Credit: Courtesy

“Jazz music is the power of now,” as Wynton Marsalis once said. For Santa Barbara–based men’s clothing company 32 Bar Blues, jazz is the inspiration for the brand — and the power behind an exciting new partnership with the Jazz Foundation of America. Compelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on live concerts, tours and gigs across the country, 32 Bar Blues reached out to the Jazz Foundation last summer with an idea to create a special t-shirt to help raise awareness and crucial funds for the JFA’s COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund.

“Since our first catalog in 2012, we’ve always featured musicians, writers, and photographers alongside our clothing,” says 32 Bar Blues founder and chair Bruce Willard, “and we give the profits from the sales of their CDs and books directly back to them as part of our commitment to the arts. But as the pandemic unfolded, we knew we had to augment our efforts.”

Collaborating with the JFA, the 32 Bar Blues creative team designed a colorful Jazz Foundation t-shirt inspired by vintage jazz festival posters and artwork, and then they fast-tracked its development for inclusion in their 52-page holiday catalog mailed nationwide in early October. 

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Offered in two colors, the t-shirts are $48 each — with all profits from their sale going directly to the JFA’s COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund. In addition, 32 Bar Blues has created a special Jazz Foundation section on their website with CDs from renowned musicians Brad Mehldau, Bettye LaVette, and Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares, plus a beautiful jazz book & CD The Ghosts of Harlem by legendary producer, photographer and JFA founding boardmember Hank O’Neal. One hundred percent of the profits received from all of the JFA section items will go to the Emergency Fund.

“The pandemic continues to present some of the greatest challenges our music community has ever faced, with persistent economic uncertainty, a devastating lack of work opportunities, and limited options for relief,” says JFA Executive Director Joe Petrucelli. “When 32 Bar Blues stepped in with their profoundly generous offer to design this custom t-shirt and sell it alongside these hand-picked items by artists so close to JFA’s heart, with 100 percent of proceeds going to our Musicians’ Emergency Fund, we thought, ‘Wow. They really get it.’ We couldn’t be more encouraged knowing how their passion for the music will translate into supporting musicians and their families in this urgent time of need.”

But the most exciting news is the runaway success of the Jazz Foundation t-shirt. When the 32 Bar Blues holiday catalog arrived in homes in early October, the shirt instantly became the most popular item in the collection. And it will appear again in the company’s upcoming Christmas catalog.

“When I started 32 Bar Blues, I wanted to create a business that gave back to the artists who brought me joy and whose life work I thought needed more exposure and celebration,” says Willard. “Blues and jazz music are uniquely American art forms, and we need to honor the people who help keep these arts alive. So I’m proud of our partnership with the Jazz Foundation and heartened by the immediate response of our customers to the JFA t-shirt. This is just the beginning.”

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