Its not often I let posting on http://www.vancouverjazz.com get me fired up but recent posts and conversations in that forum have done just that! Now I want to preface my rant by first saying that everyone has their own opinion and I’m not about to say that mine is right or wrong but I want to present my own view in hopes that it will lend some perspective or at the very least a different perspective. The issue surrounds two things: a) the jazz festival itself and b) the media that locals get during the festival. Every year around March or April when he festival gets announced there are the critics who just simply complain about a lack of presence by locals or something to that effect. I know Ken Pickering and John Orysik personally and have had many many conversations with them about all sorts of things. I have a great deal of respect for their festival organizing abilities and although our musical tastes are different they do a wonderful job every year of putting on the festival. Do I agree with everything they do, every decision they make? Not a chance but I have a great deal of respect for what they do every year. To say that not enough locals are respresented in the festival is a joke. CJBS does an incredible job of presenting great local talent in venues that they normally not be able to play in. For example: the opening band concept with Amanda Tosoff opening for Bobby Hutcherson at The Center and Brad Turner opening for Diana Krall at The Orpheum, being into the idea of teaming up Kenny Wheeler with The Jon Bentley Quintet at The VECC are just three that immediately come to mind. One could argue what this really does for the respective musicians careers but thats another topic. The fact is these great ‘local’ acts are being presented on a big stage. I don’t want to go on much longer than necessary diatribe about how locals are represented in the festival. Pick up the Festival program and take a look and it won’t take long before you realize how much local talent is showcased for 10 days.
Now the second part of my rant is the recent postings started up regarding the lack of media coverage for local acts during the festival. I don’t understand why this bitterness exists. It always seems to be something. I agree that jazz should be more respected, more in the mainstream, musicians should be getting paid more, there should be a full time jazz radio station and a regular jazz column. With the risk of sounding pessimistic, JAZZ DOESN’T SELL and it hasn’t sold for the better part of 30 years so my first question is why is the lack of coverage such a big surprise to so many people.
I do want to say that the local media has been very very very good to The Cellar including but not limited to The Province, The Vancouver Sun, The Courier, The Westender, Vancouver View, Vancouver Magazine, Where a etc. Why would any of these outlets decide to cover local acts during the fest when a) Sonny Rollins, Josh Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Oliver Jones, Chris Botti etc. are all in town in the space of ten days and b) they can cover the locals the rest of the year. I’m a bit surprised that for example Harold Mabern wouldn’t get a bit of a bite in terms of press but its not The Cellar that is driving the festival, its the big venues where the big superstars are playing that drives the festival. Its no different anywhere else. I was on http://www.allaboutjazz.com the other day looking at blogs and came across a someone writing a blog about the Montreal Festival. I read it anticipating reading about Jodi Proznick and he quartet’s performance. Not a word to be found, in fact all I could find were reviews of Dave Holland’s Quartet, Wayne Shorter etc.
The Cellar had its most local lineup its ever had in 7 years and it was also the most successful festival we ever had. We were literally packed every night with the exception of one person. We didn’t rely on reviews, previews, articles etc. It was packed by virture of their being a jazz festival and thousands of programs being out there available for people to read choose the shows they wanted to come to.
As for what the local media does when the festival is not on. Well I eluded a bit earlier to how much they have done for The Cellar and the musicians that play there. I can think off the top of my head about feature articles on Lou Donaldson, Fathead Newman, Jodi Proznick, Brad Turner, George Coleman & Eric Alexander just to name a few.
On the Vancouver Jazz Forum Mr. Doheny appared to the lack of concert reviews done by local media. Well, he has a point there but as a club owner and musician to be honest I have never really understood reviews. Previews in my opinion are way more important. After all if you get a preview and 100 people come out to your show and you sell 20 cds you may just be able to pay your rent. If you don’t get a preview, 10 people come to your show, you get a nice quote from a newspaper that will sure look nice in your promo package but you didn’t make rent that month and the club you played at went out of business.