[Dixielandjazz] Sacramento Jubilee

billsharp sharp-b at clearwire.net
Thu Jun 1 13:39:55 PDT 2006

During the Memorial Day weekend was held one of the one of the world's 
largest and best known trad jazz festivals in the world, yet there 
seems to be little discussion of it by DJMl members, of whom I know 
there were several at the festival.  I'd like to find out what their 
opinions are compared to mine.  I have been to every Jazz Jubilee since 
its inception, and as a result have certain perceptions about the 
	I always hold in awe the fact that it happens at all, regarding the 
huge amount of work that it takes to schedule everything, hire the 
bands, and coordinate everything, not possible without intelligent 
people doing their jobs, most of whom (Over 2,000)  were volunteers.  
My hat is definitely off to them.  Jill Harper and her crew had a tough 
job, it being a first for her, but they pulled it together.
	Now for some serious critiquing:   The crowds seemed to be quite 
small, and at times I don't even think the word "crowd" is an 
appropriate word to use to describe the amount of people at some of the 
performance sites, or on the streets.  The words  "sparse gathering"
would perhaps more adequately describe the situation at many of the 
venues.  I"m not sure if expenses were met, since no one has heard, 
which would be tragic for such a potentially exciting event, and here's 
where I get to put in my 2 cents about what could be better to insure 
that the crowds continue to come to Sacramento:   1)  The board needs 
to realize that there is still a tremendous amount of dead wood being 
carried by the festival.   I personally saw very well-known bands who 
played extremely well, bands that have played all over the world, with 
numerous recordings, but who, when they weren't playing the wonderful 
songs, sat like bumps on logs and bored the audience to death.  
Contrast this to Igor, who, though not trad, and is thusly not liked by 
the trad "purists", draws huge crowds simply by the energy and 
enthusiasm the band generates when they play.  The musicians in both 
bands know the tunes and their instruments well, but one draws a crowd, 
while the other one doesn't.  The  "bump-on-a-log" band should be 
considered to be dead wood, and not be carried along from year to year.
	2) Here's where I really make enemies because I know many of the 
people of whom I'm going to speak, but we're talking Jubilee survival, 
and bluntness just may be the word of the day.  (I will however attempt 
to protect myself somewhat by not mentioning names)   	Much of the dead 
wood comes from several of the Sacramento bands hired as favors to the 
musicians in the bands, who have positions in the Sacramento Jazz club, 
and because they support the club, the Jubilee committee hires them.  
However, many of these "dead wood" bands performing  at the Jubilee, 
they are, as the people I've talked to have said, b- - o- - r - -i- -n- 
-g.  There is definitely dead wood among some some of the bands hired 
just because they have traditionally been hired nearly every year the 
Jubilee has taken place, and no one wants to tell them that they no 
longer belong because they simply draw no crowds.  (Some don't even 
draw sparse gatherings.)
	 Here's what the committee should be using as a test:  Stand at any 
bus stop and casually strike up a conversation with people in line and  
ask.  "Is there any band you've heard that you'd recommend?", and after 
only a few conversations you will begin to find out which bands the 
people are enjoying.  Then if you ask the question, "Who would you not 
bother with?'  you'll  begin to identify the  dead wood.. I did exactly 
that, which is what led me to make several of my earlier remarks, which 
came from surveying actual people, and led to writing this letter.  I 
am also a musician who has performed in numerous Jubilees (28 of the 
33), and most of my remarks are in line with comments made by numerous 
other musicians to whom I talk. I myself have been quite surprised to 
hear a lot of poo-pooing of well known bands because, though the bands 
contain fine musicians, they tell me, "Don't go see them because you'll 
be bored to death - -both you and members of the band will fall asleep 
between songs."  Local bands that do not fall in that category are 
bands like Cellblock 7, and the Boondockers who, though they have been 
around since B.C., continue to perform with enthusiasm and vigor, 
thusly drawing significant crowds.  Where the festival organizers fall 
down is that they have not been strong enough to "face the music" (pun 
intended) and eliminate those bands they hire as favors to some one.  
Some groups have been performing 10 years past their prime - - I saw 
groups 10 years ago who did not drawing crowds, and are surprised every 
year that they continue to be on the program . . . so I figure, they 
have to know somebody.
	3)  Why do we have guest artists going around sitting in with various 
bands?   . . .so there you are in the audience listening to a band of 
your choosing, and then appears some guest artist who plays a few 
numbers, often taking numerous solos to demonstrate prowess, then flies 
off stage to go do the same thing elsewhere. . . .  Does it make me 
enjoy the band I chose to listen to any better? No.  . .  So, some 
really fine musician got to briefly strutt their stuff.  Do I actually 
care?  Not really.  The Jubilee could save tremendous money by not 
bringing in these "hired guns" .  What is their purpose anyway? - -to 
clean up dodge City?
	That's the end of my remarks thus far.  Now I'll sit back and watch 
the fur fly, because there are definitely contrasting, or perhaps even 
similar remarks out there in etherland.  (Maybe some of the discussions 
will even get your mind off the Dixie Chicks.)

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