Jazz beyond Jazz: July 2009 Archives
My latest column in City Arts-New York is now online, with pick hits for free August concerts in NYC. I don't suggest the season's not right for serious, substantial music, just that we would appreciate the surrounding circumstances being comfortable and hassle-free. Here's the opening graph, meant to set the tone and keep you reading -- and notes about the Caramoor jazz fest in suburban Westchester.
Nate Chinen, estimable New York Times music journalist, questions the effect of grants like the $253,000 announced by Chamber Music America for jazz composers: Are applicants pressed to create overly grand and pc projects? Ottawa Citizen blogger Peter Hum asks why Canada's government supports jazz at all.
A Chicago mainstay, whose efforts supported local and touring musicians starting in the early '40s but who didn't record under her own name until 2004, Earma Thompson deserves to be celebrated as an outstanding example of how women have participated in jazz often more than is acknowledged, from behind the scenes. As the Chicago Tribune's Howard Reich wrote in his July 16 obituary of this significant pianist and salon -- not saloon -- keeper, "Earma Thompson never really had a chance to become famous."
Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper with Li'l Kim, Dave Stewart and French first-lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy celebrated Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday July 18 at a heavily reported Radio City Music Hall concert, but in Prospect Park Nigeria's King Sunny Adé headlined a free five-act, seven-hour pan-African Celebrate Brooklyn! show drawing some 20,000 people. No reviews have been forthcoming, but hey, it was pretty nice, so you should know.
I'm determined to try to survey unusual and promising new jazz-and-beyond cds with regularity -- here are responses (not in-depth reviews) to only half-a-dozen grabbed off my teetering in-pile almost at random, plus related diversions. The scale: 5 stars "You gotta hear this"; 4 - "very interesting, if interested in this sort of thing"; 3 -- "middling, ok fun, consistent"; 2 - "flawed, somehow worthy"; 1 "never mind, really."
Jazz Times was credited with 100,000 circulation in virtually all press accounts of its recent transfer of ownership -- which with annual subscription rate of nearly $24 per year suggests annual income from readership alone (there's income from ads, too) easily be in excess of $2 million dollars.
But as I noted in my last posting, the circulation figure is not verified by the non-profit Audit Bureau of Circulation or anyone else. It comes from Jazz Times advertising department, which of course sells ads on the basis of how many eyeballs can be said to be perusing them. The whole question of jazz mag circulation is murky -- surprising, at a time when I can chart by the hour the exact number of hits of readers on this blog, and even figure out where they come from. Here is correspondence on jazz mag circulation claims I received from Frank Alkyer, the publisher of 75-year-old Down Beat magazine, Jazz Times' rival (which has a $26.99 annual sub rate for 12 issues; JT puts out 10 and an education supplement). Alkyer says Down Beat's circulation is currently 70,000.
The quick revival of magazine Jazz Times by Madavor Media is a good thing, but freelance contributors whose work has already been published are being told that they'll be paid only 50% of amounts due.
"Those checks are going out this week," according to an email sent by Lee Mergener, JT's editor-in-chief who is being retained during the transition in ownership, along with managing editor Evan Haga and two ad representatives. Mergner's memo continues, "Madavor only acquired the assets, not the liabilities, of the company, leaving JazzTimes' previous ownership to settle its debts as best it can."
Madavor Media company director Joan Lynch confirmed acquisition of Jazz Times magazine today, pledging to settle the suspended publication's unpaid debts, to go for editorial continuity, to maintain its 10-times-a-year print schedule and website, and to keep its two top editors.
"As part of Madavor, I'm excited to have Jazz Times to work on -- we think it's just a great brand," said Ms. Lynch by phone from Madavor offices in Quincy, Massachusetts (retained Jazz Times editorial staffers Lee Mergener and Evan Haga will still operate from Silver Spring, MD). Asked if she had concerns about entering the beleaguered music magazine field, she replied, "We're a strong business, we have resources and we understand we're sort of bucking the trend. But we believe in print, in the web, and in delivering the best product we can, hoping to keep Jazz Times the publication aficionados want."
Jazz Times, the monthly which suspended publication in May, has been bought by Madavor Media and will print an August issue produced by its familiar staff and contributors, according to today's New York Times. Boston-based Madavor counts International Figure Skating, Volleyball and The Best of Northeast Golf among its "core titles," having acquired Doll, a long-established UK collector's periodical, in June 2008 and four regionally-oriented golf titles last September.
All is not dismal in Jazzville: Producer George Wein has found a title sponsor -- CareFusion -- for his jazz festivals in Newport next month and New York City summer 2010. SFJazz has announced a stellar lineup including Ornette Coleman for its fall fest, Oct. 10 - Nov. 21.
As Mitch Myers reports from the 13-day 30th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, diversity, provided by living legends and genuinely engaging younger talents, is the key. As James Hale reported from the just ended 11-day-long Ottawa Jazz Festival (as which he worked as a media consultant), "the personalities behind the music are as strong and creative as ever."
So are festivals the future -- or just the present -- of jazz?