Monday, March 7, 2011
A Jazz Checkup
This is going to hurt a little bit.
I ran a detailed analysis of the March music calendars for Kansas City's three most recognized jazz clubs. The results raise a few interesting questions. When is a jazz club no longer a jazz club? What's the difference between jazz and R&B? And what would I do without my calculator?
The Blue Room, Jardine's and The Phoenix have a combined 96 events in March. Of these, 46 are mainstream jazz, 6 are experimental jazz, 21 are R&B, 5 are international music and 18 are rock, folk or blues. That means that only 54% of the bookings are mainstream or experimental jazz. Some might argue that the Phoenix has evolved into a blues club. Fair enough. Remove the Phoenix from the equation and the combined jazz bookings at the Blue Room and Jardine's rises to a modest 61%.
Although the Gaslight Grill and the Majestic offer live jazz, I didn't include them in my calculations because they seem to emphasize the restaurant aspect of their businesses. A couple other rooms that feature live music couldn't be included because, well, you know.
I don't begrudge clubs for expanding their reach. With the possible exception of the Blue Room, which is at least partially publicly-funded, these establishments are businesses that need to turn a profit. Besides, I'm hardly a purist. I've lobbied for a weekly jazz-meets-hip hop night at the Blue Room. And I'm a big fan of a folk artist who regularly performs at Jardine's.
Just five years ago, any one of these non-jazz bookings would have raised eyebrows. Yet if this trend continues- and there's no reason to believe that it won't- jazz will eventually become a secondary consideration in these rooms.
The fate of live jazz in Kansas City, of course, doesn't hinge on a single venue. Also noteworthy are the occasional jazz bookings at rock emporiums like the Brick and the Record Bar, JCCC's noontime series, Tim Whitmer's monthly Spirituality and All That Jazz, the efforts of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and the excellent jazz series at both the Folly and the Gem.
Would you like a Band-Aid?
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)