[JPL] New Orleans Jazz Festival

Jim Wilke jwilke123 at comcast.net
Wed Feb 15 22:10:57 EST 2006

I'm witcha, Jae!   and Reebs has the right idea when she says just call 
it the New Orleans Music Festival.  It's been a lot more than jazz for 
a long time.

The Newport Jazz Festival experience years of adding more pop acts to 
the main stage ended up in the riots at Newport that were very nearly 
the death of the festival, literally!   This kind of programming 
doesn't seem to build an audience for jazz - it's merely catering to 
pop audiences who show little or only a passing interest in jazz.  They 
won't be back next year unless the pop acts are back.  Same thing 
happens with symphony programming ... symphony orchestras book pop acts 
and attract large new audiences to their halls, but those audiences 
don't come back for Mozart, Brahms and Rachmaninoff.  They only come 
back for the pop acts.

However, in the past The NO Jazz Fests have kept a modern jazz stage 
and a trad jazz stage going along with other stages devoted to blues, 
zydeco, Gospel, African and pop acts.  The audience chooses their 
favorite stages and hangs out there - they may not get to all of them.  
  Jazz Fest (despite its popular name) serves an extremely wide 
collection of music fans, and jazz is only a part of it.  However, if 
you consider the origins of jazz in New Orleans as a mix of brass band 
parade music, blues, spirituals, popular songs, remembrance of things 
African, Latin ... Jazz Fest actually makes sense in this context.

Along the same lines, there's been a lot of discussion lately on this 
list about loosening up and playing more pop oriented performers and 
music in jazz shows in order to bring in younger audiences and broaden 
the base of listeners to jazz stations.  But I truly believe most 
listeners will prefer the stations that play the pop artists they want 
to hear ALL the time!  Mixing real jazz and pop is probably going to 
mess with most of both (potential) audiences.

How many pop stations you know mix in the latest Dave Douglas or Chris 
Potter with their programming to make it more interesting and appealing 
to their audience?  Hmmmmm?   How often have you heard Coltrane on a 
country station?

I grant there may be a certain iPod Shuffle effect among some people 
who really don't care what comes next as long as it's different from 
what they're hearing now. There are a few stations that do that but 
they tend to be small market stations and/ or their audiences tend to 
be small.  I attempted mixing jazz, classical & some pop in the 70s on 
a morning show at KING-FM.  But I think it'd be hard to make a case for 
this building an audience for jazz ... except perhaps for dead artists 
who are the ones who tend to be included in such mixes.  Newer jazz 
styles seem to require more attention and a more engaged listener.   
Have you ever noticed that most people who say they "like all kinds of 
music" usually play it so softly it never intrudes on their attention?

Of course you can do mixed format style block programming which is 
really just an extension of day-parting ... softer during daytime work 
hours, heavier duty at night, more youthful energy late night.  That's 
not a new idea, old line AM stations did that for years. All the late 
night jazz shows that inspired me used to be on AM stations that never 
played jazz at all during the daytime.  (probably 'cause it was too 

Jim Wilke
Jazz After Hours, PRI

On Wednesday, February 15, 2006, at 05:52  PM, Jae Sinnett wrote:

> Hmmmm.....maybe it's me that's living in a parallel universe but Bob 
> Dylan, Lionel Richie, Keith Urban, etc.......at the New Orleans Jazz 
> Festival? I realize so called jazz festivals have change dramatically 
> over the years - mainly due to the deaths of so many marquee jazz 
> names and so little attention paid to the upcoming young jazz stars 
> over the years on these festivals - now not so young - but come on 
> folks. They couldn't do better than that in representing this great 
> music in this great music city?
>   Jae Sinnett

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