Last week, in response to several pieces of news about large-scale, institution-centered jazz philanthropy, I wrote a post thinking about the possibility that jazz might be better served in the long run by steering money toward smaller venues and less established “stars” (Jazz stars! LOL.) Since then, people far and wide have weighed in on the issue, which is good, and exactly what I was hoping would happen.
One response was from Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR’s A Blog Supreme, who mentioned one big reason why Big Jazz is ahead in the funding game right now:
Big, central institutions, by their nature, have massive potential for outreach. They can spend money on making money, whether by hiring publicity people, financial officers or big-name performers. … In contrast, Mom and Pop’s Bar sometimes doesn’t even have the wherewithal to put up a serviceable Web site with updated show listings. If you were a potential investor, sponsor or major giver, wouldn’t you want to donate to a place with accountability, a proven track record and highly visible accomplishments?
No argument here (just yesterday I came across a website for a venue which didn’t include the address). The small-club, unfamiliar-name approach has a lot less high-visibility appeal than Sonny Rollins at the Citibank Jazz Palace or whatever. (More about this in a moment.)
Over on Facebook, several musicians weighed in–one idea which got me thinking came from vocaphonist Lorin Benedict:
Continue reading Jazz Philanthropy & the Gig, cont’d.
This morning, NPR’s A Blog Supreme featured a story about a wealthy music lover who has donated $2.5 million to Drake University’s jazz program, to be used for a professorship and a new facility. Confronted by that number, I started to wonder if there might be ways to spend that money which would actually benefit the music and musicians more–like subsidizing 12,500 gigs at $200, for example.
It was with those numbers ringing in my head that I saw the even more staggering news that SFJAZZ has secured a $20 million donation for a permanent center in the City. (Think about it! $20 million! I wonder whether every single jazz album sale in the past 10 years even made that much money.)
First of all, genuine congratulations to SFJAZZ on the jazz center–that really is incredible, especially in this economy, in this country, in this culture. But again, as a thought experiment here–that money would pay for ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND $200 gigs. Just imagine for a second what kind of a rejuvenation any jazz scene could get from even a smidgen of that.
Why am I harping on the $200 gig?
Continue reading A Thought Experiment: Jazz Philanthropy & the Gig
Originally written 11/14/2003.
I managed to get a ticket last weekend to see Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Gary Peacock (the “Trio at 20”) as the closing headliners of the SF JazzFest; I’ve never seen the group live before, so I don’t know what the standard etiquette is, but I was surprised when His Keithness began speaking after the band had been introduced (since he has a reputation as something of a “difficult” performer). “Twenty years,” he said, “is not really enough.” He spoke haltingly, in choppy phrases that suggested this wasn’t something he’d prepared; he closed his remarks by saying (and this is only my best recollection), “I feel like we should thank… I don’t know, whoever we need to thank, certainly not us. We sometimes sit backstage and think, ‘What is it exactly, that we do?’ People come to hear us, I guess, and we show up on the stage, and… something happens.”
Something then proceeded to happen for the next few hours—based on the large swaths of time I’ve devoted to listening to the Trio’s recordings over the years, I would say they had a hell of a night. The second set was especially good, opening with the rarely-played “Golden Earring” (not the rock band), a fast and rollicking version of “All the Things…” (with a long sheets-of-sound-y solo intro from Keith), and a re-creation of the funky rendition of “God Bless the Child” as heard on their very first studio recording twenty years ago. The crowd was relentlessly appreciative, and wouldn’t leave until they were placated with two encores (a muted “When I Fall in Love” and a wild, quick version of “When Will the Blues Leave?”, complete with frightening fills from Jack played on those little bowls attached to his cymbals). It made me think, “Oh yeah… this was why I got into this business.”