May 21, 2016

Grote Guitars Review 7 string arch top

So I was looking for the impossible. A beater 7 string jazz box I could take on vacation, on planes, leave at my music school Do I ask for the impossible?

I presently own 2 arch top guitars. Both are Ibanez and 1 is in fact a 7 string. Let me assure you the 7 string version of most types of guitar is not something you just go to your local (or even big box) music store and get. Ibanez is one of the largest guitar manufacturers in the world and they make exactly one 7 string arch top and one acoustic. Now if I was looking for a 7 string (or 8 or 9 or 10) in a solid body I would be on easy street. The metal word and the sub genre of Djent are the main users of Extended Range Guitars (ERG's) but so many of them look, sound and play like the metal they are marketed to. When first on the 7 string quest, my biggest challenge was finding one that was neutral in appearance (I.E not looking like I worshiped Satan)

Now I had 2 options. I could upgrade my AFG 957 (list price $1,500 USD)
I'd be looking at something like a Benedetto Bravo 7 string for around $5,600 USD as a bottom line (but I could always go up)

Or I could look for something less expensive.

Enter Ebay!
If you search for guitars on ebay you will get an infinite amount but if you narrow it down to new 7 string arch tops you get very few. 

Anyways I won't keep you on the hook longer. I found a store selling Grote Guitars and they had 3 guitars that fit the bill of a 7 string jazz box!

I choose the LP style semi hollow body in a blonde finish

The options on the other 2 where a red thin line with modern "F" holes and a not great looking sunburst hollow body (a 4th option was a sunburst ES335 style.

Over all review.
For the $200 USD I paid for it it is way more quality that I could want. Visually stunning if you are a few feet away. There are definitely some cosmetic and functional issues but nothing that can't be over come. Add to it it is a 7 string thin line semi hollow body guitar.

Basically I could not go to any music store in my area and get a guitar worth my time of day for $200 let alone a 7 string, let alone a jazz box and let alone a 7 string jazz box.

I will point out that this guitar smelled fresh (lacquer) and I suspect it some settling to do.

Now everyone wants the negative low down so here it is in my personal order of importance
  • pick ups are microphonic not 'hipster yelling into the pick ups' level but more like excessive body noise type. Perhaps potting them will fix it cheap. Most likely the real fix is decent pick ups
  • some bad notes/fret buzz. I can deal with any fret buzz that does not transfer through the amp but I did spend some time tamping down the uneven frets
  • the bridge is not the best but it intonates fine
  • the tone pots are more like treble on and off pots. I can turn them 90% or the way with no effect then bam! treble is rolled off
  • the nut is cheap. Having said this I am not sure why people obsess about the nut it has no effect on 90% of the notes on the guitar (just 7). Having said this the nut is cut well and there is no choking
  • position markers not uniform on binding
  • A few cosmetic issues that one only notices when examining it closely except where the neck joins the body on the upper side it was real noticeable but easily fixed with marker.
Over all the negatives are: cosmetic, things you can fix yourself like frets/action and the sub par electronics. Basically stuff you would expect from a $200 Chinese guitar.

The Upside?
  • the price $200 USD shipped to my front door for free
  • well packed 
  • Locking tuners!
  • very playable
  • excellent heel joint for smooth as silk upper fret access
  • arrived ahead of schedule
  • 3 ply pick guard
  • Light weight
  • over all good looking classic appearance
  • $200 USD shipped to my front door for free
I got exactly what I needed, a guitar that I can gate check on plane rides, that I won't cry if it gets dinged or even totaled, is easily replaceable, along with looking good, sounding good and being very playable.
I may even get a tech to replace the frets, upgrade the electronics and do a cracker setup. The only thing is all that will cost more than the guitar so we shall see.

For you? if you are looking for a guitar of a life time this is not it, but if you were looking for a beater, getting into ERGs or your 1st electric, 1st jazz box, back-up guitar, etc. maybe these Chinese guitars are an option for you.

The following are pictures and a video so you can see and hear for yourself.

Slight ding

Locking Tuners!

Uneven Position Markers

Cheap but well cut nut

And the Video:

Jun 23, 2015

Jazz Festival Winnipeg 2015 Edition Good times (but all is not forgiven)

So usually before this time each year it would be my annual tirade against the NoJazz Winnipeg Festival. Admittedly at first glance I may have thought (and posted ) that it was another crappy, self serving, jazz hating joke. The first things I saw in the line up were; Buddy Guy (yet again) a weekend opener with almost no jazz and the same blatant favoritism to a handful of younger locals.

But then I looked closer

33 of the 79 acts were right on or close to the money jazz wise (though still under half.) But then if you include the latin, the blues and music that could be mistaken for jazz in a dark alley, you have a festival where at least ½ the music makes sense on some level.
Half you may say? It's a jazz festival dammit! It should be 100% jazz and directly applicable!! You'd be right but since we have had the crap of crap for the last 15 years with little breaks, well I'll take this one festival over most of the last 10 attempts.

So, in order to show my super upbeat positive side, we'll take a look at the shows I went to.

Monday: Fred Hersch
This was great! From the intimate setting most trios should be preforming in, to the sound guy actually caring. This was the best show for me. 2 sets for $35.

Originals, standards Monk and Coleman all timely placed, explained but not dumbed down. You could rap with the guys between sets and and after. Lots of the local jazz scene players were in attendance (as they should) Though the 'artistic' director popped in briefly looked at his phone most of the time and left. Now there's a jazz fan.

Most notable moment? Well outside of the music it was when CBC's Izzy Posen said "If you're a jazz fan, you really have to love this year's line up." Wait what? If I am a jazz fan shouldn't I love that it's jazz festival week??? Oh I see what you did there, in a way 5 billion times more diplomatic than I could ever say it, you were pointing out the jazz festival usually sucks!

Wednesday: Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra w/Ingrid Jensen & Robi Botos opening. 
Your tax dollars at work in a great way! A Toronto quartet opening for the Montreal based big band. I think it was the quartet's first gig as an ensemble but they played very well. It took a while for the sound guy to get the piano to sound good but, after a long while of it being harsh and too loud, it settled down. My only compliant is they got a little 'jammy' and extended their set. The Jensen big band was really good and Ingrid used her looping pedal effectively on a few numbers. Both bands had fun with dynamics and metric modulation.

Friday: Kenny Barron Trio with Otis Brown III
Otis was a nice surprise. I really hadn't checked him out before but boy am I glad I got to this night. Long before he got to his version of Andre Crouch's 'God is on Your Side', I felt like I was in church. The way the trumpeter would hold his horn before and after playing was, to me, reminiscent of the way a priest holds up bread at communion.

Kenny Barron is the prototypical piano trio. Play head, solo the heck out of it, hand off to the bass player, trade 4's with the drummer and recap the head. He did this a few times, then some solo piano and then back to it.

The bass player was amazing the drummer too but took a lot of chances and a couple of times got (ever so slightly) off the rails. Luckily he had that awe some bass player to fall back on.

Saturday: Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland
This was all that you'd expect it to be with 4 players at the top of the jazz food chain. They basically came out, said hi and played like demons. I can't tell you the names of the tunes or who wrote them of if it was a suite or what. I don't know if they CD's for sale.

Over all the MC's at these shows all alluded to 'wow what a line up' again the obvious underlying statement is 'the other line ups sucked'. The "I don't care how bloated the festival is with non jazz as long as I get 2-3 concerts" crowd was placated and only one show had you paying top dollar to see an international act only to have the opener be someone you can see for free all year

I was wondering if bringing in Chick Corea between jazz festivals (Late September 2014) was the beginning of Paul Nolin finally seeing the light. I went to that and you can read about it here.

I haven't paid one penny to see anything at the jazz fest since Gary Burton was here and I haven't seen multiple shows in so long I can't even tell you. So, for me to rearrange students and go to 4 shows, is a big deal and says a lot about this year's content.

Many of us are wondering what this means. After uncountable years of justifying thin jazz content and ridiculing jazz fans who had concerns...NOW they have a decent festival?

Well there could be a number of factors and there have been some changes.

  • They have lost a lot of money the last few (5?) years.
  • They ticked off a lot of people (even some of their rabid apologists)
  • They got rid of the puffy D.J. who was the anti-social marketing person (remember last years meltdown/shutdown?)
  • Probably the lowest act count in years (not a bad thing)
  • Still doing the 1920's poster marketing but I actually saw them in my neighborhood.
  • I actually saw a neon billboard ad for the festival. I don't know if being one of 5-10 ads rotating on a sign along an 8 lane expressway is effective marketing, but they get full marks for at least trying something. I just hope they are tracking results.
Now this may be a blip on the screen to get them back in the black so they can return to their jazz hating ways, but let's hope not.

Somethings never change. Now in case you think I have gone soft with all this positive stuff I am here to tell you that there are still plenty of things screwy.

Local pop acts having the 1st set before out of town jazz at Maw's on Friday and Saturday. All kinds of talk on how rude the crowd was for Otis Brown III. Likely because the Chic Gamie crowd stay with those stupid wrist bands

We still have the BIG GIANT FREE OPENING WEEKEND (with almost no jazz) the latin music was a good fit Friday but Saturday night of the JAZZ FESTIVAL'S BIG GIANT FREE OPENING WEEKEND had zero jazz (Sunday to had no jazz as well)

Lots of recycled bands in the local jazz offerings with the same players in so many of the shows. Leader on this, sideman on that, then special guest on this, sitting in with that. Basically you could have gone to the first night and taken in 2 groups and have seen most of the players for the rest of the week local wise.

Basically the local content was U of M staff, former and current attendees..over and over again.

Along the same lines, their is nothing dumber than being in competition with yourself.

Let's say you are only want the blues from the festival? Well Buddy Guy and Little Miss Higgins same night same time.

On the nights there was good international jazz content in the theater there'd be local jazz in the clubs and at the cube for free. They also had the vocalists dueling it out with them starting at similar times. So on Friday you had Grace, Martha and Nadia all playing at similar times. Saturday you had Amber and Rose Marie squaring off. You had all these folks in competition with the theater series. Kinda dumb but more so when you have weekend spots full of rock bands on prime nights with no jazz...well nothing new here just another dumb move repeated year after year.

Speaking of repeats... there way too many see for free, for fee and see them whether you want to or not. I do not understand the logic behind putting a touring act that you want people to pay to see but put them on for free or opening for someone big. I would have paid to see Otis Brown but he he opened for Kenny. The Heavy Weights got 3 gigs (I guess it pays to come home to visit Mom and Dad) one in the Cube One opening for a non jazz show and a club gig.

Seriously who would see the same act twice or 3 times in a week?

Let's get serious, your #1 consumers of jazz are jazz and other types of musicians.
It is unfair to ask them to play on the nights when actual top notch international stars are playing.
It is unfair to ask jazz fans to choose between supporting their friends (and lets be real, for most of the locals booked as leaders this IS there main, if not only, gig for the year).
It is unfair to deny the touring jazz acts the maximum potential in audience members, particularly an entire segment above the norm of jazz knowledge and appreciation.
While there is no way to force the local jazz musician contingent to attend the theater shows, I think it is important to make it possible.

From a jazz educator point of view the culture around U of M Jazz Studies and Jazz Winnipeg is an odd one. Seems that passing your audition and getting a JW gig are synonymous (even if you aren't playing jazz)

Playing a jazz festival might make you feel like you have arrived when you have no business having that feeling.

Bottom line, these new jazz babies really need to see how it is done on the national and international level and to put them on the stage when they need to be in the audience is truly a disservice to all.


Let's hope this is a return to a decent balance in OUR jazz festival and that the other foibles are cured and not merely a return to the core fans to get back in the black before returning to their jazz hating ways.

Mar 11, 2015

From the Gig Files

I play a lot of solo guitar gigs. In my city (a small one at that) I am basically the king of solo guitar. Some can do it better on selected (transcribed) pieces but no one beats me for repertoire, execution and variety.

So I equate so solo guitar versions of songs to doing impressions. If I do them right you know the song if I do them wrong I have to tell you and you then recognize it and it I really miss the mark I tell you and you still can't hear it.

So it is ok (and a little rewarding) to have people come up and say "Oh I loved your version of "Angie" or "Take it Easy" or, when I get a little out there with quartal harmony and such, for someone to recognize a jazz standard.

What happened last night was none of that.

Last night I was playing a re-harmonized version of a famous song from the Movie "The Wizard of Oz" when an inebriated patron starting yell/sing "IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN" Besides the irony meter being pinned it through me off and I pooched the tune for the rest of the non-obnoxious patrons.

Then he proceed to sing other songs while I played but not songs I was playing (and not as loud) which I found a little less distracting until the final set and  then as I was starting to play my version of "Day Dream Believer" he goes into a rousing version of "Girl from Ipanema."
He wouldn't stop.
So I did. He sang it as he and his companion strolled out and you could hear strains echoing about the place. My last tune of the night was Moon Dance and gads they came back. While I was prepared for the yell/sing onslaught of this most famous tune he opted to be quiet and put $10 in the tip glass.

I think his wife/friend had a little talk.

So rude all night is placated by paying for my parking.

I have had lighter versions before but have been able to deal with it the whistle alongs,  I start to solo. The clap finger snap types? Well if they can groove I play with them...but that never happens so I'll go rubato or odd time signature.

Hey folks it's not all roses living the dream.


Sep 29, 2014

Chick Corea in Winnipeg

So little ole Winnipeg was very lucky to have Chick Corea come to town with his new band of wonderkins entitled The Vigil. Chris Smith, local jazz 'columnist' (and festival stiff) incorrectly called the new album 'Vigil' Dear Chris...please pay attention.

Now you can got to his 'review' (more like a score card...'this song followed by the new, with nice solos, names of the band members, blah blah')

It is always hard as a veteran to see a band like this I mean the drummer alone was 2 years from high school and was smokin! Ya his grandpa is Roy Haynes so he got the leg up but he is no clone. He is more like a modern Billy Higgins. Light on top, time like you wish you had a smidgen of and total control of dynamics.
The guitar player (same sorta age) had chops to spare and, when he laid off the distorted electric, really shined with depth, chops and melodic content. Being a guitar in a large group particularly with piano, particularly with Chick, is a hard gig and he handled it well by picking his spots and doing something hard for most guitarists...he stopped playing. Sometimes he exited the stage.
The bass player seemed to be a crowd favorite for good reason. His energy and close to the edge playing style make him hard to ignore.

This band had impeccable control of time right down to the woodwind player. Yes a sax player with good time. I know it is hard to fathom!!

Most groups with drum set and percussion deal with it by a few stock ways:
1. The percussionist mimics the drum part lightly
2. The percussionist stays out of the way with a bunch of noise makers (rain sticks, whistles etc.)
3 both over play and go all Gordie Howe makin and breakin elbow room

Well in Chick's band they did none of this. Instead, they gave each other room, played off each other creating rhythmic counterpoint and took turns laying out...beautiful!!

To top it off, while the mix was not perfect and took a little time off the top to sort out, this was the best I have heard a piano sound through a system in many a moon (and the best since moving here)

The show came in at around 2 hours but for me I could of had 2 more easily. So the mystery to me is the folks who left after 2 pieces and the ones who left at 9??

You paid $80 bucks to hear only part of the show??

The other mystery is all the people who showed up late (and the staff that let them take their seats mid tune) Dear Winnipeg: show some class.

The Jazz Fest director was there stood at the back took a cell phone out of his murse, took a picture and disappeared back stage for the night.

On the good side we didn't have to put up with that jazz hating hypocrite taking the stage to introduce Chick and take credit.

On that tangent. This show had and embarrassing number of empty seats. The floors where pretty full but the loges where almost empty at ground floor while the balconies where a ghost town. The attendance was 719 which is paltry for a band of this stature but with 1,638 seats in the building...more that half the seats empty is down right embarrassing.

Of course when you look at the marketing (if you can call facebook posts and posters marketing) it is no surprise.

When you spend your time marketing to fans of DJ's and Indie bands you are OTL when it comes time to market to adults.

Jul 7, 2014

I Never Do This...

I never write a 3rd blog about our no jazz festival but I am making an exception. One week to the day after my 'After Math' post, the Free Press jazz columnist / festival apologist did a thinly veiled 'interview' with the no jazz festival director.

Addressing things like whether they made money, what shows made money. Almost as if they read the blog and felt the need to counter little ole me...or just another in a series of coincidences.

You can read the article here

So in it, they team up to give a rosy picture of a bad festival (now there's some fine unbiased journalism for ya).

We have seen the 'things will be fine once the numbers are in' statements before, so this part is nothing new. Kinda like when an NHL president give full endorsement to a losing coach. But we  never get 'the numbers are in and they are fine' let alone 'the numbers are in and they are not good' statements.

There is an attempted corollary between the rain cancelled free shows and the risk of not being in the black. Luckily they don't try to make that point directly because you'd have to be brain dead not to see how dumb that is. The shows that no one pays to see and JW gets funding for are cancelled and you blame that for losing money overall???

Luckily for them, they got more of our tax dollars to shore up their 'surplus' money from some past money making years. I don't know what years those are...the year they where begging for year end donations...the year they where giving away main-stage tickets because no one wanted to pay to see JATLC 3 times in 2 years.

Ya that's what we want to hear as jazz and arts fans and as taxpayers.

The second half of the article is the jazz columnist telling us there was too much to see each night.

Ya right, any local jazz fan had no problem finding the thin jazz on any night that they couldn't see for free the rest of the year.

But as I have noted before, outside of antiquated marketing their plan, as such, is a series of 'tactics'. Bogus Facebook profile, self serving print articles, passing off pop as jazz influenced, padded bios, hoping friends & family fill the seats of shows featuring 2nd year students, counting on tax dollars to shield their blundering, selling booze, etc.

What they need is a strategy but first they would have to know the difference

On the good side they are bringing Chick Corea's new group in Sept

Jun 26, 2014

Jazz Fest After Math - AKA The Dumb, the Bad and the Petty

So the 11 day, 80+ event called an international jazz festival is over. Last year they had 100 the year before 90 so quite the drop in acts. Gee I wonder why? Maybe it has to do with the colour RED!

The thin jazz content and the elements conspired to create one of the worst events ever.

So we start off with having very little jazz and only 2 international jazz acts.

Add  sopping wet opening and closing weekends, mix in a cancelled flight and put it in the oven until your Facebook presence is revoked.

Ya that all happened.

Well  rain happens, it happens in June (our rainy season) it happens on the weekend.

The Thursday and Friday nights came off OK but the rock band filled Saturday had to be shut down early and all of Sunday got blown out.

They tried to put a spin on it saying this act is cancelled but the next one goes on blah blah, but when I posted the weather report on a thread, Jazz Winnipeg 'un-friend-ed' me.

Now they have had plenty of reasons to ban me as I am a decade long, constant and unapologetic critic. 10 years of letters to the editor, Facebook, Twitter and blog posts doesn't get me banned. But a link to the weather forecast does.

Ya, kinda petty.

I guess they were feeling crabby watching their beer sales get flushed to the sewers.

Now those threads all got deleted, probably not because of my weather report. More likely because other people were complaining about the way it was being dealt with.

Some people were complaining about 'having it on a weekend that always rains' but others made a valid point about not having a plan "B"

So ya, Jazz Winnipeg deleted those threads. Maybe because of people daring to question them, maybe to get rid of the evidence of how they handled things.

On To The Dumb

Well that could be a whole book but if anti social media is your biggest marketing tool then having your Facebook presence disappear at the onset of your reason for existing...that is a whole lotta dumb!

What happened?

Well to back up a bit, Jazz Winnipeg was using a personal page instead of a business page. At the onset of Facebook many business did this but as FB evolved they instituted a no using a personal page for business policy. Facebook has been deleting these types of profiles for a while now. Any of us paying attention knew it, so I can't imagine they didn't...well yes I can.

Now there were some advantages to keeping the personal page going. You can create events and spam all your 'friends' with invites and reminders, you can un-friend folks who post weather reports and you don't have to pay money to reach everyone on your friends list like I would if I wanted to reach more than 10-20% of people who like any one of my 6 business/music pages.

Facebook doesn't like it because they can't sell ads to you. But there is a real good reason no one should like a business using a personal page.

If you were, say, 'friends' with Taco Bell  anyone with access to the page could see your name, age, location, pictures, etc. When you are in business page mode you can't see any of the names of people who like your page or where they live, let alone pictures of their kids. You also can't stop people from linking to your page in posts (good or bad) about your business or organisation. And we all know how well JW deals with any sort of criticism.

Now I don't think any of the handful of people who had access to Jazz Winnipeg's page had anything nefarious in mind but it is just wrong for any business or organization to have access to that sort of info unless you specifically allow it.

Now this vulnerability is a fairly well known situation in social media marketing circles so if they have a social media person on staff  they should have known better.

So Jazz Winnipeg kept their presence on a personal page because:

  1. they knew but still wanted to take advantage of the personal page 
  2. didn't know
  3. They knew but didn't know they could have converted the page to business and keep all their 'friends' but just have them converted to likes.
Whatever the reason it is just dumb on a massive scale.

Any other company that thought social media was the cat's PJs and had this happen...the person in charge would be shit canned and probably the next in line as well.

Not gonna happen here. This is Winnipeg, you can't fire your buddy just because he is an incompetent twit or an internet bully. You can't let someone go because they run a lousy event that loses money, they're good friends dammit!!

To further the dumb that event paralyzed almost all their social media presence for the majority of the week and, as of this writing the FB link on their home page still leads to a broken FB page. Matches well with all the 404 errors their site generates...note to JW fire that guy too. Oh wait see above paragraph

No Plan "B"

The fans on JW's page made a great criticism. What is the point of a big deal kick off 'free' opening weekend if it rains and gets cancelled? If you are having a backyard party or wedding and it move it indoors some basic logic and planning beyond their scope I guess.

Now I am not a fan of weather wimps that move or cancel things because a forecast looks grim, but when the water is falling from the sky and the satellites in outer space say it isn't gonna stop, then it might be time to have another plan.

The problem is JW have this pyramid scheme going.

  • the free live outdoor music is paid for by sponsors, tax dollars and, in the case of union players, the performance trust fund.
  • but they also use it as a major revenue generator by operating a beer/wine tent and a liquor license can't be easily transferred to another location.
  • in the case of trust fund money the shows "are held in parks, schools, and public halls, as well as in hospitals and at retirement centers."
So they can't move their beer tent to a school and they can't still use the trust fund money and move it into a bar.

But they might be in breach already because "MPTF-funded events must be free of charge and without any conditions for admittance. They cannot be fund-raising events or raffles regardless of the merit."

So, ya, they have a fund raising beer tent and usually some sort of raffle ( Ironically, sometimes a raffle towin a trip to a decent jazz festival).

The Bad

The numbers. Ellis Marsalis, cancelled. Gregory Porter, the sure fire, Grammy winning 'jazz' vocalist didn't fill quite 2/3's of the MTC's 787 seats and did only 25 bums more than returning (after like 8 months) hometown hero Curtis Nowasad's Quartet at 475. On top of which everyone in that band, with the exception of Jimmy Greene, was in 3-8 other shows for some over the top over exposure. Imagine if CNQ only had that one show (the way it should have been) they might have had the embarrassing marketing fiasco of the locals who you've seen for free since forever out drawing the money maker.

The real money maker, John Legend was 'sold out in minutes' but you could still get in with your $250 so called super pass.

So how does that work?

If you are sold out that means every seat is sold right?. Then if you buy the $250 pass you can't get in.

If you can get in with your $250 pass then it means it wasn't sold out, so they were lying.

So the scam here is either you pay $250 but really can't get in or you pay $250 for seats that were held back thereby paying 3-5 times as much as people who got the 'real' tickets. Or maybe both with some but not everyone with the magical pass getting in.

Someone call their high school calculus teacher because there is some pretty shady math going on here.

The Ugly

One thing that does bug me (and should bug you) is the complete lack of transparency and accountability. There is no way for the average Joe to find out things like whether they lost money this year, any year on any event, who the board of directors are, how much they (or anyone else) get in free tickets, etc.
This is a publicly funded not-for-profit, it should be totally transparent!

Many of us know from experience that if you write, post or call to voice a concern you will be shut down or ignored.

Why are they so afraid?

Jun 12, 2014

The Usual Terrible Jazz Festival Again But Capitalism is Good Right??

Usually at this time of year I write about our horrible excuse for a jazz festival. I have written about it before and it is basically the same thing. Jazz doesn't sell so let's have pandering commercial music to aid the jazz, have zero concept of marketing anything and then blame the jazz.  Since nothing has changed for the better and in some ways has changed for the bleaker, so it won't take up the totality of this post.

Also I am sorry for leaving it this late. Between running my music school and a swath of gigs I have had little time.

I even considered passing on doing it as nothing has changed and these posts change nothing.

On With the No Jazz Show

And Remember: Anyone who questions the lack of jazz at a jazz festival is denounced as a jazz police purist.

Jazz Fest Math

There are fewer events and acts over all but the percentages remain the same sadly.

Only 35 of the 88 acts are jazz so we are in that 1/3 area again.
Only 3 out 8 main stage acts are jazz.
Only 2 out of 5 of the jazz labs are jazz.
The local acts of a jazz nature are, by and large, the same people rearranged and almost all are currently enrolled, drop outs or graduates of the local university's fairly new program. So if you got your degree somewhere else or too long ago then don't bother applying to perform. (Unless you have another inside track!)

 So the blatant cronyism and complete lack of diversity that has marred previous festivals is doubly so this year.

The cronyism extends to the other areas of the fest with a board member, being a sponsor, doing work for the fest and getting free tickets to give to give away.

To be fair, cronyism is the major way of doing things in 'the city that feels like a small town'. My first bunch of years here I thought it was just the music community that wouldn't return the favour of a job with another job (the musician's code where I am from). Gig after gig I gave to people in this town only to see the next gigs these people got go to their friends.

But I have lived here long enough to see, experience and hear about it extending to church communities, friendship circles, corporate ladders, construction sites, etc.

Marketing for the festival is still tonnes of wasteful printing, pointless posters on street poles covered up by other posters and useless Facebook invites.

Social media is the thing right??

Well  Jazz Winnipeg does have 4500 'friends' on Facebook and 8500 followers on Twitter.

Wow is that 13,000 people to market to? Probably not. Assuming that a good portion of the twitter twits are also Facebook junkies, that the majority of FB friends are musicians and/or out of province types then the number of legitimate customers that can be spammed is way less.

But if they knew squat about marketing they'd know you need to reach more that 9,000 virtual people and the lucky few who see their posters before they are covered up or torn down.

Particularly if they want to have a 11 day music festival that is supposed to make big money.

It is still longer than any other jazz festival in the world for a city this size.

It is still a part time job trying to justify being a full time job.

More Dumb Stuff

Last year they released their new schedule with the dates all wrong on the web version. This year ALL links  led to 404 errors! They fixed a lot of it but many links, supposed to go to artist and to band websites (the few that had them) generated the same result.

You all year to get this right...cripes.

Sadly, We Are Not Alone

The 'inclusion' of very popular music at jazz festivals is just a symptom of the larger war on jazz.

First off, the English speaking world is doing this to jazz festivals all over; with jazz focused festivals being the exception.

Cork Ireland gave us this quote about their diluted festival:
"The implicit corollary of this nonsense is that jazz does not ‘move with the times’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hip-hop is a moribund, misogynist, vulgar imitation of its golden years; pop music is a cesspit of corporate promotion and recycled blandness; indie rock is a hypocritical, twee, middle-class, folkie parody of its former self. But jazz? Jazz is vibrant, ever-evolving music. In Europe, there is a genuine, continent-wide subculture of jazz that is far removed from the doldrums of mainstream popular culture. It is a music of educated, enthusiastic and open practitioners, treating the great heritage of jazz as one source of inspiration."
from here

Here are similar complaints about the Montreux Festival and about the New Orleans Fest

Mark Eisenmen says:

"As far as Jazz festivals go, the label “jazz” seems to include everything. Music from all disciplines and locales is fair game… Funk, Country, Balinese Gamelan, all World music. Oddly, sometimes jazz itself is given short shrift at jazz fests.

In addition to this, the mainstream of jazz music itself is excluded from all manner of music festivals with labels like Caribana, Folk, Blues, Classical and so on."

From Here
So, ya,  jazz isn't very popular. I came to terms with that from the beginning. Why can't Jazz Festivals come to grips with it?

As a much younger person I relished liking musics (jazz, latin, progressive rock) all my peers thought was old, moldy or a girl replant. I was proud to walk into a record store and scan the tiny section at the back of jazz records. I was more than ready to engage someone who thought jazz and blues were the same or that jazz came from blues.

There is some panache to liking an art form many don't get, to owning a jazz station that only a niche listen to or a festival that caters to a music that has been evolving  since the early 1900's, picking up the best of the popular culture along the way, honouring it's past while adopting the future.

You're just not going to get rich or popular doing it.

So jazz being a higher form of music and not popular qualifies it as an art form requiring not for profit status, sponsors and possibly government help.

So why the heck does our local shebang and many other festivals feel the need to get bigger, more popular and act like a for profit corporation?

The Co-opted Precedent 

The thin edge of the wedge was many years ago. Back in the day jazz festivals gave a helping hand up to new, marginalized, ethnic but valid musics. The Newport Jazz Festival basically introduced Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin to the USA  in 1969 (and Miles Davis used Sly and the Family Stone as a template for his later music)

The first time I heard live reggae, Soweto Pop or Soca was at a jazz festival .

Fast forward to today and we have almost all Canadian and many American jazz festivals marginalizing jazz, and loading their schedule with pop acts.

It is a long way from booking music from the slums of Johannesburg to booking John Legend (not his real name)

That's why so many dates on an international jazz musicians calendar are Asian and European dates...they have jazz festivals with jazz only and they have a lot of them.

Trusted Jazz Labels are signing pop acts and jazz artists (usually vocalists) have a lot of downward pressure to do pop 're-imaginings'. Alongside that, female jazz artists are marketed in an increasingly sexist it is the 60's again.

Gregory Porter (who is at this year's fest) won a jazz vocalist Grammy. WHAT? Did someone actually listen to the music? Or did they just look at the visuals (grand piano, upright bass small drum kit...must be jazz right??) Flugle horn solos over a 2 chord vamp doesn't make it jazz.

So we get a jazz tinged soul/ R&B singer, with the manufactured and contrived affectation of always wearing a balaclava and a slightly askew English driving cap being passed off as a full on jazz musician with R&B/Soul Gospel influences. Sorry it is the other way around.

He has more in common with Bill Withers than he does with Bill Evans.

Good music but not jazz.

Maybe that is the sub-text. With so much bad music out there that anything slightly good has to have the jazz lantern hung on it to have a fighting chance

The only place we find that jazz is marketed as jazz is the satellite radio stations like Galaxie and Sirius  you pay for the service and they divide the music into genres and ONLY that genre is on that station.

Seems simple? They do get things wrong. They have blues listed as a jazz sub genre at Galaxie and sometimes they will put some less than stellar CANCON artist on the Jazz Masters channel. But hip hop on the jazz...jazz on the hip hop no, no they don't.

With some irony...14 years ago Jazz Winnipeg would point at the more valid festivals' 30% non jazz content and marketing focus to validate their own 30% jazz content. Well, sadly, the times have changed. Only Edmonton stands alone as a jazz festival with only jazz  in the schedule in Canada. Most of the small ones have gone the way of greedy capitalism and are focused on popular music while the big cities slice of jazz gets smaller and smaller.


I don't know why anymore than I know why the NHL feels the need to change their basic rules in a failed attempt to get bubba to switch from monster trucks to hockey.

It's like they are the insecure kid at school desperately trying to fit in rather than be themselves.

The corporate powers that be want to use the jazz 'brand' to give non jazz credibility. I have lost count how many hip hop and rap performer's say they are jazz. How many boring pop artists, folkys, etc. use the jazz label/influence/look as a stepping stone?

So there you have it (or don't)

If you are interested in my previous pointless rants about our crappy festival you can read last years here and there are links to the previous years analogy fill diatribes.