[Dixielandjazz] Re: "Jazz" Festivals

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 2 12:32:28 PST 2003

Rob McCallum wrote:

> Steve writes that there are a number of OKOM groups working successfully in
> Philadelphia "maybe because there was never an OKOM festival" there.  This
> is something that I've wondered about regarding Detroit.  For years the
> Montreux-Detroit (now Ford-Detroit) festival (a free festival downtown) was
> very strong (late 80's, early 90's) and there was never a jazz club scene to
> speak of.  The sad joke was, where is everyone the rest of the year.  It
> occurred to some people that so many listeners got their jazz fix free over
> Labor Day, that they just didn't turn out much to pay venues - and clubs
> really struggled (of course, this may have been just an excuse by poorly
> managed businesses).  Lately, there has been much more jazz in Detroit
> (though not too much OKOM, other than Tom Saunders and the guys in Ann
> Arbor), but Orchestra Hall puts on an excellent jazz series and clubs like
> Baker's are doing much better at the same time that attendance is way down
> at the festival (which has lost any cohesiveness in it's approach - kind of
> a let's try anything and see what happens - no OKOM at all this past year).
> Anyway, I wonder if there may be something to the idea that a big yearly
> festival diminishes the potential throughout the rest of the year.  I don't
> really buy that argument, but it's certainly been made.

Not that the festivals give the audience their yearly fix, but that the
musicians here are not conditioned to the belief that OKOM is only for old
folks. We don't know any better in Philly. We believe the music is for all ages
and we play it that way.

Plus, we are more aggressive in seeking out diverse venues. From public park
gigs, to township concerts, to a gig we've got coming this Thursday evening. An
Open House Party for a large, upscale housing development. We play in the
"family room" of one of these huge "Mac Mansions" at the cocktail party while
monied folks wander through, before visiting the other model houses for snacks
and dessert. (The family room is as big as my house)

How did we get it? Well, the developer sought us out because someone heard us
at a gig somewhere, or saw one of the articles about us in the newspapers, or
saw us on TV news, or on cable TV etc., etc.., etc.

The other reason jazz is apparently making headway compared to a few years ago
is the effect the Ken Burns Jazz show has had on the general public. Nobody
wants to believe that, but to our band it is apparent. When I introduce band
mates to the audeince as having played with Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Coleman
Hawkins, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Louis Prima et al, the
audience these days seem to more readily recognize those names. Of course, it
doesn't hurt to mention beforehand that these were jazz legends as seen on the
"Ken Burns Jazz Show", a few years ago.

As I said a few days ago. IMO the climate for jazz growth (audience popularity)
in the USA is as good or better than it has been for the past 50 years. I hope
that after hearing opportunity knock, we will answer the door.

After all, I'm just a hack clarinet player having the time of my life. Imagine
what the really talented players could do.

Steve Barbone

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