It's The Economy, Stupid: Jazz Cancellations : A Blog Supreme by Felix Contreras The economy. Health care proposals. Foreign policy. We can read more about all that in other parts of this Web site. So why here on our jazz blog? Let's just focus on the economy for now. Drummer Winard Harper. (Richard Ga...
NPR logo It's The Economy, Stupid: Jazz Cancellations

It's The Economy, Stupid: Jazz Cancellations

The economy. Health care proposals. Foreign policy. We can read more about all that in other parts of this Web site. So why here on our jazz blog?

Let's just focus on the economy for now.

Drummer Winard Harper. () Richard Galosy hide caption

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Richard Galosy

I was cruising through some jazz news from all corners and saw a curious note about jazz drummer Winard Harper in the Seattle Times about how he may have to leave behind a long-time member of his band for a gig on the West Coast (which just ended) because the "money is funny," as some working musicians refer to uncertain financial arrangements.

That's not to say his gig at Seattle's famed Jazz Alley will not be paid. But there may not be enough bread to cover the costs of flying his percussionist Alioune Faye across the country. The determined bandleader was quoted: "It's just rough out there. Flying is already so expensive, and now they want to charge you for luggage. Keeping a band together is harder than ever. We're figuring out how to make things work."

I hope things work out there, but it got me thinking about the summer jazz festival season at the local level.

There are scores of organizations in cities across the country, far from major metropolitan areas, that fight the good fight and present jazz festivals, often free of charge, to the public. They're in places like San Clemente, Calif.; Norwalk, Conn.; and Sackets Harbor, N.Y.

I mention those communities because that's what a Google search of "jazz" and "poor economy" turned up. All three had to cancel or postpone their jazz festivals because their sponsors took a hit and pulled back funding.

Herb Grant is the director of the Norwalk Jazz Festival. In a phone interview, he told me that they could not present the third annual edition of their fest in the manner they have become accustomed to -- so they "postponed."

"Postponed gives the impression, the hope, that we will be back next year," he said. "Canceled is too final and we want folks to know we are not giving up on next year."

The San Clemente Times ran this item about that city's postponed jazz fest. And there's this short piece about a hyper-local festival in Los Angeles that had to be postponed. I don't mean to pile it on, but it looks like the folks in Sackets Harbor, N.Y. will also have to wait until 2010 for their jazz fest.

I helped produced a Latin jazz festival in Fresno, Calif. for a number of years, and I can't tell you how much joy there was in seeing musicians like Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez and Pete Escovedo plying their craft in front of appreciative fans who didn't have to pay for the experience. I can also attest to the work and the money involved to make those events happen.

I doubt that the three cities mentioned above are the only places where jazz festivals are being canceled this summer. What's going on in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment about the status of jazz festivals in your community.