main: August 2009 Archives
Start a Twitter campaign, and see what happens! Do as many people hear live jazz in a week as attended Woodstock, say? Using the hashtag #jazzlives, a rough count is underway, supported by independent jazz activists, musicians, festivals, journalists but most of all the listeners themselves. It's a lesson in how people participate in culture now, with encouraging findings.
Let's prove jazz lives. Tweet about live performances using hashmark #jazzlives, detailing who and when in 140 characters.
Jazz fests rage across America in the next couple of weeks starting Aug. 29-30 with NYC's Charlie Parker fest, picking up Sept 4 through 6 -- Tanglewood, Chicago, Detroit, the Angel City Jazz Fest, LA's Sweet & Hot Music Festival, the Vail Jazz Party, Philadelphia's Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival plus some fests with jazz-influenced acts, rhythms and improv such as Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Seattle's Bumbershoot, the Getdown fest and campout near Chapel Hill NC. Overall, tens of thousands of fans will be in attendance. I suggest we all raise our electronic hands on Twitter (accounts are free) to signal that we are listening, that there is indeed a significant audience including people young enough both age and spirit to send a noticeable wave through social networking, National Endowment of the Arts data from '08 notwithstanding.
Guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith in a rare East Coast five-night stand -- you don't have to know a thing about "jazz" to get into their quintet's masterful, exciting, funky, complex, improvised, folky, powerful, inspired sounds. A night at a Manhattan club can be costly, yes, but sets of this calibre make it all worthwhile. And Eubanks has the current slant -- he announced at the start that the venue's "no flash photography, no recording" policy was suspended, urging the audience to record the music on whatever devices we had, send it to him if the recording is good, and share it with friends -- "Just don't charge for it!"
In 2004, photog Gene Martin asked the guitarist/inventor who'd just received the Jazz Journalists Association's "A Team" award for activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz, to pose for a portrait. . .
The Kennedy Center presents more jazz in 2009-10 than all the other US government cultural institutions combined -- some 40 concerts of new and established talent in all styles. No surprise, public performance being the Center's reason for being, while the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution are mandated for research and archival activities. But who supports the KenCen's jazz?
Cannonball Adderley, Mary Lou Williams and Freddie Hubbard are celebrated in Smithsonian Institution concerts next October, February and April; a December "Swingin' in the Holidays" performance by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra completes its year's jazz offerings. Well, there's also Jazz Appreciation Month in April (otherwise known for fools and taxes) during which the Smithsonian encourages and promotes jazz activities in the U.S. and abroad. Does this represent enough support of jazz, a Congressionally recognized American treasure, by one of America's major cultural institutions?
In 1990 I interviewed drummer Rashied Ali for The World According to John Coltrane, a documentary produced and directed by Toby Byron. It was the first but not the last time I spoke to Ali, a sorely underrated musician and jazz presence who died yesterday (August 12, 2009) following a heart attack at age 74. Here's a transcript of our talk, slightly edited and annotated, mostly about Coltrane, with whom Ali became famous.
"This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix," a 1931 sermon by Rev. Dr. J. Gordon McPherson, called "The Black Billy Sunday," gives title and theme to the 7th annual Blues Images wall calendar, complete with artwork from the collectible Paramount and Brunswick "race records" of the late '20s and early '30s. The package includes a cd of 18 deep blues from back in the day, including two unreleased sides featuring guitarist Blind Blake and rarities by Papa Charlie Jackson and Henry Townsend, among others.
Biographer of H L. Mencken and (coming soon) Louis Armstrong, ArtsJournal blogger and scribe for the Wall Street Journal Terry Teachout has raised a fuss by pointing to the National Endowment for the Arts' study citing declines in jazz audiences from 2002 to 2008 (and indeed from 1982 to 2008). That this data was released in June and been reported on earlier, elsewhere, (like at Jazz.com by editor Ted Gioia) without getting much attention suggests either the broad reach and high profile of Murdock-owned media or it's August and a writer getting outraged about ho-hum "news" can stir otherwise becalmed straits.
But seriously: Mr. Teachout has stumbled into a very old trap, forecasting the death of jazz.
My profile of pianist Hank Jones, who turned 91 on July 31, is in the August issue of Down Beat and excerpted here. Space limitations disallowed any of the resounding shout-outs I asked for from a bevy of musicians to make the print edition: No such problem on the web! So read what several pianists with styles of their own, and one of Hank's most admiring collaborators, have to say about an eminently modest but extraordinarily accomplished gentleman.
Pursuant to online debates about whether grants and fellowships are good for jazz -- here's a report on the non-profit Meet the Composer's choice of 31 recipients for $300,000 towards realization of commissions. Only one jazz-related project among them: composer-guitarist Joel Harrison, commissioned by the Brooklyn-based organization Connection Works, to write for a large ensemble. However, three principals of the new music collect Bang on a Can, as well as celebrated veteran composers Meredith Monk and Steve Reich, and the music theater artist Stew ("Passing Strange," Spike Lee's movie of which is scheduled for mid-August release) are grants winners.
I'm humbled by writer-poet-performance artist Kirpal Gordon's appreciation of and insight into my book on the avant garde through the models of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, in the just-posted NOLA issue of Big Bridge magazine. He's captured my intent and says I accomplished what I meant to. See if you agree.howardmandel.com
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