Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jazz Hang

Saturday afternoon at the Blue Room was a great hang. Joey Calderazzo, Gerald Dunn, Bobby Watson and Dennis Winslett were on hand to ponder "Jazz and the Music Industry." Their freewheeling discussion included trash talk, salacious gossip and a handful of genuine insights. It was hip, entertaining and over two hours behind schedule. The latter component might partially explain why less than a dozen people, including American Jazz Museum staff members and spouses of panelists, attended.

An anonymous commenter at the previous Plastic Sax post characterized Calderazzo as a "bitter a******." The talented pianist may be jaded, but I appreciated his candor. And like his three fellow panelists, he's really smart. Even so, I disagreed with much of what I heard.

Two video cameras were rolling and the four men had to have seen me taking notes. I'm not comfortable, however, quoting anyone directly. Instead, I'll broadly generalize the primary topics of the discussion and toss in my two cents.

The bad economy is responsible for poor attendance at jazz clubs.
I'm so tired of hearing this lame excuse. Times are undoubtedly tough, but Saturday's free event featured two internationally-acclaimed musicians and attracted less than twelve people. The previous night I was a member of a capacity audience of 2,000 at the Midland Theater. The cheapest tickets for the rock show were $45. The next day I was among a crowd of almost 1,000 people who paid $17 each to hear Kansas City jazz artists play Christmas carols. People still spend lots of money to hear the musicians that excite them.

Hip hop is horrible and fusions of jazz and hip hop are whack.
If you say so, Grampa.

Kenny G is a hack.
Whatever. I'd rather listen to Kenny G than hear people bash him for the hundredth time.

Club owners and jazz promoters are often unpleasant and unethical.
Stop the presses!

Money is more important than art to music industry executives. Case in point: Grammy Award nominations don't always go to the best artists.
You think?

An audience member fretted that jazz is becoming "blond-haired and blue eyed." She asked how this trend could be reversed.
None of us have any easy answers.

Jazz musicians are smarter than everybody else.
Bitter and better are two different things.

The youth of today are insolent, poorly-educated louts.
Preferring Young Jeezy over Sonny Rollins doesn't make someone a bad person.

Someone asked what "the blueprint" for a young jazz artist should look like.
I guess she didn't realize that this guy was in the room.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Rick in PV said...

Blonde-haired would be one thing; but jazz audiences are increasingly white-haired, and that is the real problem, it seems to me ...

Anonymous said...

The AJM event started two hours late...what else is new? This was another potentially terrific event poorly managed and pitifully executed as usual.

I checked out the Executive Director's salary as someone had mentioned on one of your past postings and he is making some really decent coin! Nothing should ever start late or be poorly executed when the Executive Director is making dough like that!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being outspoken and honest. It is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

We had a jazz "happening" of a different sort this weekend in DC. And I'm sad to hear that events like these in my old town are not quite coming together properly.

Happy In Bag said...

I'd like to reiterate my sentiment that this seminar was really cool. And as I happened to be running two hours late Saturday anyway, it all worked out for me.

Anonymous said...

The only place where jazz becoming "blonde-haired and blue-eyed" is viewed as a serious problem is 18th & Vine, where racism is the norm. Those who think Lisa Henry's views are extremist and outlying haven't spent enough time around the looney tunes types that call the shots in the Jazz District.

Cb said...

HIB - I was actually asked to participate as a panelist and represent industry experiences from the perspective of new media/record label and digital music. It was quite an honor when Dennis Winslett called me several weeks ago. I would have done it because I think that this is the type of open forum "jazz" music needs. Ultimately, I could not do it because their time conflicted with the NE KSMEA District Jazz Ensemble concert that I directed this year (which was a blast by the way). Even with it starting two hours late, I still would not have been able to do both. Glad it was informative and useful. As far as "attitudes" go, I try to stay positive and constructively contribute to the scene where ever I am. I have learned (sometimes the hard way) to simply avoid negative people, regardless of who they are or how revered and important they are supposed to be. I have had to do this even in KC... so, I don't get into the drama that some folks like to bring... ;) Peace, Cb

Dan said...

Great insights. This isn't just a jazz problem, it's a problem for anyone who doesn't want to play covers.

I've been doing an original country music project. It was relatively easy to get an opening slot for a concert, particularly for a legacy act. However, the concert business has been so lousy, there's fewer tours. Acts that do tour most often go out with opening acts. Even the places we could play where you could mix in a few originals with covers aren't booking anymore.

But there's no use being bitter. Cb is right - if you stay positive and try to contribute, something will shake loose. Solutions are out there.

Anonymous said...


Avoid the drama but keep your head out of the sand. Speak up against racism. We should all speak up against that sort of stuff.

As an aside, why is the Muslim community not more visible speaking up against Muslim Extremists?

Happy In Bag said...

Against my better judgment, I published the comment from Anon 158. I apologize to fair-minded Plastic Sax readers.

bigsteveno said...

Why is the Christian community not more visible in speaking up against Christian extremists? Vocal would be good too.

Cb said...

Anonymous said...

Avoid the drama but keep your head out of the sand. Speak up against racism. We should all speak up against that sort of stuff.

As an aside, why is the Muslim community not more visible speaking up against Muslim Extremists?
Anonymous - it would be cooler (and more credible) if you actually posted under your own name, or at least left a signature tag to identify yourself...

As far as your remark about racism, I have no idea about anyone on 18 & Vine being so-called racist. I guess based upon your assessment that they could also be racist toward me then, because I sincerely can't get a gig at the Blue Room with my group either. And, it isn't that I can't play well, nor can't draw a crowd, nor won't promote the gig before hand, nor that I am not well-known enough.

It is simply because of the same primary reason that musicians EVERYWHERE don't get gigs ANYWHERE - and that reason is because I am not in that clique of bands who are booked there... and, at this point in my career I don't have the time to go court them every day to play there... dig? And, I am black just like many of the folks who are in charge there. So, your indication hinting to maltreatment at 18th & Vine likely has little to do with race in the context you use here. I have been back home in the KC metro since 2001 and discounting deaths and musicians moving away, the names appearing on the Blue Room schedule remain largely unchanged. I don't even try for a real gig for my quartet there anymore...

It may be a shocking fact to many, but I experience racism in some context everyday. And, I have experienced this every day of my life -- it is simply a part of the dynamics of our society that I personally have to deal with constructively in order to live my life on my own terms. Other people in the USA have their own things to deal with. I have to always deal with things related to my race. Therefore, to equate something that is more on the line of systemic dysfunction with racism, is more in keeping with fallacy than reason.

As far as why Muslims do or don't do anything, I wouldn't know, since I am not a Muslim...

Peace, Cb

Russell Thorpe said...


thanks for your words. Actually everyone has good things to say here, except the anonymous muslim hater comment. Good call on calling him out for his bs race baiting as well.

I hope everyone who wants to comes out to our performance this friday, where we will give you booze to listen to us play. I mean payment isn't even an option for Black House, and we don't really care.

Like Mr Country player said, originals regardless of genre, are the hardest thing to get booked playing. That's why we are lucky to have Charlotte Street as support for the creation of new music every 4 months.

Last thing I'll say is something I've said here before. If you are in the jazz world because its such a lucrative high-incentive place to be I would recommend disabusing yourself of that notion unless disappointment is your cup of tea, because reality tells me everyday that the big money is in hip-hop, showtunes, new country, and being a cable news blowhard.

Anonymous said...


Christians constantly speak up about christian extremists.
NPR, MSNBC, FOX and CNN discuss extremism on a regular basis.
Local and national talk radio address extremism everyday.

There are plenty of Christians squelching Christian extremists.

Hermon Mehari said...

The clinic started two hours late because Joey's plane was delayed twice.

Bob Asher said...

To me it seems that the split is between people who see jazz as "a legacy" and an "artform" and folks who see music as "a living" and/or a "way of life". The former enjoys the protection of public funding but a dearth of audience and the latter may draw the crowds but the money's hard earned.

Matt Otto said...

I'm glad you mentioned Herman as a good example of a 'blue print' for a young jazz musicians. I would go so far as to say certain older 'bitter' pianists might have quiet a lot to learn from him. It's a privilege to play this music for a living.

Cb said...

Indeed, but I think that Herman isn't the only "young" musician on the scene here doing a great job of making opportunities for his music. As an example, I can go back a few years to Brandon Draper and John Brewer with their group "Organic Proof", if I were to site a "bell weather" of sorts...

The music paradigm for us today is probably the healthiest it has been in modern times. In Kansas City alone, I could fill the remainder of this post with "young" musicians who are out there doing it on all levels and across all the various cliques that used to largely define what was essentially a fractured scene here.

Additionally, Matt Otto, you have been a great positive force here and a bridge between the recent college graduate generations and the 40+ year old generations here - thank you for your positive musician vibe and attitude.

There are others, to include the Black House Improvisors' Collective residents, who have literally created a scene for their music when there was none before - that is how it is done.

And, this blog is a great example of a media representative giving voice to a wide variety of the people on the KC scene who are making good things happen - pretty objective too, no playing of favorites at (from what I have seen).

So, there is too much positive potential out here today, especially on the Kansas City scene, to be "bitter" or "negative".

Make something constructive happen... it's easier than you think. ;)

Peace, Cb

Anonymous said...

Neither the comment you address, nor your response to it really speak to whether or not the music industry values money over art. the example of the grammies is silly because the argument degenerates into a subjective battle of taste, and whether the awards go to the best artists is ultimately irrelevant if youre arguing that the industry doesnt care about art.
Valuing money over the actual product is the defining feature of post-industrial revolution commerce, which is why speaking of "corporate greed" is ultimately a regressive tendency. (corporations are inherently greedy; their ultimate goal is to increase profit and value, so the only way to curb that greed is through force)
of course its not necessarily true across the board; hopefully some (though i doubt many) record executives care about the art they put out in the world. but simply look at what defines a successful record label - a label that sells a lot of records. so while the grammies are a bad example, the point holds true.