[JPL] More Kenny Drew Jr comments

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 21 00:18:12 EDT 2006


Kenny's note is sincere and brutally honest. He's a very serious musician with extraordinary talent. I know this because I've worked with him but I'll say his view of what's happening with him "locally," isn't new. 
   
  I remember a few years ago announcing where "local" players were performing on my show. I knew better to word it like that but it slipped out over the air. About an hour later a woman called and indentified herself as a jazz vocalist. She got on me about saying "local" because in her opinion and actually mine, it creates an interesting negative perception with the artists. Truly. If you're their neighbor you can't possibly be that good. For my group, after all the years of living in this area and performing we are now finally able to play area theaters but believe me I totally understand what Kenny is saying. We only play one club locally but it pays well and it's one of the best new jazz venues in the country - with a piano, sound system and lighting. Before then I basically stopped playing local clubs as well for the same reasons to a degree......but our case was that we drew good crowds but they didn't want to pay us what we were bringing in. So see ya.  
   
  One of the reasons I accepted this position in broadcasting was to not put myself in the position Kenny was talking about "locally" and to have the benefits of having such a job. Artists doing just the artist thing have a rough road to go down and I've been there believe me. It is befuddling in many ways that artists with the talent of Kenny Drew have to struggle. It's also a business unfortunately. You can have all the talent in the world but if only 50 people come to see you play with your group, how can you ask for what you're really worth based on your "talent?" If it were purely an issue about talent jazz musicians would probably be the highest paid. 
   
  But......when you can have a large following - playing in front of 20,000 people per night- when you can't even tune your guitar - why worry about how much talent you lack? And believe me it's not just what urban culture produces that has bascially reduced pop culture to the level of synthetic maudlin sentimentality or garage band nonsense - as some would perhaps want us to believe. Because of what is more eagerly embraced I tell my students to decide what kind of life style you want to live and NEVER put all your eggs in one basket. If you want a million dollar home the odds are if you play jazz you're not going to be able to pay for it.
   
  To me Kenny sounds bitter now and angry. Those emotions unfortunately won't make his situation better but if that makes HIM feel better .....more power to him. There was much talk about him when he first popped up on the scene and he certainly deserved the love. Considering that success......why he's been in St Pete FL playing local hits carrying his electronic keyboard around is beyond me. Something wasn't right....perhaps in the management but who knows. From my perspective the success of a talented jazz artist depends on peoples perception of that artist. Like if you're on Blue Note or in Time mag you MUST be good but even then most artists signed to or were signed to major label deals still struggled. I also think TV and certain print media outlets are the key if the artists truly want to maintain a "jazz" presentation and be successful. I wonder how successful Wynton would have been had he not played in classical music circles early in his career. He was brilliantly
 marketed but he had the talent to back it up. We'll never know but it brought him a higher level of print and electronic (TV) media exposure than when he played jazz at that time. It's the perception thing again.....if he plays classical he must be great - even after Wynton said playing jazz presents a more daunting musical challenge. Kenny is or was, an outstanding classical pianist.....but what happened? 
   
  Jae Sinnett
  WHRV FM
  Norfolk VA 
   
  
Maurice Hogue <onemansjazz at shaw.ca> wrote:
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Kenny Drew Jr has more to say in response to responses
to his first article. It's taken from his website
http://www.jayweb.com/kennydrew/kennyskorner2.html


KENNY'S KORNER vol.2

I'm Going On Strike!

Thank you for all of the positive and even some of the negative responses 
to my previous article. You've given me a lot to think about(as if I didn't 
have too much to think about already!) I've also checked out the 
discussions on the AAJ website and some of them seemed to stray pretty far 
from the original topic but I guess that's to be expected in a forum like 
this. Before I deal with title topic of this article, I would like to 
address some comments that have been made both in the chat room and in some 
of the e-mails I've received.(By the way, many thanks to Gary Bartz for 
defending my opinions!)

First of all, there were some people who objected to my use of profanity. 
Maybe I shouldn't have used it in the title. I'm sorry, but almost all of 
my favorite comedians use a ton of profanity and nobody seems to care when 
they do it! Perhaps if my job description were "jazz/classical 
pianist/comedian" no one would have even noticed. I really do not feel a 
need to censor my speech. This is still America, isn't it? (Oops! I forgot! 
Dubya- or should I say Dumbya - is still in power! This isn't America 
anymore!) Anyway, even though I really don't want to, I will yield to the 
Almighty God of Political Correctness and keep it clean. Why can Chris Rock 
use all the foul language he wants to when he rants about something, yet 
some people tell me that I should tone it down? I guess when you're rich 
and famous you can say whatever the **** you want and nobody gives a ****!

There were also a few people who were bugged because they thought that I 
was advocating shooting 50Cent and Eminem and wishing for their death. 
There's a little thing called satire. Some of you may have heard of it. I 
was only making a joke. I repeat: I WAS ONLY MAKING A JOKE!!!!! I happen to 
have a really sick sense of humor and I feel no need to apologize for it. 
So just shoot me! Hey! I just advocated shooting me! I really need to 
respond to myself for saying that!(If you thought that what I said was sick 
or over the top,maybe you should watch South Park sometime. Nuff said!)

Lastly, there was one comment that suggested that I was only mad at 
50Cent because I was jealous and envious of his money. Whoever said this is 
a pinhead! Come on,be honest! Who wouldn't want to have that kind of money? 
Why do people spend so much money on lottery tickets? I'm mad as hell at 
50Cent because of his negative influence on our society and our youth. I 
couldn't care less about having his houses, his cars , or his groupies. 
(Wait a minute! Okay! He can send some of the groupies over!)

Now to address the title of this article.You may wonder what I mean by 
going on strike. This means that I will no longer work at the clubs in my 
local area anymore. I live in St.Petersburg, Florida , which isn't exactly 
a cultural mecca but it's an affordable place to live. As a musician, I've 
been working in bars, restaurants and nightclubs my entire professional 
career, and to be honest, I'm tired of it! I will still play at out-of-town 
clubs, of course, because the money is better, the audiences are usually 
better,and they usually put me up at a nice hotel. I will also still play 
concerts, festivals, private parties, weddings, and corporate events 
locally because they usually pay better than the clubs. But as far as the 
local clubs, they can forget it!

The jazz scene in general has become to my mind nothing more than lip 
service and chump change. People will give you lip service about how great 
you are and how much they love your music, but then they turn around and 
pay you chump change. Think about this: When I first started in this 
business I was playing little bars and clubs in the NY/NJ area for $60 or 
$70 a night. Now fast forward about 25 years. I am now considered an 
established jazz artist with a pretty good reputation. I've made 21 albums 
under my own name , played all over the world with some of the world's 
greatest musicians, and performed with symphony orchestras. Now, when I 
play a little bar or club in the Tampa Bay area I get paid a whopping $100 
a night. WOW!!! In real dollars ,I'm making less money doing these little 
gigs than I did 25 years ago when I was a nobody! In the real world 
continuing to do a job that pays you less than it did 25 years ago ,even 
though your skills at that job have improved immensely, would be considered 
sheer idiocy. In the jazz world, this is just business as usual. And,as 
with most things in this crazy world, I am sick and tired of business as usual!

Let me tell you what I have to put up with to make this $100 a night 
windfall. Most of these clubs don't have a piano, so I have to bring my 
electric piano and amplifier. Sometimes I have to deal with a stage that's 
so small that I wonder if the whole band will fit there. As far as the 
audience goes, the place is either almost empty or it's packed with people 
who are talking(or yelling) and couldn't care less about the music. Usually 
when the room is almost empty the few people who are there came to hear the 
music. When the room is packed with non-listeners the people who did come 
for the music just get annoyed because the crowd is so loud they can't hear 
the music. Another thing is that steady gigs don't really exist anymore. 
Even in those rare cases when you do have a "steady" gig, it can end at any 
time. You can get fired at any time for any reason or no reason. Also, club 
owners are notorious for being"funny with the money". They will 
nickel-and-dime you to death and bounce checks without so much as a second 
thought. And of course,most of them have no clue about the music and have 
tin ears that can't tell the difference between Sonny Rollins and Clarence 
Clemmons. Also, if somebody comes in and offers to play the gig for $10 a 
night less, you're out of there. I am generalizing a bit here, because not 
all club owners are like this. Some of them are really cool and 
knowledgeable about the music and a few of them have become friends of 
mine;but these are the rare exceptions and they know who they are (in case 
any of them are reading this.)

So there you have it. Your average local club gig means dealing with 
nonexistent or indifferent audiences, no job security whatsoever(and forget 
about any kind of benefits), and having your employment depend on a person 
who knows almost nothing about music. Yet these are the kind of jobs that 
people expect me to bust my ass to get. I'm sorry but I can't do this 
anymore. As jazz musicians we're expected to put up with crap that would 
make workers in other professions go out on strike. Well, I have decided to 
go out on strike all by my damn self! I know that not too many other 
musicians are going to join me in this and who's even going to notice 
anyway? But I really don't care. I feel that I have to take a stand on this 
even if I'm all alone. As jazz musicians we're expected to just be happy 
because we have all this "talent" and the ability to play this wonderful 
music. Well, this is one jazz musician who isn't happy with the situation 
and I don't care who knows it. Recently, I got a call from someone with the 
Jacksonville Jazz Festival about playing a gig there as a sideman. The 
pianist who was supposed to play cancelled a few days before the gig. I was 
available to do it, but I didn't because I wanted a measly $200 more than 
the chump change they were offering and they refused, even though they 
needed someone at the last minute. Even with my reputation and all of my 
accomplishments I'm not worth an extra $200 . And people wonder why I'm 
depressed!

To end this article, I'd like to tell the story of my very first jazz 
gig. I was living in New York at the time and met John Hicks through a 
mutual friend. I went to one of his gigs and sat in.He told me really liked 
my playing and we exchanged numbers. A week or two later, John called me to 
sub for him at a gig at a little place in Harlem. He said that he could 
only make the first set and asked me if I could play the rest of the night. 
I was so excited to be doing my first real jazz gig! When I got there and 
saw and heard the piano I knew I was in trouble. This was the absolute 
worst piano I've ever played.

Not only was it completely out of tune with many broken strings, this 
monstrosity also had several keys missing . Not only were some of the black 
keys missing, some of the white ones were gone too! You can actually hurt 
yourself playing an instrument(and in this case I use the term very 
loosely) with missing white keys. But there were some good musicians on the 
gig and I managed to get throught it without injury. At the end of the 
night I was given a check for the jaw-dropping amount of $35. Of course, 
the check bounced. (I did get the money about a week later after I told 
John about it.) Can someone explain to me why I persisted in this career 
choice after such an auspicious beginning? I should have my head examined!

HOME

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