I went to play a Sunday brunch gig at the Waynesville Inn and Country Club today and as we were getting ready to set up our equipment, the restaurant manager came up and said something like “you’re not playing today, I sent an email to the bandleader a few days ago. No more music for the Sunday brunch.” Well, isn’t that just grand. The leader of the trio got no such email and had an agreement (a verbal handshake agreement but legally binding nevertheless) that two weeks notice would be given if the music had to be discontinued. So I drive an hour for a $75 gig only to be turned away by a sketchy restaurant manager. Hissssssss! So where’s the happy ending with that you ask?
As we sat outside in disappointment, a family that heard us play another time came up and said that they came especially to hear us play and were looking forward to the brunch. We told them the bad news and they too were disappointed. But here’s what was a pleasant surprise – they said that they weren’t going to patronize the place that unfairly treated us and invited us out for lunch with them at a different nearby restaurant! It was a good reminder that although there a lot of people who could care less about jazz, there are some who not only appreciate the music but also understand that the musicians need to be fairly treated from a business perspective too. I had a nice lunch with good food and good conversations with an interesting and pleasant family. Many thanks to this family for turning a bad gig into a good day.
I don’t know what to say about this:
All of his other lessons can be found here:
Interesting expressions on people’s faces. The kid’s faces are naturally more curious and less concerned than the adults.
I came across an interesting entry in a listing of videotapes (pdf) produced by the National Security Agency, the largest of the US intelligence agencies, titled “Jazz in the USSR.” Running just over 46 minutes long and carrying a “For Official Use Only” classification, the 1985 program is described as a survey of jazz in the Soviet Union.
I wonder if this was made by some NSA employee/jazz fan attempting to make their job more fun or if there is more to it than that?
My bailout factoid for the day:
If the $18,000,000,000 paid as bonuses to executives in bailed-out companies last year was recovered and given instead to the 2,600,000 children, age 3 and under who live in poverty in the US, every one of those children would receive $6,923.08, enough for diapers, food and other basic needs for a year.
Poverty data from the National Center for Children in Poverty
John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, one of the large banks that was rescued with a taxpayer-subsidized sale, decided early last year (pre-bailout) that he needed a redecorated office to
entertain his buddies/ hide his mistress/ contemplate why his bank was collapsing ah, it doesn’t matter. The cost to the company: a mere $1.22 million, pocket change for a CEO, I guess.
Here’s the news story http://www.cnbc.com/id/28793892 and the internal budget document (pdf file) with an itemization of all the goodies. Some of the outstanding ones: a $1,404 garbage can, four pairs of curtains for $28,090, $3,916.45 worth of light bulbs and extension cords and $15,122.68 for “miscellaneous” items. The interior designer for this critical project, Michael Smith, made out like a bandit too with his fee: $800,000.
I’m sure it’s good policy for companies to spend lavishly on their CEO’s. And I’m sure that there is some good reason that a trash can might cost $1,400. And I’m sure that $800,000 is a reasonable fee for an interior decorator. I mean, these executives have complicated, stressful jobs strategizing and leveraging and all that. They deserve a $16,000 custom coffee table and $3,500 worth of bathroom accessories.
As someone at the other end of the spectrum (I’m unemployed and can’t pay my rent) it’s certainly clear that money has a different value to different people. To some people $15,000 means “miscellaneous” items, to me, it means a warm, dry roof over my head for a year.
A good call to action for our new President and something for everyone to think about:
On CNN’s website today there is an editorial by Wynton Marsalis in which he makes some general statements about our culture and society today. It isn’t a deep article by any means and there aren’t any specific solutions given to the problems presented, but there are a few things that stood out:
“In the din of expert voices on everything imaginable, what we don’t hear is informed conversation on how central culture is to our national well-being.”
Jazz is certainly part of this cultural significance. Wynton Marsalis, for better or for worse, is synonymous with jazz music in the eyes of many people outside of the jazz community but his style only represents a part of the art form. More people need to become visible spokespeople for jazz and the varied nature of jazz (straight-ahead, not straight-head etc.) needs to be better publicized even if the more original music isn’t as accessible at first. Most critically, the government needs to take a bigger role in funding the arts at the local level. Instead of paying millions to make bombs to drop overseas we should pay millions to make music here at home. It would be real homeland security in the long run when the US is known as a cultural superpower that supports the arts.
“It’s time for us to build a new mythology based on our many cultural triumphs instead of fixating on our never-ending missteps and conflicts.”
I agree about emphasizing our own American culture more but mythology doesn’t seem like the right word. How about just “public awareness.” That seems more attainable. And while “fixating” on conflicts won’t end up being productive, debating something can often lead to creativity.
“Almost everything and everyone seems to be for sale. Value is assessed solely in terms of dollars. Quality is sacrificed to commerce and truthful communication is supplanted by marketing.”
This is the statement that stood out the most because it sums up a lot about the music business and how free-market thinking fails when applied to the arts. And, excepting the part about quality, it unfortunately refers to the jazz concert headlined by Wynton Marsalis at the Kennedy Center tomorrow.
If you are trying to actually go to the concert that’s referred to at the beginning of the story (called “Let Freedom Swing” on the Kennedy Center website,) there are no tickets available. It is by “invitation only” (which usually means donors, politicians, “insiders” and maybe the press) and is “completely, completely overbooked” according to Lincoln Center except if you want to watch a TV simulcast elsewhere in the building.
It’s somewhat ironic that Wynton’s talking about coming together via jazz and the arts but his own concert is walled off from the public. Jazz, which is the perfect embodiment of American democracy, cannot be by invitation only. Putting jazz behind closed doors is so destructive. If Wynton is serious about change, next MLK day, have the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra play a free, public concert at the Lincoln Memorial instead. And how about releasing the invite list for the concert at the Kennedy Center so we can all see who is lucky or well-connected or wealthy enough to be invited to the show tomorrow?
The business of making a living playing jazz needs much change for jazz to survive beyond being background music for the wealthy or an obscure academic subject, like speaking Latin. More transparency would be an attainable first step and would lead to new, useful paths of action. High-profile figures like Marsalis need to practice what they preach with their own productions and make them open to all not just a select few.