who plays guitar, one piano and 2 sax players.
On that note here is my list of touring jazz acts in Canada this June.
How many rock bands, DJs and hip hoppers would you trade to have one or more of these acts?
Heck I’d trade em all for Kurt Rosenwinkle.
Barry Harris (actually played with Charlie Parker)
Christine and Ingrid Jensen (yes they have been here recently)
Emily Clare Barlow
Jazz at the Lincoln Center (ya I know, they over did it, had them too much, took a bath last time but they are on the list)
John Abercrombie (I don’t think he has ever been here)
John Scofield (I don’t mind as it is his Uber-Jam Band)
Kurt Rosenwinkle (come on, one of the best ‘new’ guitarists in a long time)
Now in case “they” are actually reading this or the karmic spirits are at work…here is my rough draft of a fest sched using the jazz acts slated for this year. The headliners (with one addition) as pay for events, all locals on the market square stage for free and touring Big City Canadians in the clubs
No pop, rock, folk, country, hip hop or DJ’s no need to plum “Austin City Limits” for your outsider indie band.
Pardon the layout as it doesn’t seem to work on this blog
- Everyone keeps their jazz gig
- jazz every night
- Latin jazz on some nights (with room for more)
- 7 days long (In a perfect world I would start it on a Friday (not Thursday Night?) and end on the following Saturday…making it 8 days)
- no fake opening weekend with lots of beer tent and little jazz content. Though an Opening weekend with jazz, tent or not, would be nice
It is just spit balling, I know there are flaws in the plan. I didn’t go to the trouble of properly matching groups, or editing out multiple groups with virtually the same members, or people who have 0-2 gigs under their belt and I didn’t add in any of the glaring omissions in respect to local players (which Jazz for lunch spots and/or the empty Sunday could be filled with).
I left out blues acts. I believe blues has a place at jazz festivals but they now have their own festival.
You could even time it so the free shows didn’t conflict with the pay shows.
As a bonus, the pay concerts biggest customers could and should be the local jazz musicians.
Have the free shows weekday nights 5-7:30 with time to walk to the 8 pm concert
On Friday they could stop at 8:30 in time to walk to the 9pm concerts and on weekends the shows could run all afternoon and stop at 8:30.
Less acts cost less money so maybe it can stop losing money (or at least be an artistic success while in the red)
Jazz fans get their fill and the complaining stops. You could still put in the odd, blues soul, “real” R&B funk with horns act without screwing up the festival.
So there ya have it. Feel free to pass it along and send your complaints to the right people. Telling me or talking among your selves does little good.