Saturday, June 11, 2011

Festival in Crisis: an open letter to Vancouver's creative music community

How do you respond to a crisis? What does your response to crisis say about your values and philosophy?

The arts in British Columbia are in a state of crisis. Provincial government budgets have devastated funding for the arts in the last two years, cutting the budget of the BC Arts Council by over 50 per cent and eliminating $20M in grants from the BC Lottery Corporation. British Columbia currently has the lowest level of arts funding per capita in Canada: $6.50 to the national average of $26.

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival’s Artistic Director, Ken Pickering, writes:

We’re not exempt from the many economic pressures that arts groups are collectively facing in BC and specifically in Vancouver. In fact I’m hearing similar stories from colleagues in various locales around the world, but here in BC the pressures remain acute with decreasing government support at every level … and serious issues with BC Lotteries funding. (

Pickering describes the festival’s response to these financial pressures as follows:

The upcoming 2011 festival will look a little different from previous editions (and will continue to showcase the creative music scene – a focus that has become a large part [of] our tradition), more streamlined for sure, but our heart and soul remain intact. Any changes to the festival model are being executed with thoughtfulness and sensitivity; a reverence for the music remains uppermost in our decision making process … As we begin to roll out the various series from now through the spring, it will become clear that the festival is more accessible to more people at an incredible price point. (

This letter will describe some areas of concern with the programming and artistic direction of the 2011 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, focusing on ‘the creative music scene:’ experimental music, free jazz, free improvisation, the avant-garde.

The festival’s consistent promotion of these non-commercial styles of music is treasured by musicians and audiences, and is a daring, principled, and unique feature of Vancouver’s programming compared to other major Canadian jazz festivals.

However, if the concerns described here are not addressed, the festival may lose some of its relevance to these musicians and their target audience.

Of course, there is a global economic crisis going on that affects much more than the arts, and some readers may feel that it’s unfair to raise critical questions of an organization which does a great deal of good and is obviously financially struggling.

This is not the case. The world seems less stable than ever before, and Canadians have just returned a majority Conservative government. The budget cuts and financial constraints of the last several years may become ‘the new normal.’ The response of the jazz festival and other arts organizations to the current crisis may become normalized in years to come, setting a pattern that determines how programming decisions are made. This may be the most crucial time to provide constructive dialogue.

As creative musicians and listeners, if we value the contribution that the festival makes to our community – and if we want to prevent the erosion of the programming that’s most meaningful to us – then we should feel free to speak plainly about our concerns, perhaps now more than ever.

The primary concern with the 2011 festival’s ‘creative music’ programming is this: the festival’s ‘creative music’ lineup does not represent the diversity existing in the music.

A Google spreadsheet linked here lists all the performances in the 'alt/indie/noise' and 'avant/free/improv/experimental' style categories listed on the 2011 festival website, as accessed on June 8 and 9, 2011. This writing is based on this music as categorized by the festival; why the festival’s stylistic categories are important will be discussed at the conclusion.

The 'alt/indie/noise' and 'avant/free/improv/experimental' categories on the festival website list 97 appearances by 54 individual performers in 70 different groups. The individual performers are tallied below by the locations they are based from:

Denmark - 1
Germany - 1
Japan - 8
Montreal - 1
Norway - 7
Sweden - 3
Switzerland - 2
UK - 4
USA - 4
Vancouver - 23

Toronto's experimental music scene is completely absent. Montreal's well-established Musique Actuelle community is completely absent. Calgary's emerging, DIY-oriented improvising community is completely absent. Seattle’s improvised music community – which has run its own festival for the past 25 years, often featuring critically acclaimed European improvisers – is completely absent.

Musicians from all the areas mentioned above have a history of performing in Vancouver and regular practices of collaborating with Vancouver creative musicians. These artist-driven collaborations are much more accessible, pragmatic, and community-based than an annual international meeting. Should the artistic direction of a festival work from the ground up or the top down? Should the festival reflect, and support the practices that are already happening with little or no existing institutional support? Or should the festival use its resources to create new collaborations? Which of these models yields a greater benefit for listeners and players?

New York's free jazz scene is represented by four musicians in the 'avant/free/improv/experimental' category; Chicago's AACM, a legendary hub of innovation, is completely absent from this grouping. In spite of a greater representation of female instrumentalists in experimental music than mainstream jazz (see Anthony Braxton's 12tet for an example) the list contains only four women. Of the 58 musicians in the alt- and avant- series, only two are African-American (legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille and emerging legend Tyshawn Sorey).

It would be extremely problematic to claim that curatorship should somehow be done statistically or through a quota system. It's an artistic director's prerogative to exercise curatorial direction. However, there's a strong argument here that what is being represented as 'creative music' in this festival is simply not representative of the communities producing the music.

What can we read into these curatorial decisions? Artists in every discipline outside North America enjoy greater levels of funding than their Canadian, and certainly their American counterparts. According to the festival website, with the exception of the British artists, all of the European performers acknowledge between one and three funding bodies in their programme information. This may make it more pragmatic to book artists from Scandinavia than from New York City.

At what point does financial pressure force a festival to combine curatorial decisions with what is economically expedient? What role does this leave for curatorial intention? Vancouver's festival is supported by the BC and national arts councils, as well as corporate sponsors including Rogers, Concord Pacific, Anthem Properties, the Pattison Group, BC Honda, and, of course, TD Canada Trust. If we consider non-commercial North American artists to be economically disadvantaged relative to their European peers, why can't a festival with corporate sponsorship be a place to at least begin to equalize that difference? If this is not considered possible, does the festival risk becoming a site for perpetuating economic discrimination?

There are other issues with these two series': this year, the separating of each set of nighttime shows at the Roundhouse Performance Centre and Ironworks into separate tickets doubles the price of each performance relative to previous years. This is actually quite understandable given the festival's financial situation.

One aspect of programming which has almost disappeared in the 2011 festival is the improvising collaborations between musicians from different groups. These concerts, generally held at Ironworks, have yielded some of the most surprising and rewarding experiences of previous festivals. The only such creative music concert in 2011 appears to be the collaboration between Vancouver’s JP Carter and Peggy Lee and Ingrid Laubrock (London) and Tyshawn Sorey (NYC).  This is also perhaps understandable given the logistics and economics of this year’s festival.

More problematic - and not new to this year's programming - is the booking of concerts during weekday afternoons, including some unique appearances by international musicians.  The target audience for avant-garde programming may be specialized and loyal, but festival organizers should recognize that weekday afternoon programming makes it simply impossible for some listeners who cannot leave their jobs to attend. It begs the question - if an international artist as beautifully complex as John Butcher performs on a Wednesday at 2pm, who is the intended audience?

The underrepresentation of African-American experimental artists is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the 2011 festival's creative music programming. The groups featured in the festival's Innovation series, such as Atomic and Peter Brotzmann's trio, are undeniably leaders in the field. At the same time, the festival's headlining marquee concert features Wynton Marsalis and the JALC Orchestra. Wynton, of course, is a problematic figure, widely loved and reviled, but his mastery is as indisputable as his conservatism.

This disparity runs the risk of reinforcing an ahistorical myth about the history of jazz: that African Americans carry the source of the tradition, but that Europeans are innovators. This perception is as old as 'Rhapsody in Blue,' or the well-intentioned dead end of the 'third stream' in the 1950s. It also runs the risk of erasing the contributions of generations of African-American innovators, from Ornette through the AACM to New York's Vision community. 

Creative music audiences are generally sophisticated listeners and well-versed in the history of experimental jazz. Many audience members will recognize the roots of 'Nordic Jazz' in Ornette, Albert Ayler, or Anthony Braxton's music, as well as the great respect with which those sources are treated. But this recognition should not be taken for granted; it does not excuse the omission of current African-American creators; and, to use the festival’s language, the prominent and almost exclusive branding of a group of overwhelmingly European artists with ‘innovation’ should be problematic at any jazz festival.

It also opens the question: who is the intended audience for creative music in Vancouver? Is the festival counting on loyal, longtime audiences? 'Nordic Jazz' and other European jazz has been the primary focus of the festival's creative music programming for several years. Repeating very similar programming for several years running runs the risk of losing audiences, regardless of the economic situation. In the current climate - where audiences are obviously just as strapped as artists and promoters – isn’t it worth the risk to embrace greater diversity?

Vancouver has a wealth of young, emerging musicians, educated in experimental practices by world-class musicians such as Francois Houle, Giorgio Magnanensi, John Korsrud, Coat Cooke, and many others. These young players would be highly motivated to contribute to the festival if greater opportunities were given to them. Vancouver also has a noise and improvised music community that performs and records prolifically and has been featured in no less a publication than The Wire. If the festival is creating an 'alt/indie/noise' category for its programming, is it necessary to commit to bringing a Norwegian band to the festival when there is such a wealth of music already here? The emerging talents present in Vancouver are a tremendous wealth of cultural capital that, if used to their fullest, could help offset the financial constraints of the festival.

The Vancouver Jazz Festival is a power structure that plays a role in determining the working conditions of many local and international musicians. It delivers a product to consumers in the form of live performance. It is the dominant structure in Western Canada that mediates and delivers this transaction, and this makes their representation of jazz, or of creative music, incredibly important. Both musicians and audiences are stakeholders in the festival's artistic direction. The festival has the power to determine what is desirable work for musicians and desirable leisure for audiences: for local musicians and audiences, it has the power to define what 'jazz' or 'creative music' is.  This power should be exercised more responsibly than it is at the present for the festival to enjoy a secure future.

This is absolutely NOT a call to avoid the 2011 festival: rather, we should in good faith participate and support the festival to the best that we're able. At the same time, consider this a call for dialogue, for feedback, for praise, for rants, for artist submissions in the form of guerilla performances, for audience participation, for joyous and riotous music making and listening, for shutting up and playing, for not shutting up and playing, and for as much community participation as possible: this is how we will, collectively, move beyond crisis.


  1. I see the creative music community growing through workshops given by organizations like the New Orchestra Workshop Society and Vancouver New Music. Every time I attend any of these workshops, i see a bunch of new faces. The issue is how to engage a broader audience in this cosmopolitan environment.
    It is unfortunate that an organized entity such as the Vancouver Creative Music Institute has dissolved and that there is no other program like it in this city which gives young artists opportunities to work with seasoned professionals (both international and local) and to participate in the festival.
    I think the creative music scene at the jazz fest could benefit from something like Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome at the Cultural Olympiad. Because there would be such an large group of people participating in a creative music performance, it would engage the conservative audience's perspective and allow them to see that creative music is important to a larger community of people and if not, it would still be an interesting space to listen in. people are more drawn to collective masses. am i wrong? as unfortunate as it seems, i think the most alienating thing to a conservative listener is when they are up against a smaller group of people playing music that they're not comfortable with. it is easier to project an opinion onto an individual or small group than it is onto a large group of people. this sort of thing could be a 'festival performer community' event that kicks off the festival and simultaneously brings together young artists with professionals, and promotes creative music. And of course, there should be guerilla performances everywhere in little pockets throughout gastown and anywhere else the festival is going on. count me in, i've been doing this since i was expunged from VCMI in 2008!

  2. PART ONE OF TWO: Y'know, as the guy who wrote the Wire article that, presumably, you're mentioning, I think I would have cheered this article last year. I recall rolling my eyes, then, at the list of the same old names. Call it the "Tobias Delius AGAIN?" syndrome - tho' I quite enjoy his music, and the music of many European jazzfest regulars (Han Bennink, say), I was so disenheartened to see not a single exciting new name in the program that I skipped the fest entirely and didn't feel like I missed much. It didn't seem so much as a Eurocentric conspiracy to exclude African-Americans as somewhat, um, lazy programming - inviting the same old faces, who have long established relationships with Coastal Jazz and known channels of access to European funding to fly over here... Last year was the most disappointing lineup I've seen in some time, perhaps because Coastal Jazz hadn't quite figured out how to contend with the still fresh massive funding cuts...

    ...And, as you mention, there's definitely big pockets of neglect, in the festival lineup, of very interesting local music in this city. For its much smaller profile, I always felt Vancouver New Music does a much better job of tapping into and engaging with the truly exciting "junior avant garde" here - which in many cases (Jeffrey Allport, Joshua Stevenson) has spawned musicians who are much, much more interesting to me than the jazzfest stable of the same ten or so locals who are given choice slots again and again... No offense to Tony Wilson, Peggy Lee, Torsten Muller, Dylan van Der Schyff and such, but there are a lot of very accomplished local improvisers one NEVER, EVER sees at Coastal Jazz events, unless they're in the audience, while seeing these few over and over and over and over and over. That IS a bit problematic, perhaps...

    ...and in fact, after certain high-profile jazzfest events, some of said visiting white male European musicians have commented to me that they found playing at Fake Jazz/ underground events in the city, alongside musicians regularly ignored by the jazzfest, at least as exciting, or even moreso, than the jazzfest gigs per se... These are gigs where one almost NEVER sees members of Coastal Jazz, somehow, even if the musicians themselves have figured out about them. That IS perhaps a bit problematic... Shouldn't an institution like Coastal Jazz be at least curious about what young people are doing? Do they know or care about Anju Singh, Bill Batt, Jeremy van Wyck, Lief Hall, V. Vecker, or the various projects that have sprung up around them? (I'm just pulling a few obvious names out of the hat, names I don't recall ever appearing in a jazzfest program - apologies if I'm wrong!). Don't they think it worth supporting these young people, rather than just staying true to people who WERE the young improvisers of this city some 20 years ago...? (continued...)

  3. Part two of two:

    I mean, you do raise some valid points. HOWEVER, actually, I gotta say - I find the programming this year a GIGANTIC improvement over last year's, especially given the limited resources the fest has. It excites me considerably that Kazutoki Umezu's KIKI Band and Sublime Frequencies' recording artists Group Doueh have been invited (nevermind African Americans - there are AFRICANS coming!). These are inspired and ambitious programming choices, and both cases mark the first appearance of these bands in Vancouver (Umezu has played here before, but only as a backup musician). The AACM *is* represented, contra the above article - Nicole Mitchell is returning for her high school jazz intensive; and since you don't credit her AACM affiliation, presumably you're also missing the fact that she's a woman of colour. In fact, there seem to be several high-profile gigs by women, from Satoko Fuji to Lucinda Williams, even if these are not classified as "avant garde" performances. And, my lord, even if he IS a white European male - they've brought Peter Brotzmann over! Sorry, but I'm fully prepared to kiss someone's ass for THAT one - I'm very excited about that gig.

    You're probably right - it's not a bad time for these concerns to be raised publicly - but I almost feel, somewhat to my surprise, that putting this out THIS year, you're doing a bit of an injustice to the jazz festival. They've done a pretty amazing job, all things considered. Maybe that should be acknowledged, a bit more than you're doing? Maybe we should be more grateful that the festival still even EXISTS?

  4. Grr! I had to break my comment into two parts, 'cos it was too long, and this sumbitch blog erased my part one - in which I elaborated on everything I agreed about in your post (lack of support for youthful improvisers, overreliance on the same handful of local musicians and tried-and-true white European males, etc). Now I can't even get it back with my back button - it's been lost forever to the ether! Grrrr! I don't have the stamina to rewrite it, so I guess my unexpected defense of Coastal Jazz this year (which, you gotta admit, is a helluva lot better than LAST year) will have to suffice... unless this sumbitch blog erases and replaces THAT with THIS... guess we'll see...

  5. Big stupid festivals are grotesque mis allocations and completely unsustainable.

    The porta potty budget alone would bring musicians to communities all over the province over a year but you wouldn't get the big stupid crowds so beloved by sponsors who still think TV coverage is valuable.

    Add to that the paranoid neurosis of 'Culture' laws. These hamstring Canada in an arena, African American Diaspora, where it just wasn't much of a participant due to a relative paucity of African Americans.

    I await the complete implosion of these monstrosities of bloat and hubris. May they finally go the way of the Brontosaurus.

    Only then will it be possible to come up with patterns of resource allocation that don't mainly serve to fatten security services and portable toilet outfits.

  6. Allan, your first comment has been recovered.

  7. Allan, thanks for writing in and linking this page. Your writing and big ears are greatly appreciated by a lot of us.

    Re: Nicole Mitchell, the AACM, and representation: I'm quite familiar with Nicole's work and have been fortunate to participate in workshops with her. Looking at her CV and who she's worked with, her experience as a creative musician is absolutely evident. However, the festival isn't representing her as such. In fact, the AACM name doesn't appear in the festival information for her contribution, though it is two clicks away on her website, which they've linked. I just reread the listing for Nicole's high school jazz workshop before starting to write, and it took me a couple of minutes to find, because it's not listed under her name, or under 'high school jazz intensive' - it's 'TD High School Jazz Intensive Conducted by Nicole Mitchell.' Read into that what you will.

    Fair point, but I submit that the act of erasure which I've carelessly perpetuated began with the festival, not me. FWIW education and youth outreach are a very important part of the AACM mandate, so it's not a question of privileging 'creative artist' over 'educator' or vice versa. The person who should really speak on this is Nicole Mitchell - you should ask her what she thinks about this, and if I see her this year, I probably will too.

  8. Wow, good salvage, I didn't know the ether allowed for such things. Now I guess I'll have to stand by what I've said (ulp!).

    And yeah, I suppose Nicole Mitchell's listing does do her & the AACM a disservice. It USED to mention her AACM affiliations. (Shame she doesn't regularly get her own gig with the festival, too - I truly enjoyed the one time I saw her perform, I believe with Hamid Drake).

    By the way, any idea what courses are offered at TD High School?

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Hi there! I stopped listening to jazz years ago, but a friend of mine forwarded me a link to this and for some reason I read it and am responding on a Monday morning before heading to work. Greetings from Toronto, btw. Several things struck me reading this:

    1. This piece is too long. I suggest editing again, removing superfluous adjectives. I do not know if there is a Vancouver-specific use of "creative" applied to your jazz/improv/noise/avantgarde musicians, but even if there is, use it more sparingly. I think you also would benefit from tightening up the focus of your letter. "More problematic", "most troubling", and the repeated use of bold type detracts from your primary concern. I recommend numbered lists. I love them.

    2. Your letter opens describing a crisis in the arts, but you immediately clarify this as a crisis in the funding of the arts, and then clarify further about a crisis in the funding of the jazz festival (and concomitant programming decisions that are inextricable from the fiscal threat). Respectfully, I will tell you reading that I was nonplussed and disinterested, as it is hyperbolic and misleading. Crises represent immediate threats, and what you describe as the problems with the festival are not immediate threats. Your goal is to encourage dialogue, so panicking readers from the outset seems at odds with sparking measured and productive discussions of problems and solutions. In my limited experience, when people recognize a crisis, their response is usually to act and not to talk. (This may be a poor response, but it is my observation)

    3. I don't for a second want you to think I am recommending either dumbing this down, or reducing it to a set of strident demands that can be hollered through a megaphone at a rally and chanted by mobs. ("More free jazz! More free jazz! More free jazz!") However, I think you can craft this to appeal to communities of musicians and audiences, and attract the interest of politicians and bank executives. The broader your appeal, the more likely you will be to effect change.

    xo andrew

  11. It's a pity that spread sheet only looks at one year.

    Why not go back five and get a more comprehensive look at booking redundancies? Not only are the same Vancouver artists playing multiple gigs at each festival, year in and year out, but there is a small (and wonderfully talented) coterie of the same international artists who also play multiple gigs at each festival, year in and year out.

    While this isn't a crime per se, another possible trajectory of inquiry (and discovery) could be "who benefits from these chronic booking redundancies and how?" Is there a quid-pro-quo situation in place that the lumpen and uninitiated simply wouldn't understand?

    Another fun project might be calculating the "music miles" of each festival. A carbon foot print if you will. What was the total miles travelled by all musicians in order to have the festival? Oslo to Vancouver is 7179.62 KM. Multiplied by 7, that's 50,253 KM. That's equal to how many round trip tickets within Canada?

    all of the European performers acknowledge between one and three funding bodies in their programme information. This may make it more pragmatic to book artists from Scandinavia than from New York City.

    Is that pragmatism the same pragmatism that "justifies" sending North American manufacturing jobs (among others) off shore where the labour costs are less?

    As for the under-representation of African American experimental artists, I vividly recall an instance wherein I suggested to a Vancouver Jazz Festival curator the wonderful (African American) Daniel Carter as a possible performer in future Festivals. The response was a dumbfounded blink and a "who?"

    The notion that African Americans carry the source of the tradition, but that Europeans are innovators is true only in so much as the Europeans have been innovators in marketing, networking and a host of other non musical ventures that undoubtedly make them the better capitalists. As such, they get the contracts. While that is poor curatation as well as its own expression of power (intentional or not), it's probably good business.

    Not to bring Adorno into this, but...

    This selection reproduces itself in a fatal circle; the most familiar is the most successful and is therefore played again and again and made still more familiar.

    My guess is when a generous amount of the funding comes from a bank, business decisions are important, if not the justification of having the festival in the first place.

    And that's fine. "We" of the "creative music community" should simply have a different festival than the parent culture's. Simple.

    Here's an idea: how about a festival where everyone, from the Festival's Artistic Director down to the lowest maraca shaker got the same wage? And what if everyone was responsible for their own transportation to and from the festival? And what if curation was done on a revolving basis?

    Wouldn't that be a fun and ultimately complimentary counterpoint to the existing hegemony?

  12. I agree.
    Giorgio Magnanensi

    ciao Stanley ; )

  13. Uh, dunno whether this is s'posed to be confidential or not, but I get the impression from a few of the European musicians I've spoken to that at least some of them ARE responsible for their own transportation, believe it or not, and are then reimbursed by their governments, who are more inclined toward the support of the arts. This greatly reduces what the jazzfest has to pay, is one way that the festival can negotiate limited funding. It wouldn't work that way flying people in from New York or Montreal (tho' they still sometimes do that to).

    And sorry if I start to seem like an unpaid apologist here, but I have no idea who Daniel Carter is, either...

  14. No offense to you, Mr. MacInnis, but if you don't know who Daniel Carter is, why not find out and then confess the addition of this artist to your mental rollodex of inspired and under-appreciated musicians? I agree with Mr. Zappa Adorno here. From familiarity and popularity artistic superiority most assuredly does not follow. Kudos to you, though, Mr. MacInnis, for pointing out the inspired programming choice to book Group Doueh. As for the question of European artists being able to foot their own transport bills (to be remunerated by their gov'ts), and the resulting boon to festival promoters, I have to again agree with Mr. Zappa. At which point does the calculus of the bottom line begin to take into account more than the question of resource outlay? Arts organizations tend to be innovators when it comes to the crafting of business models. It seems like foregrounding strategies to be more cognizant of carbon footprint impacts, for example, could end up being a selling point for the festival. There are certainly ways of having the "right thing" correspond with a healthy return.

  15. My point was hardly that "from familiarity and popularity artistic superiority most assuredly does not follow!" Holy shite - what a ridiculous and offensive sentiment to put anywhere remotely close to my mouth! My point was something like, it's a rather large world, and there are lots of vital and significant artists whom ANY ONE of us, be it a festival programmer, arts geek, musician, or what-have-you, might labour in utter ignorance of, and it's a little *childish* to get TOO judgmental about our peers for not knowing one or two particular names. I'm rather excited that I'll be getting to see Kido Natsuki play again, this jazzfest, but I wouldn't blame anyone for going "Who?" if I asserted that... (On the other hand, I once shuddered, when showing a date Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, when it transpired that she didn't know who *William Blake* was - THAT is an artist with whom everyone from this culture need be familiar at least on some rudimentary level, lest they risk judgment; but Daniel Carter? I still haven't gotten around to looking him up, and maybe I'll feel truly embarrassed for having overlooked him, once I do - but I can hardly judge someone too harshly for not knowing who he is, if I myself also do not. "All we are saying/ is give Ken a break" on this one, 'kay?).

    Re: "resource outlay" and "carbon footprints," the point, again, was just - to the extent that there IS a question being raised, rather than a polemic, as to "why are there so many Europeans" as opposed to "why aren't there more people from X" - it's a question I've explored MYSELF, and, having poked about a bit, discovered that there is, in fact, an answer, which should be factored into the discussion; it's not ENTIRELY a matter of Eurocentric prejudice, it has SOMETHING to do with the fact that existing relationships and the nature of European support for the arts make it really EASY and relatively INEXPENSIVE to program these people (and more challenging to fly people in from New York, given the lack of subsidy from either our government or the US's). I suspect a "carbon footprint" model for the festival would be a little difficult to achieve, unless it ceased to be an international festival - Group Doueh aren't coming by canoe, after all...

  16. ...none of which is to say that things couldn't be improved upon a bit, by the way...

  17. A canoe caravan! Now that would be innovative. Still don't know who Daniel Cater is? Try Wikipedia (it's this new fangled way to wrangle info):

    And let us not forget that we're not talking about classical music from the European diaspora here. We're talking about a form whose roots are only as "American" as the stylings, fearless bravado and genius of its formerly indentured servant inventors. So lets not be so blase as to put the cart before the horse, shall we?

  18. So you say you don't know who Daniel Carter is, have never heard his music and you say that Daniel Carter is less "important" than *William Blake.*

    How does Kido Natsuki stack up against *William Blake*?

    (Tell me again what *William Blake* has to do with a music born out of the African American experience?)

    And is it really *childish* or "TOO judgemental" to expect that the Vancouver Jazz festival programmers/curators have knowledge of someone like Daniel Carter?

  19. Sigh... I didn't say Carter was less "important" than William Blake. You put those words in my mouth to give you a better straw man to burn; did you really misunderstand my point, or are you just baiting me? I was, I suppose, agreeing with your basic premise that there are names every adult raised in western culture should know, lest they be open for judgment. Like, someone not recognizing the name H. Rap Brown says SOMETHING, but not knowing who Martin Luther King is would be a whole different can of wax. Not knowing what a durian is is one thing, not knowing what a banana is would be another (which is not to slight durians!). The William Blake anecdote has no relevance whatsoever to African-American experience, merely personal relevance - referencing a time when *I* judged someone because they didn't recognize a name. And far as I can tell, unless you're Japanese, Kido is even less well-known than Carter, let alone Blake.

    Re: childish, I guess that's a bit of a nasty way to put it (mea culpa), but generally speaking, I think mature people have to learn to be a little bit forgiving if someone doesn't recognize the name of a particular artist they feel passionately about. I wasn't like this in my 20's - there was a time, when I judged and sniped at people for not knowing all sorts of things - but HAVING GROWN UP, it now takes a fair bit for me to judge someone for their ignorance... and the odd time people judge ME for not knowing something that they know all about, I kinda want to punch them; it's a rather unkind and cheap way of humiliating someone, and a lot less productive, when someone asks "Who?" than politely and patiently explaining. Unless you really have a lot invested in one-upmanship, generally speaking, people should not be shamed for asking questions about their areas of ignorance - it beats the hell out of NOT ASKING and CONCEALING your ignorance.

    But look, sure, IT DOES SAY SOMETHING that a jazzfest programmer/ curator would not recognize Daniel Carter's name - at the very least, that that programmer has less than penetrating knowledge of the New York free jazz scene (which isn't surprising - because it IS a scene that gets curiously under-represented here). It'd be great if the likes of William Parker played here as often as some of the European improvisers already mentioned. I would guess that said programmer, if he/she is reading this, would be rightly embarrassed by your barb, or I wouldn't have felt the need to try to mitigate it. Said person should likely know who Daniel Carter is, even if I didn't. But still - Carter CAN'T be as well known as, say, Sunny Murray or Charles Gayle or William Parker or (...) because I *do* know their music, and I don't know Carter's. And there must be whole vast areas of specialty that said programmer DOES have that you or I lack. I bet he/she can wipe the mat with us when it comes to Scandinavian jazz...

  20. Let me make a suggestion: cut Allan some slack here. This is getting a bit internets-ish.

    Daniel Carter isn't as well-known as some, but he is known, and he's been around for a very long time. If it wasn't for his association with William Parker, I probably wouldn't know about him. I'm going to guess he's a lot better-known out east, because I don't think he's played out west in a very long time, if ever. So here's a talking point: is one of the problems that these different scenes get locked up regionally? Should curators take a role in equalizing those divisions? One of the points of the original post was - this festival may be 'international,' but in representing outside music (a stated part of its direction), it's not even especially 'Canadian.' Isn't somebody like Daniel Carter exactly the kind of person who should be brought forward?

    I'd also suggest that an important difference between Allan and a festival curator comes down to money. Allan is a tireless presence in Vancouver's scene with a huge amount of knowledge and very open to a lot of music, and like most creative musicians, he also works mostly in the gift economy. (Hope it's OK for me to say that.)

    An artistic director for a festival has a paying job to play the role of a curator, which SHOULD mean having a very comprehensive knowledge of what's out there. A curator should be held to a higher standard than the average listener and even the average artist - that knowledge is part of the currency of their job.

    For my part, I've occasionally been surprised talking to the festival programmers about who they don't know - for example, trumpeter Christian Scott, who's on a major jazz label (Concord) and is about as good as mainstream jazz gets.

  21. But still - Carter CAN'T be as well known as, say, Sunny Murray or Charles Gayle or William Parker or (...) because I *do* know their music, and I don't know Carter's.

    Luckily, this brings us back to the central question: that of exchange value versus use value.

    It would appear that Charles Gayle and Sunny Murray have more in the way of exchange value than does Daniel Carter, if only because you "*do* know their music, and you don't know Carter's."

    My hope is that this isn't the prevailing attitude among curators at the Vancouver Jazz festival, as "knowing" this person's music better than that one doesn't always reflect the nature and substance of the music (the use-value part). It is instead a reflection of the publicity you have or haven't read (the exchange value part).

    This is not judgement per-se, but does point back to the thesis of the post: what is the real "cost" of booking recidivism (be it global or local) when in Vancouver (let alone North America) there is a vast, underemployed pool of talented artists who are at least "equal" to those featured again and again, year after year at the Vancouver Jazz festival? Who wins, who loses?

    And there must be whole vast areas of specialty that said programmer DOES have that you or I lack. I bet he/she can wipe the mat with us when it comes to Scandinavian jazz...

    Question: Do you think there are Scandinavian Jazz festival curators who "wipe the mat" with other Scandinavians when it comes to Canadian Jazz? If not, why not?

  22. Uhmm. I'm not sure my tongue wasn't in my cheek re: wipin' the mat with Scandinavian trivia, and your question makes my head hurt a little, but from what I recall of the jazzfest "hockey match" with Team Sweden in Vancouver, there's likely not a whole lot of interest in the Vancouver jazz scene over there at present (at least not with the "team players"). Re: the real cost of booking recidivism - not entirely sure that's the word you want, but your meaning is clear! - that is a very, very good question.

  23. Some interesting points raised. I especially agree that many great jazz musicians virtually at our doorstep (from LA to Seattle) have remained off the jazz fest program since it's inception. But more importantly, why is there virtually no mainstream jazz at any of the major festival venues this year (other than Marselus and McBride)?

    And why have so many living jazz legends (as far back as I can remember) never played in this festival? Like Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver, Jim Hall, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Toots Thielemans, Gary Burton, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Kenny Barren... not to mention the great younger players like Mulgrew Millar, Nicholas Peyton, Jeff Keezer, Ellane Ellias, Jeff Hamilton and Tom Harrell. Nor have I seen many of our world class local players (like Ron Johnston, Jack Stafford and Al Wold) playing at any of CJ&B's major venues.

    Yes, I realize CJ&B's main mandate is to support free / experimental and "world beat" music. But if you're going to horde all of the public and corporate funding available for a "jazz festival", don't you think it's a little misleading to call it that when you exclude what most people think of as jazz... meaning what you'd hear at most jazz venues and on jazz radio stations around the world?

    Just because it's mainstream jazz doesn't mean it belongs in a museum. Yet CJ&B gives it the middle finger regardless of the fact that so many people still enjoy it. Just look at the numbers that turn out for their token mainstream jazz star headliner each year.

    As for Colin James and all the other rock, funk, R & B etc., what are they doing in a jazz festival program? They're already a well supported industry... just open the Georgia Straight music section every week.