Monday, September 30, 2013
Drowning Our Sorrows
I like Boulevard beer. And I like the American Jazz Museum. It was a given that I would diligently cast votes for the museum in the brewery's Boulevard Loves KC charitable campaign during the past ten days. The museum was one of three charities designated to receive funding based on quarterly sales of Boulevard's KC Pils brand. The charity with the most votes receives 60% of the funding. The other two split the remaining 40%.
Between the daily votes I cast on my home network and elsewhere on my cell phone, my efforts represent over two percent of the 659 votes cast for the museum. With a few hours remaining, The KC Pet Project has received 56% of the votes while the museum's tally accounts for 8%. I'm not surprised that the museum lost- people in Kansas City are loopy for cats and dogs- but the paucity of votes for the museum is alarming.
Two recent failed Kickstarter campaigns related to Kansas City jazz giants Myra Taylor (15% of goal reached with 25 backers) and Bobby Watson (2% of its goal reached with four backers) indicate that the issue isn't limited to the American Jazz Museum.
I'll surprise longtime Plastic Sax readers by suggesting that the problem isn't that the audience for jazz is too small. Instead, I believe it's too divided. There's little consensus on what styles of jazz and which Kansas City jazz institutions merit support.
The majority of the over 1,000 people who attend every concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall probably aren't terribly concerned with the legacy of Charlie Parker. Most of the supporters of the jam sessions at YJs don't feel a strong connection to the American Jazz Museum. There's little overlap between fans of the outside sensibility of Snuff Jazz and the stride piano of Bram Wijnands. During a free Jazz Winterlude concert in January, people waiting for an appearance by swing vocalist Deborah Brown didn't hide their displeasure with a forward-thinking acoustic performance by Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder. Many of Lage's fans left Yardley Hall before Brown's set began.
We can talk about the digital divide and disagree over the policies of publicly-supported institutions, but until the entirety of the jazz community can rally around a single idea, the current fractured state of affairs will continue to weaken the entire scene.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)