Sunday, July 11, 2010
Clearing the Bar at 12th Street Jump
I can finally reveal one of my most shameful secrets. Until last night, I'd never attended an airing of 12th Street Jump. KCUR began broadcasting the weekly show a year ago. Between my work and sleep schedules, however, I'd never made it to the midnight show. Not only do I feel much better about myself now, I also have a newfound appreciation of the broadcast.
As Jason Harper suggested in his excellent synopsis eleven months ago, 12th Street Jump is like a jazz-oriented Prairie Home Companion. Just as I don't particularly care for Garrison Keiller, I find the comedy bits of KCUR's program hackneyed. It came as an enormous relief to discover that Pete Weber and most other members of the cast obviously realize the limitations of their scripts.
That's just one of the advantages of seeing the show in person. Watching the stage cues is also fascinating. When bandleader Joe Cartwright receives a message reading "30 Seconds To Out," for instance, he calmly steers his fellow musicians to a relaxed but precise conclusion. The pianist's professionalism is extremely impressive.
The music is uniformly excellent, but people with more on their minds than jazz shouldn't hesitate to attend the free event. The friendly waitstaff keeps drinks flowing and socializing is allowed. In fact, revelers at a couple tables last night seemed completely oblivious to the broadcast. The presence of a couple dozen music fans in town for the NAACP convention boosted the size of the audience to about 75. The jazz-themed room inside the downtown Marriott is far bigger than the show's former home at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
I encourage jazz fans and fun-lovers alike to fill those empty tables on Saturday nights. And now that my dark secret is a thing of the past, I intend to return soon.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)