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I Need To Vent About The Demise Of The Sacramento Music Festival


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#1 Steve Heard

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 07:04 PM

The Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society announced that the Sacramento Music Festival, formerly the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, has ended its 44 year run.

 

Held annually on Memorial Day weekend, the festival has seen declining attendance and revenues for years, and the 'Society' has decided to pull the plug.

 

In its heyday, over 85, people attended. Last year, and estimated 20,000. In 2002, they had $2.7million in revenue, in 2015, $425k

 

This saddens me, as I went to it for 16 years straight.

 

The organizers point to rising costs, as well as competition from other events, such as Bottle Rock, as the key reasons for the festival's declining attendance.

 

While some of that may be true, I don't think that's the core of the problem. 

 

I think the main reason is the Society's board was out of touch and set in their ways, until it was too late. 

 

I'd break it down to these factors:

 

The Music

  • When the festival started 44 years ago, it was celebrating Dixieland, or what they would call 'traditional' jazz. It was at one time impressive to find 50 bands dedicated to playing this art form, but once you've heard 50 versions of 'When the Saints Go Marching In' you've heard them all. 
  • When people wanted more, they gave them barbershop quartets, blues and big band
  • Over the years, when serious jazz fans (like me) complained that it was 'straw hat and banjo' bands playing to a literally dying audience, they held firm, saying that there were plenty of other places one could hear other forms of jazz, and they were giving their audience what they wanted. They blamed falling revenues on other factors. 
  • There seemed to be resistance to anything more serious or urban, youthful or challenging. 
  • When they finally decided to add in more variety, it was too little too late. Sure, they brought in headliners like Trombone Shorty, and Tower of Power, but only for one of the 3 days. To fill all of the slots for 3 days, they brought in a lot of local bands that can be seen, often for free, at parks and bars around town. 
  • Still, nothing too urban or youthful or challenging. 

The scope of the operation: 

  • Too many of venues. I think they had 28 last year. They all needed bands playing all day. More bands means more money. Eventually, they started moving bands around. You could see band A at 1pm at one stage, then 4pm at another.
  • The venues were too spread out, some too far away. They should have kept it strictly in Old Sac. Most people don't want to walk long distances or catch shuttles, they want to go from stage to stage with ease. I remember going to see bands at the Holiday Inn Ballroom. The room was set up for hundreds, but there were perhaps 20 people there. It was a sad scene. 
  • Too many days. 3 days of road closures, security, police, fire, equipment rental, power, staff, feeding and managing volunteers, etc. It's an overwhelming thing to organize and present. 
  • Of course, that also meant 3 days worth of bands to manage and pay for.   

Their website

  • It did a poor job of telling their story or generating interest. They had a list of musical styles, and a list of bands. Nothing telling you which bands played which styles. Virtually no information given for most bands. Very few band bios, not even links to their websites or Facebook pages. Just lists of bands. How was anyone supposed to plan their day? 
  • There wasn't even a 'contact us' button on the website. I called to ask if they had band information and if they could put it on their website, and got the reply, 'We're all volunteers, and we're doing the best we can'. I'm sorry, that is too important a piece of the puzzle to use that excuse. Cancel one of the nearly 100 bands and use the savings to hire someone to do it. I even volunteered to help. 

It boils down to the fact that the leadership of the Society refused to change with the times, and when they decided to give in a little, it was too late. 

 

I'd love to see a real jazz festival take its place, but only for one day. Maybe have some sort of kickoff concert the night before to get more overnight stays, but really, a one day festival is all that's needed. 

 

1 day, 5 to 10 stages, known jazz artists as well as some newcomers, in Old Sac. That would do it.    

 

I'm sorry to see them go. 


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#2 The Average Joe

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 09:36 PM

For me, what killed it was splitting up the venues. I went when it was in Old Sac and you could walk less than a block to see another band.  Then grab a bite or a beer and walk less than a block to see yet

another band.  Very easy and convenient. Once they split it up, I never went back

 

Sad to see it go...

 

Locally, I miss the Blues and Brews


"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." -- C.S. Lewis

 

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#3 Who_Do_You_Trust

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Posted 21 December 2017 - 09:25 AM

Although I'm new to this area and never attended, neighbors have talked about it and it sounded like fun.  

 

To stay fresh and vibrant, events like this need to feature new talent, new genres, new styles, and basically keep up with the times.  If most of the music was Dixieland, no wonder the festival died.  Dixieland is slowly taking it's place on the history shelf of music, and probably the only place left to hear true Dixieland in 20 years will be New Orleans.

 

Jazz has always been a tough sell.  In the 70's, the jazz audience almost disappeared with the onslaught of Rock & Roll, the British Invasion, Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane.  In the past 20 years, many new genres of jazz have emerged and become pockets of popularity - smooth jazz, fusion, cross-over, Neo-bop, Indie-jazz, etc.  The festival should have become an outlet for new stuff, not a throw-back to the old stuff.

 

They also should have featured new talent.  People like Lindsey Webster, one of the most talented new jazz vocalists I've ever heard.

 

I too am a jazz fan and was a jazz musician for a few years back in the early 70's...good enough to be a session player for a short while.  Still have a voluminous jazz collection and pull stuff out to listen often. 

 

Final thought - Bob Dylan was right - The Times, They are A-Changin'.     



#4 Steve Heard

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 01:51 PM

Although I'm new to this area and never attended, neighbors have talked about it and it sounded like fun.  

 

To stay fresh and vibrant, events like this need to feature new talent, new genres, new styles, and basically keep up with the times.  If most of the music was Dixieland, no wonder the festival died.  Dixieland is slowly taking it's place on the history shelf of music, and probably the only place left to hear true Dixieland in 20 years will be New Orleans.

 

Jazz has always been a tough sell.  In the 70's, the jazz audience almost disappeared with the onslaught of Rock & Roll, the British Invasion, Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane.  In the past 20 years, many new genres of jazz have emerged and become pockets of popularity - smooth jazz, fusion, cross-over, Neo-bop, Indie-jazz, etc.  The festival should have become an outlet for new stuff, not a throw-back to the old stuff.

 

They also should have featured new talent.  People like Lindsey Webster, one of the most talented new jazz vocalists I've ever heard.

 

I too am a jazz fan and was a jazz musician for a few years back in the early 70's...good enough to be a session player for a short while.  Still have a voluminous jazz collection and pull stuff out to listen often. 

 

Final thought - Bob Dylan was right - The Times, They are A-Changin'.     

 

It really was a fun event, in spite of its flaws. 

 

I think that jazz festivals should try to offer something for everyone. Jazz fans seem to be at once the most divided and unified of audiences. I like the old and new. I've got big band, bebop, cool, modern, smooth, contemporary, latin, brazillian, fusion and even some avant garde stuff in my collection. 

 

The greatest one I ever went to was the Playboy Jazz Fest at the Hollywood Bowl in 1981 the lineup included Earl Klugh, Weather Report (Jaco Pastorius at one point was left on stage alone and wowed the crowd, playing Purple Haze on bass) Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, an All Star group with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Lalo Shifrin (it was his birthday, and Dizzy led us in singing Happy Birthday), Mel Torme with George Shearing, and Count Basie and His Orchestra. The show closed with Mel Singing with the Count's band. Unforgettable night. 

 

I think declining attendance can be attributed to changing tastes, aging audiences, and festival organizers that go off path and offer things too far from jazz. 

 

As for you, I'd love to know more about your session work, who you played with, etc.  You can say it here, or pm me, or not. 

 

Regarding Lindsey Webster, thanks for the recommendation! I just ordered her latest CD (yes, I still listen to CDs). She reminds me of Brenda Russell. 


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#5 Who_Do_You_Trust

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 11:58 AM

 

It really was a fun event, in spite of its flaws. 

 

I think that jazz festivals should try to offer something for everyone. Jazz fans seem to be at once the most divided and unified of audiences. I like the old and new. I've got big band, bebop, cool, modern, smooth, contemporary, latin, brazillian, fusion and even some avant garde stuff in my collection. 

 

The greatest one I ever went to was the Playboy Jazz Fest at the Hollywood Bowl in 1981 the lineup included Earl Klugh, Weather Report (Jaco Pastorius at one point was left on stage alone and wowed the crowd, playing Purple Haze on bass) Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, an All Star group with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Lalo Shifrin (it was his birthday, and Dizzy led us in singing Happy Birthday), Mel Torme with George Shearing, and Count Basie and His Orchestra. The show closed with Mel Singing with the Count's band. Unforgettable night. 

 

I think declining attendance can be attributed to changing tastes, aging audiences, and festival organizers that go off path and offer things too far from jazz. 

 

As for you, I'd love to know more about your session work, who you played with, etc.  You can say it here, or pm me, or not. 

 

Regarding Lindsey Webster, thanks for the recommendation! I just ordered her latest CD (yes, I still listen to CDs). She reminds me of Brenda Russell. 

Steve,  Couple thoughts:

 

Lindsey Webster:

 

   - At her best -   -  The guy on keyboards is her significant other.  He does her arrangements, and has his act together too. 

   - IMO, she has tinges of Anita Baker, Annie Haslam, and Minnie Riperton.  She's the best female jazz vocalist I've ever heard.  

 

My session experiences - Played the trumpet, classically trained, but went to the dark side (jazz) in the mid 1970's.  Did session work in SoCal for about three years - made enough to pay for grad school.  None of the session work was notable.  Laid down tracks for TV show themes, TV ads, some movie theme work, no name artist recordings.  Closest to fame was a bit of work on the soundtrack for "The Spy Who Loved Me" (James Bond).   I was not the best trumpet player in the union.  Some of those guys were incredible.  The main reason I got work was I could sight read a chart once and play it perfect.  Producers always wanted to do only one take most of the time, and I could do it.  I could also sight transpose.  If the vocalist had a cold on recording day and the director said to play it down a minor third, I could do it while sight reading at at the same time.  Otherwise, I wasn't that good.  Still have a couple trumpets in the attic.  They haven't been out of the case in 35 years.  I still get a couple residual checks once a year.  I think the last one was for $2.75.  Cost more to cut the check and mail it to me.  It was tremendous fun, tho.  Great memories.



#6 Steve Heard

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 12:21 PM

Steve,  Couple thoughts:

 

Lindsey Webster:

 

   - At her best -   -  The guy on keyboards is her significant other.  He does her arrangements, and has his act together too. 

   - IMO, she has tinges of Anita Baker, Annie Haslam, and Minnie Riperton.  She's the best female jazz vocalist I've ever heard.  

 

My session experiences - Played the trumpet, classically trained, but went to the dark side (jazz) in the mid 1970's.  Did session work in SoCal for about three years - made enough to pay for grad school.  None of the session work was notable.  Laid down tracks for TV show themes, TV ads, some movie theme work, no name artist recordings.  Closest to fame was a bit of work on the soundtrack for "The Spy Who Loved Me" (James Bond).   I was not the best trumpet player in the union.  Some of those guys were incredible.  The main reason I got work was I could sight read a chart once and play it perfect.  Producers always wanted to do only one take most of the time, and I could do it.  I could also sight transpose.  If the vocalist had a cold on recording day and the director said to play it down a minor third, I could do it while sight reading at at the same time.  Otherwise, I wasn't that good.  Still have a couple trumpets in the attic.  They haven't been out of the case in 35 years.  I still get a couple residual checks once a year.  I think the last one was for $2.75.  Cost more to cut the check and mail it to me.  It was tremendous fun, tho.  Great memories.

 

Very cool sound. She's fresh, but a throw back to the 80's and 90's. Cool and confident. I also hear a little bit of Maria Muldaur. 

 

BTW, I envy people who can sight read. If I see a note on a chart, I can eventually figure out what it is!   


Steve Heard

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Keller Williams Realty

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Owner - MyFolsom.com

916 718 9577 


#7 Who_Do_You_Trust

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 06:09 PM

Thanks.  My sense is that sight reading is a gift, not something you can learn.  I remember some of the best session guys would practice with the charts for days prior to going into studio.  At one session, I was with a couple other trumpet players (Pete Candoli and Conte Candoli) who were the cream of the crop.  they played on a lot of the Mancini recordings, did big band stuff with Dizzy, Stan Kenton, etc.  About a half hour before recording start, they passed new charts out to the orchestra because the guy scoring the bit didn't like the way the original sounded.  The Candoli's couldn't keep up, so they had to reschedule.  Everyone came back four days later and it went off without a hitch.  Best players on the planet and they just couldn't sight read.



#8 The Average Joe

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 09:40 AM

Very cool experiences WHo Do.  While jazz is not my preferred music, I can appreciate it (just like most well composed music of any genre).  I dabbled in music, but never really got good enough to call myself a musician. In my garage band days, I would jam with anyone. One thing I learned quickly was that there were some very capable guitarists who could not play and listen at the same time. In other words, they had great technical skills, but could not slip into the "groove" the band was in. I guess that was my strongest (though limited) asset. I could get a feel for where the music was going and alter what I was doing to blend.

Like you, most of my instruments have been in cases for 35+years.  I do keep an old tele out, and pick it up every few days for a short time, but I've forgotten more than I've remembered (and I didn't know that much to start!) 

I guess rust really does never sleep...


"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." -- C.S. Lewis

 

If the only way to combat "global warming" was to lower taxes, we would never hear of the issue again. - Anonymous

 

                                                                  It is Natural when Intelligence sees Stupid, it rejects Stupid, and Opts for Truth..... Stupid then labels Truth as Hate.-  Anonymous

 


 


#9 Who_Do_You_Trust

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 12:30 AM

Joe - cool stuff.  Finding the groove is probably also a gift.  If you were able to find the groove, you should have stuck with playing.  Taken some lessons. Get good at it.  People who could find a groove and play in it were rare.  Even today, it's unusual to hear a recording where they're really in the groove.  The groove is hard to define, but you know it when you hear it.

 

One of the best kept secrets in those times was that almost all studio guitarists couldn't read music.  Glen Campbell did a lot of session work.  Arguably one of the best guitarists ever, he didn't know the difference between the key of F and the key of A flat.  He would say that he could barely read the newspaper, never mind a sheet of music.  There were a couple guitarists who could read charts, and sight read to boot.  Johnny Smith, Bill Aken, and Tommy Tedesco were amazing.

 

I often encourage young people to get good enough to play in a serious band or orchestra.  It's like no other experience, and probably the most fun I ever had.

 

Below is a terrific example of what "the groove" sounds like.  This kid is 13 years old, been playing for 6 years.  He's "in the groove" between 1:35 and 3:00.  Take a listen:

 






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