A couple of weeks ago I attended a jam session at the local 802 sponsored by an initiative called Justice for Jazz Artists. The session was billed as a "Kick-Off Event for the Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign to get benefits for jazz musicians who work in NYC clubs."
Dear jazz musicians and listeners,
We need your help. Our country has recognized jazz as a "national treasure", yet in many cases, prominent and well-established jazz artists spend their retirement in poverty -- or never retiring at all.
Two years ago in New York, Justice for Jazz Artists! (a project of AFM Local 802) succeeded in getting a tax break passed, benefiting NYC jazz clubs like Birdland, the Blue Note, Iridium and the Jazz Standard. The savings were supposed be directed into pension payments for the musicians that perform at these clubs.
In other words, at NO COST to the clubs, musicians can receive pension contributions for retirement.
Unfortunately, despite early support for the tax break, the club owners have since refused to even discuss the issue with the J4JA! campaign.
Visit the website below and SIGN OUR PETITION to force the clubs to sit down and discuss how to put this money to its proper use -- pension payments to jazz musicians.
[Your name here]
The website goes into a little more detail, runs a blog, and is trying its best to get the word out. For all its noble intentions, there is a noticeable lack of participation amongst the younger generation of jazz musicians. While we are out there rallying for better health care and the future of jazz audiences (#jazzlives!), we seem to have forgotten those who paved the path for us.
This was especially noticeable at the jam session/kick-off event. I was there with three other guys and scanning the packed crowd (yes, there was a huge turn-out) I'm pretty sure we were the youngest folk there by a good 10 years. In fact, the demographic was a startling contrast to the audiences I'm used to seeing at jazz shows. Even the music performed was from a different generation of jazz music.
The evening was packed with speeches, anecdotes, and performances and while some players were incredible (George Braith, pictured above) a lot of the music was so far in a tangent direction of jazz ("jazz" in this case defined as straight ahead), I personally could not get into it. Most of the crowd though, did.
I didn't really need an outing of this kind to wake me up to the vast types of music and audience that fall under the label of "jazz." Looking at an All About Jazz paper is enough proof that in addition to the straight ahead, more traditional Wynton type of jazz getting performed there are the tangent art, funk, and RnB infused strands. But I'd never really thought about the divergences in terms of issues.
Raising money for retired jazz musicians is a cause worthy of discussion, even among those of us whose retirement is a long way away. And the issue of an audience for jazz is one that the veterans could give insight to. For a community that is so small to begin with, I find it a shame we isolate ourselves from each other through demographics and jazz styles. I don't know about other jazzers (sorry Alex) out there, but I often feel animosity between musicians who stem out of the jazz tradition but veer in different directions (i.e. straight ahead players vs. straight eighth contemporary groups). I'm not saying we need to become jazz BFFs, but I think for the issues and causes that affect all music huddling under the jazz umbrella, it would be to our benefit to reach out across generations, demographics, and jazz styles and band together in effort in to create the supportive environment that jazz music and its community deserve.
Let's offer a gesture to the jazz veterans by signing that petition.