JAZZ LIFE WITHOUT FINANCE IS A NUISANCE: Things are amiss, from top to bottom, and places in between, economically speaking. When the mighty auto industry is reeling from successive blows upside the head and the newspaper industry is trying to redefine its place in the world-to cite just two examples-it stands to reason that other areas of society and culture will feel the sting. Even so, marginal niches in the socio-cultural world have been known to nurse feelings of imperviousness, as too marginal to matter-as if by flying under the radar, the destructive effects of the economic crisis won’t notice them.
Of course, for this purpose, we’re talking about the jazz scene. Jazz retains its status as America’s greatest indigenous art form and the 20th century’s great musical invention, but the music and its facilitating institutions are facing ominous forces. Only weeks ago, we got the news that the annual N.Y.C. jazz festival of note, the JVC Festival, was being suspended due to a sponsor’s pull-out (and, it has been suggested, the new festival owner’s mismanagement). Then, as if in illustration of the domino theory, one of America’s two big and influential jazz magazines, Jazz Times-which had relied on seasonal income from producing the festival’s program-announced suspension of publication, pending the possibility of finding a buyer. (Full disclosure: Although I have written for Jazz Times for more than 20 years, my sadness over its potential demise is as much as a jazz addict as via any professional link.)
Here in Santa Barbara, jazz programming is getting leaner, and scarier for presenters, but abject despair isn’t necessary : yet (this being a period of looming “yets”). UCSB’s Arts & Lectures’ grand 50th anniversary 2009-10 program was announced recently, and it’s a multifaceted doozy of a ride. Jazz-wise, the offerings are small in number, but big in cultural import: Wynton Marsalis brings his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra back to town (Sept. 27, Arlington Theatre); SFJAZZ Collective-whose Lobero show last year was one of the strongest area jazz concerts in recent memory-returns to Campbell Hall in its superior second generation lineup on March 2, 2010; and Pat Metheny returns to town, this time in a provocative solo mode, on April 20, 2010, at Campbell Hall. Jazz at the Lobero, a series that has ushered great jazz into this historic downtown venue for several years, has yet to announce its season, or its future plans. And up at the Santa Barbara Bowl, the always-loveable Diana Krall returns on August 23.
Of course, the bright side of this sobering downturn is that jazz is a survivor. During famine periods, jazz is accustomed to going underground (often literally, with many of its great clubs, such as the Village Vanguard, being basement joints). Jazz is more than a hundred years old, roughly the same age as cinema, and it will not die, however shaky public offerings and gig guarantees may become. Meanwhile, European and Canadian jazz festivals soldier on, and beckon cultural-travelers (take, for instance, the 30th annual Montreal Jazz Festival-perhaps the world’s best jazz fest-in early July). Jazz will out, but those of us who need it may have to go some extra miles to satisfy our needs. It won’t be the first time.
NON-ACADEMIC ACADEMY PICNIC: It has often been noted that, of all forms of music in Santa Barbara, the genre with the strongest and longest pulse is classical, which officially shifts into summer gear on Saturday with the beginning of the Music Academy of the West season. Saturday’s gala Academy Festival Orchestra concert at the Granada is especially notable for its venturesome program of Maurice Ravel‘s Daphnis et Chloe and the Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich. No warhorses or confections here.
As it happens, the Music Academy’s summer programming this year-particularly its Tuesdays @ 8 schedule-continues a trend of more varied and contemporary music-minded choices, mixed in with heaping helpings of Josef Haydn (whose witty music qualifies as timeless and pre-contemporary, anyway).