[JPL] Are jazz fans slowly scatting? BY GENE SEYMOUR NY Newsday

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Fri Jun 15 07:32:36 EDT 2007


Are jazz fans slowly scatting?
The 35th JVC Jazz Festival will rely on its loyal fan base, but organizers
wonder if a new generation of fans will exist in coming years

gene.seymour at newsday.com

June 17, 2007

For perspective's sake, think back to 1972 when impresario George Wein first
brought the Newport Jazz Festival to New York City. In that year, the
following people were still alive and performing: Duke Ellington, Count
Basie, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Ray
Charles, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.

Back then, Wein could call upon any one of these artists to perform at a
large venue such as Carnegie Hall with a better-than-reasonable expectation
that all or most of the seats would be filled. Now these and many other
ornaments of jazz music history are gone.

"Art Blakey would have been on a relatively lower bill back then," Wein says
wistfully, invoking the name of the iconic drummer-bandleader who was also
alive then, but died in 1990. "He'd be a bigger name now."

As the 35th edition of what is now the JVC Jazz Festival officially kicks
off Sunday, there's an almost overpowering temptation to wonder how it
manages to hang on without those great stars of jazz's past.

And yet, somehow, against odds that become more daunting as the music
business continues to undergo galvanic change, Wein and his staff manage
each year to assemble a festival that spreads out a diverse array of
concerts over two weeks.

"It doesn't get easier after 54 years. It just gets tougher," says the
82-year-old Wein, whose first Newport Jazz Festival was staged in the summer
of 1953. "But I'm very proud of this festival. So far, we're doing better
than last year in terms of advance sales. We've got two sellouts so far at
Carnegie Hall; the Keith Jarrett Trio concert on June 21 and the Nancy
Wilson birthday concert June 29. So far, we've sold 1,000 tickets for the
Eartha Kitt show [on June 25], which is not as well as I'd hoped, but she's
got a following in this city that'll go where she goes. So we'll see."

>From traditional to edgy

The Carnegie shows such as those mentioned above make up the centerpiece of
the annual JVC festival, which this year boasts more than 300 artists in 200
concerts and events throughout the New York region.

Besides the mostly traditional jazz fare offered this week at the Kaye
Playhouse at Hunter College and the concerts at Town Hall, The Allen Room at
The Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the festival also will
include for the first time the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W. 17th St.) as a
venue for cutting-edge jazz performers such as pianist Anat Fort and
saxophonist Ned Rothenberg.

Harlem also will host JVC concerts, including Sunday's "Father's Day Gift"
at 3 p.m. at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm
X. Blvd.) featuring saxophonist Sonny Fortune. The Langston Hughes House (20
E. 127th St.) will offer up-and-coming artists through June 30.

Outdoor venues, too

The 2007 schedule also includes free outdoor concerts at lower Manhattan's
Citicorp Plaza at St. Peter's Church (619 Lexington Ave. at 54th Street) and
at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell. Manhattan's Jazz Standard (116 E.
27th St.) will offer five "World Jazz Nights" featuring international
artists beginning June 26. Long Island-based drummer Matt Wilson leads his
Arts & Crafts band Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Ailey/Citigroup Theater (405 W.
55th St. and Ninth Avenue).

>From even this partial list, one could infer that the festival will serve
jazz fans of every age and taste. So why is it, Wein wonders rhetorically,
that people think JVC's event has somehow gotten smaller?

"We didn't scale down," Wein says, shrugging. "Jazz scaled down. I guess
when you look back 25, 35 years ago to see who was around, it seems that
way. That doesn't mean there still aren't many, many artists who are out
there making great music. It's just that there are ... there always have
been ... very few who can fill a big hall on their own.

"Keith Jarrett is the only one who can sell out Carnegie by himself. He
draws a wonderful audience, very broad in age, between 25 and 45. But
they're Keith Jarrett fans mostly, not necessarily jazz fans. And the
challenge always is how to get them to other [events]."

Asked if it remains just as challenging to build new audiences for jazz,
Wein sounds more pragmatic, and even more resigned about such matters than
in previous years.

"Our jazz public is a loyal, older public," Wein says. "We don't draw a
young crowd, even though there are always young people in our audience.
Maybe 10, 15 to 20 percent of our audience is in the teens or 20s. But we
don't do a concert where 90 percent are the same age. Go to a rock club and
all the kids could be brothers and sisters. That's not the case in a jazz
concert. The older the jazz, the older the audience, and they're there
because they already love the music."

Is fan base dying?

Does that mean the audience for jazz has become finite, unlikely to be
replenished in the future? Wein acknowledges that the prospects for growth
seem grim, given an increasingly atomized landscape for selling and
distributing music. But he still finds reasons for hope.

"There's a lot of interest in the word 'jazz,'" he says. "That's what keeps
us going. You go to the clubs, you see a lot of couples there and the owners
all tell me they get calls all the time asking questions about who's
playing, what is their music like and are they good. The word, the idea of
jazz music still makes people curious, and when they get curious, they check
it out and maybe decide it's something they want more of.

"It's not like it used to be and it may never be. But you have to believe in
what you're doing when you put together one of these things. Who knows
what'll happen?"

Picks of the JVC litter

'Jimmy McPartland Centennial Celebration' -- Tuesday, 8 p.m.

- Cornetist McPartland, who died in 1991, was a longtime Port Washington
resident whose playing was modeled after his idol and fellow Midwest native
Bix Beiderbecke. Jack Teagarden and Benny Goodman were but a couple of the
musicians McPartland played with over his long career. Appropriately, his
100th birthday party will be hosted by his accomplished and gracious widow

Marian McPartland, who still plays a mean piano. Guests include bassist-
raconteur Bill Crow, guitarist Howard Alden and cornetist Warren Vache. Kaye
Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th Street between Park and Lexington avenues,
Manhattan. $45.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band -- Tuesday, 8 p.m.

- Trouble may still hover over New Orleans, but this Crescent City
establishment continues to carry out its business with imperturbable
dedication. Violinist Jenny Scheinman and saxophonist Steve Wilson are
expected to drop by, as is Allen Toussaint, another unstoppable New Orleans
institution. Town Hall, 120 W. 43rd St., Manhattan. $55, $40.

Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman -- Wednesday, 8 p.m.

- Redman's been collecting some of his best notices in years for his latest
disc, "Back East" (Nonesuch), in which he plays in bass-drum trio settings.
Expect a similar setup here. The suave, sometimes sardonic, always engaging
Marsalis will likely bring his ace quartet featuring drummer Jeff "Tain"
Watts, bassist Eric Revis and pianist Joey Calderazzo. Town Hall, $65, $50.

Keith Jarrett Trio --Thursday, 8 p.m.

- With bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Jarrett may well
have the most popular trio on Earth at his controls. He's been using his
power wisely. Carnegie Hall, 57th Street at Seventh Avenue, Manhattan. Sold

Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa -- Friday, 7 p.m.

- Pianist Iyer and saxophonist Mahanthappa, longtime collaborators, have
assumed prominent places along jazz's cutting edge. Rubin Museum of Art, 150
W. 17th St., Manhattan. $20.

Patti LaBelle with the Lou Donaldson Quartet -- Saturday, 8 p.m.

- Does Philadelphia's grande dame of soul dare do "Lady Marmalade" at a jazz
festival? If she doesn't, at least two or three people in the audience might
force the issue. One thing's sure: Donaldson, a canny veteran of the
hard-bop-soul-jazz era, will likely lay down a bluesy opening set. Carnegie
Hall. $90, $75, $60, $35.

"C'est Si Bon: Eartha Kitt's Fabulous 80th Birthday Party" -- June 25, 8

- Those who've caught her act in cabarets in recent years know that the
indefatigable Kitt is more than ever the living epitome of sass. The guest
list of Ben Vereen, Tonya Pinkins and LaChanze assures a totally theatrical
evening. Carnegie Hall. $90, $75, $60, $35.

"Lee Konitz's Beautiful 80th Birthday Party" -- June 25, 8:30 p.m.

- The saxophonist was present at the "birth of the cool," and he hasn't
stopped expanding his horizons, bringing along three bands, one of them a
string quartet. Drummer Paul Motian and bassist Steve Swallow are also along
for the celebration. Zankel Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, Manhattan.

"Cesaria Evora: The Bird and the Bee" -- June 26, 8 p.m.

- The "barefoot diva" is more than happy to hold your attention for an
evening with some Cape Verdian and Brazilian sounds. Carnegie Hall. $85,
$75, $60, $35.

"Ron Carter: The Master @ 70" -- June 27, 8 p.m.

- Bassist Carter is the latest surviving member of Miles Davis'
groundbreaking mid-1960s quintet to get a much-deserved JVC all-star
treatment. The previous honorees, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, are
expected to attend as are guitarists Jim Hall (Carter's frequent duet
partner) and Russell Malone, drummer Billy Cobham, pianists Mulgrew Miller
and Stephen Scott. Carnegie Hall, $90, $75, $60, $35.

Geri Allen Trio -- June 27, 7:30 p.m.

- Simply stated, she's one of the best pianists in jazz, working at or very
near her peak. She's bringing along tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. Studio
Museum of Harlem, 144 W. 125th St. $12, museum members, $15 in advance, $20
at the door.

"Nancy Wilson's Swingin' 70th Birthday Party" -- June 29

- High drama and heartfelt showmanship are what Wilson has always given her
audiences, and there's no reason to think she won't bring the house down
once again. She's getting help from vocalists Kurt Elling, Nnenna Freelon
and Dianne Reeves, pianists Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis and violinist
Regina Carter. $85, $65, $50, $35.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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