Jazz economics and other last thoughts on the fest
Something like the jazz fest keeps ringing through your neurons for days after. Things like Steve Wilsonâ€™s siren-call solo on one of Maria Schneiderâ€™s pieces, and Donny McCaslinâ€™s contrasting shout-a-thon solos on a couple of other ones. Things like the ecstatic reports of the music you missed (the Mike LeDonne Quartet with Eric Alexander and Co. reprising their regular club-gig vibe, the jam sessions at places like Cliff Bellâ€™s and Bertâ€™s with cats like Benny Green and Branford Marsalis cuttinâ€™ looser). Here are three more things that I keep coming back to:
1) In addition to the music there was the jazz talk like the tales that flowed at the Jazz Talk Tent (kudos again for organizers Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert, now official fest Jazz Guardian award winners). For instance, there was the story told by trumpeter Randy Brecker during the panel on Horace Silver, his erstwhile employer. Seems Randy had been a member of the Blood, Sweat and Tears for the classic debut Child Is Father to the Man. Classic, but hardly a hit disc. And then the bandâ€™s leader-singer-visionary Al Kooper split and the prospects didnâ€™t seem very good. Salary was $100 a week. So when the call came from one of Randyâ€™s heroes, Horace Silver, to follow in the footsteps of trumpeters like Blue Mitchell and Woody Shaw for $250 a week … how could he turn it down?
So he went to a trumpet playing friend, Lew Soloff, and leaned on Lew to take his place in BS&T; after all, there was the math, $100 a week equals â€śtwo fifty dollar gigs you donâ€™t have to do.â€ť Reluctantly, Lew agreed. As it turned out, the $250 was somewhat illusory, since Horace was the rare bandleader who actually took out taxes. And on the road, hotels were deducted, meaning that some weeks payday meant Horace announcing, â€śYou owe me $60.â€ť
Meanwhile, BS&T recorded their eponymous second album which spawned hits â€śYouâ€™ve Made Me So Very Happy,â€ť â€śAnd When I Dieâ€ť and â€śSpinning Wheel,â€ť and sold millions (Randy said 11 million, Wikipedia says 4 million, but you get the picture).Â That $100 a week became $5,000 a week for Soloff. And the financial upside for Randy: He and Lew shared a trumpet teacher, and now he could hitch a ride along with Lew in the limo.
But the real bottom line, as Randy saw it, was about what he learned from the great Horace Silver: â€śThe best musical decision I ever made.â€ť
2) Caught the tail end of Kurt Ellingâ€™s set (with Ernie Watts on saxophone). Ellingâ€™s scatting vocals are out of Jon Hendricks, but I wonder if his aggressive edge works for hip-hoppers. It was great to my ears, fresh. And he ended with a great nugget of jazz wisdom. Wish I could render the line perfectly but it was pretty much: And just remember, unless youâ€™re Miles Davis, thereâ€™s always another brother cooler than you. (Anybody out there have a surer recollection of the exact words?)
3) Seeing my friend, longtime colleague, newspaper strike buddy, photographer Hugh Grannum, not long after his long-needed kidney transplant, up and out digging the sounds on Hart Plaza. Now that was a festive sight. Albert Ayler must have been right: Music is the healing force of the universe.