Transcription of the Jazz Journalists Association Panel Discussion at the
Transcribed by Laurence Svirchev
The biographies of the panel members are as follows:
William E. (Bill) Smith
has achieved International recognition for his work as a composer, performer,
photographer, editor, writer, and producer. He has worked as a performance
artist, poet, musician, lecturer, and historian throughout
Paul de Barros is the jazz columnist for the Seattle Times, adjunct music professor
at Seattle University, a regular contributor to Down Beat magazine, and founder of the Seattle jazz support
organization, Earshot Jazz. In 1993, his comprehensive history of the early
Mark Miller, a
is a journalist and critic. He lives in
Alex Varty is the
Entertainment Editor of the Georgia
John Orysik, Media Director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival made an introduction, some of which was inaudible: “On behalf of the Jazz Festival, I am delighted that we are able to present this panel this afternoon. The Jazz Journalists’ Association is a non-profit organization composed of over 400 writers. We hope this is the first of many panels that we will present in the years to come ... . We are delighted to have Coda Emeritus Editor and photographer ... Bill Smith ... .”
Bill Smith: It always sounds good when other people introduce you. I like it. I would like to thank John [Orysik] before we start and Howard Mandel from the JJA who assisted in putting this together. And Laurence Svirchev who sort of coordinated it all. There must have been hundreds of e-mails that took place among the bunch of us before this actually happened. It says it is a public forum, which means you lot, it says it is an eminent panel of jazz journalists, and it says “Jazz: The Evolving Definition”. The idea is that we, or rather they, would offer their estimation on the value of offering different styles of music that might or might not be called jazz, what is the responsibility or ideas of festivals, how does it affect the musical community, as well the responsibility of the press in this ongoing process. What I would do is introduce the four writers and they would have a few minutes to state their case and then open it to the floor.
On the far end is Mark Miller from the Globe and Mail, Alex Varty from the Georgia Straight, Paul de Barros from Down Beat/Seattle Times, Bill Shoemaker from JazzTimes and a bunch of Euro magazines.
Let’s start at the far end and let Mark Miller state a case and I’m going to make a little clock so he does not talk longer than four minutes.
Mark Miller: I’m going to put a bit of historical context on the subject. There has been a certain amount of discussion among us – Paul has already heard this. If you go back to the point where the word “jazz” enters the vernacular, and in fact that happened in October of 1916, you can actually go through things like the Chicago Defender and Variety and Billboard and suddenly there is the word “jazz” being used to describe music and bands. If you go back to that point the music to which it refers is not anything that we would recognize as jazz, curiously enough. I think that reading between the lines, because there are no recordings from that period, what was going on was music that was exaggerated in various ways, rhythmically in terms of interpretation, texturally there was a kind of vaudeville-burlesque aspect to it and the bands were playing any number of kinds of things, among them pop songs, playing Rachmaninov, playing Dvorák. It just seemed that the idea was you’d perform in a way counter to the formalities that people had assumed went with musical performance.
Now when you got into the 20s and mid-20s and people started making recordings in Chicago, King Oliver, Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Richard Jones and people like that, suddenly the definition of what jazz is – and that we somehow carry on now – the definition is narrowed to improvisation and blues-based and syncopation and things like that. It occurred to me as we are fumbling around in 2002 trying to define jazz, that the original, amorphous, and vague definition of jazz from 1916 to pre-1922-3 is kind of useful if you wish to embrace a lot of the things that are now being presented as jazz. I’ll stop there for the time being.
Bill Smith: I’d like to go on a little bit with that. A lot that music was still popular music that people danced to even though we have made it into a sort of isolated art form as journalists who have written about it. But in actual fact, they used to fill entire ballrooms for Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and so on.
Mark Miller: And they
filled vaudeville houses too. When it first came to
Bill Smith: Alex [Varty], as a local writer and part of a very, very large creative scene, how do you feel you are related to this scene as a writer and editor at the Georgia Straight.
Alex Varty: How do I feel? I guess I feel inadequate in terms of the amount of coverage I can give a scene that deserves much, much more and in particular deserves much more from the media other than the Georgia Straight. We do our best given the limited resources we have. I have to apologize for not have a prepared statement. I was expressly told I didn’t need one, so ...
Bill Smith: Improvise, Alex!
Alex Varty: I can only speak for myself personally, and that is that I stand in awe of the amount of creative music that is being generated in this city and wish that it received the recognition both public and economic that it deserves. What we can do to further that, I’m doing the best I can.
Bill Smith: You have more opportunity than say a mainstream paper to present what is actually happening in this city?
Alex Varty: I don’t see
that we have any better. I think perhaps the [
Bill Smith: Paul, you have a different point of view because you work for not only specialist magazines but also for larger-circulation newspapers. Perhaps you have some ideas on what kinds of responsibilities are involved in this and how you involve yourself.
Paul de Barros: I’m very lucky because I have an editor at the daily paper who loves jazz so he is always encouraging me to write about all kinds of jazz, world music, pretty much anything I want to. I’ve been there a long time so somehow I don’t have the problems that other daily writers have had. I just wanted to address this idea of whether or not we call the music jazz or not. I can remember being really frustrated with this even when I was sixteen (and that was a long time ago). It just seems like in every era, beginning in the 20s, there has always been this pseudo-argument about what is jazz and what is not jazz. Every era it comes, and if you go back and read the criticism, it is astonishingly dated in every era. It seems pointless and irrelevant, but it always seems to be an obsession amongst people who love jazz. And I think the reason it has become a particular obsession in this period we are in can be illustrated by a conversation I had with Esbjörn Svensson, a Swedish piano player. I asked him if he ever came up against American critics who charged him with leaving the “true jazz” and he said, “Well we don’t have to worry about that…we’re Swedish!” [laughter on the panel] You have to take care of jazz, that is your responsibility.”
And I take the second part of what he said very seriously because I think he is right. I think there has been a kind of pointless argument in the jazz press for the last 15 years between people like Wynton Marsalis who quite rightly felt that, at a certain point in the development of the music, it needed a steward, that it needed someone to define what it had been, how it had grown, and to take care of it as Esbjörn Svensson said. On the other hand, people that don’t want to do that don’t necessarily have to be in combat with people who do want to do that. I think that this is the kind of argument we have all been having in the last 15 years. It seems progressively irrelevant to me. I think what we are going though is the same thing that classical music went through in the late 19th century where you had a canon established and institutionalization of a music as a bourgeois consumer product.
And that did not end the composition of modern classical music. We had another hundred years from Schoenberg to Steve Reich. Creative music did not go away in that field either, but you did get the institutionalization of Bach and Brahms and Mozart and Haydn. Which is fine. I’m really glad that music is here. I’m really glad that somebody is taking care of Monk and Coltrane too. And I welcome that. But I don’t feel that I am at war with those people because I happen to like stuff that is outside the circle of what they define as jazz.
So to get back to the original point, it seems like that in every era we have wanted to draw a circle around something called jazz but the music itself and the musicians continue to resist the drawing of that circle. So when I teach jazz history, I explain to my students what jazz is and then I tell them to forget about it.
Bill Smith: But historically, it was much easier when it was called be-bop, Dixieland, swing, or whatever. It was more easily defined. It seemed to be a specific, defined kind of style. And that went on until the 60s when people like Charlie Mingus and Ornette Coleman started ruining the idea of jazz. They started moving outside of that and now it has moved into many, many other kinds of world concepts which did not exist in jazz, with the odd exceptions of people like Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. But in general, it was very defined what jazz was in each of the periods.
Paul de Barros: I really wouldn’t agree. If you look back at the critical arguments that were going on in the late 30s and early 40s, you don’t have a critical onslaught of 50 different kinds of music being welcomed or unwelcome into jazz, but you do have all these musicians saying, “Real jazz is what Louis Armstrong played;” and other players saying “Real jazz is what Coleman Hawkins played. These bebop players are playing Chinese music.” Louis Armstrong said that. He said, “This isn’t jazz.”
So I think this argument is going on in each decade that we have any kind of innovation and it is very weird. In European music when they say they don’t like it, they say, “It isn’t music.” But in jazz when we don’t like it, we say, “It isn’t jazz!”
Bill Smith: You want to take it on from there, Bill [Shoemaker]? I can see you chomping at the bit.
Bill Shoemaker: Well, let me
first preface my response by saying that I contend there are two main
applications of the word jazz. One is an artistic application and the other is
a market application. And the fact that jazz has been so specifically labeled
by genre and subgenre throughout the decades is an indicator of the market
impact upon the music. There is a symbiotic relationship between the art and
the marketplace that can’t be denied. You can use the market as indicators to
make some interesting analyses about the music. One of those would be
demographics. If you look at periods when jazz was very popular, as we were
saying before, it is when jazz was the music of the youth. The reason my
parents had stacks and stacks of
Bill Smith: Well it is true about the generational thing, of course. If you come to the music in a kind of natural order. I used to be young, and when I was young it was Miles and Monk and Mingus, the 3Ms. And I was like 19 years old or whatever and then the Gerry Mulligan quartet with Chet Baker was part of … . All those were part of the time we were in.
But I must say that this idea of the marketing part … I saw a review recently which made a great point of the fact that the band were all wearing Gucci clothes. Well of course in my world that doesn’t mean anything at all. I find that kind of marketing to be very negative. But this kind of marketing [the Vancouver Festival] is why we can hear all this music.
Bill Shoemaker: The market is simply a place where people have access to buy and sell. The market is big enough for everyone. You can wander through it and find what you are looking for. But if you go through the history of jazz and look at the artists who made the most money, it is a very interesting list and an artistically valid list, whether it be Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, or Miles Davis, jazz’s first millionaire. In a way, I don’t really feel there is an unbridgeable gulf between the art and the marketplace. The responsibility we have as journalists is to point out what is the art and what is the marketing and make full disclosure about these things so that the reader can make those consumer choices with the best available information.
Bill Smith: I think that is enough talking from here, so let’s open the floor so people can ask questions of the four journalists. You can’t ask me any questions, I’m only the moderator. It’s not my fault, any of this. It’s all their fault [laughter from panel]. Start, or should they just keep going?
[Inaudible from audience]
Bill Smith: In fact, what is the evolving definition, which is the title of this discussion. Would anyone on the panel like to take that, where the music is going?
Mark Miller: I would comment in very general terms. It seems to me that in our efforts to sometimes limit what is or isn’t jazz, we are forgetting that one of the defining elements of jazz is synthesis. So that there is always something coming into the music and being adapted to it. It seems that historically that is what has pushed it along from the very beginning, if you think about all the elements that were pushed into jazz back even before we can date jazz. The one cavil I have is about a lot of the things that are going on – and I will take one very specific situation – if a hip-hop artist or so-called acid jazz band takes a Lee Morgan record and works it into a piece of music, that doesn’t make the result jazz. On the other hand, if Tim Hagans goes out and hires a DJ instead of a conga player, I’m very happy to say that it is jazz. So if it is jazz reaching out to these other things and pulling in and adding them to the mix we historically know as jazz, I’m OK with that. But I’m not so interested when an R&B artist or a hip-hop artist reaches into jazz and pulls out something and the marketplace, the media, the industry – in some ways we should talk about the industry – the industry starts calling it jazz, I’m not going to accept that so readily.
Bill Smith: This is a little like what Paul [de Barros] was talking about earlier, what is jazz and who defines it? The difference between a specialist writer and the audience. The audience is really in the end … the musicians are the ones who do it and the audience are the ones who pay to come in and hear it.
Mark Miller: The industry is defining jazz …
Bill Smith: … like the Gucci suits …
Mark Miller: Well, the Gucci suits …
Bill Smith: This was a Swedish trio by the way, I don’t know if it’s the same Swedish Trio that Paul [de Barros] was talking about … . [laughter].
Paul de Barros: [off-mike] I can’t imagine.
Mark Miller: One thing that has happened in my experience that might be different in Canada than in the United States, but the recording industry seems to have discovered that, even though jazz may be one or two percent of the overall sales market, that one or two percent is a really large number. Led by Verve, they are doing a lot of very heavy promotion. In some ways directing agendas we can’t subvert even if we want to. I would give you Dian Krall as a prime example of the industry pushing somebody, certainly against some of our better judgments [panel laughter]. I won’t speak for all the folks up here. So there is another power at play that defines what is jazz and what isn’t. And it seems that that power, again the industry, is defining jazz in ways that are solely for the purpose of selling things and has nothing to do with the art or the artistry involved.
Bill Smith: We know that you are from back-east, but Diana is actually a Nanaimo [a country town on Vancouver Island, BC] girl … so you have to be a bit careful there [panel laughter]. Eugene [Holley], would you like to keep us going?
Eugene Holley: [off microphone, speaks about jazz historically being multi-racial, multi-ethnic].
Paul de Barros: I think that’s a good question, one that is endemic to the jazz audience for the last 50 years. We forget, now we are in an historic situation where jazz is really struggling economically. In the 40s and 50s jazz defined itself as a music that barely wanted to be found. That is what “hip” was about: ‘I know something you don’t know.’ So, we can’t afford to be hip anymore. That has been going on for a long time in the music and that is what the institutionalization of jazz and the jazz schools are all about: welcoming people into the music.
I just wanted to second what you were saying, Mark [Miller] about which direction the flow is. I had the same thoughts when I was in Berlin last November listening to a lot of the guys that had been invited from Scandinavia. There were certain acts –and I’m not going to get into names – that were clearly rock acts that were interested in jazz but their aesthetic was rock. And there were other guys whose aesthetic was jazz and by that I mean interactivity on stage and improvisation. And yet they used elements from rock music.
And I think this is a distinction worth making but it is one you are always fighting. Verve Records and a lot of the rest of the media are saying that Norah Jones is a jazz singer. I happen to like Norah Jones but I don’t get why they are marketing her as a jazz singer. They must think that’s where they want to position her financially.
Bill Shoemaker: No, it’s where they want to position her demographically, Paul. They want the 24-52 year old American with a household income of $75,000 or more. That is just stone-cold fact.
Paul de Barros: And it is our responsibility to point out these things at every juncture, I think.
Bill Smith: Tony Reif? [of Songlines records]
Tony Reif’s question/comment is inaudible.
Bill Shoemaker: Let me tie that to something that Mark Miller said about the 1-2% market share. That 1-2% is a very qualified 1-2%. A qualified consumer is someone who really knows what they are buying. That 1-2% will keep coming back and coming back. Now, that is happening also in what I would also call the micro-market of independent labels. You could probably figure out in short order, especially if you had web sales data, that a statistically significant percentage of your business is repeat business. That’s just the way it is. I live in the Washington DC area. When there is an improvised music gig, the same 40 people show up. When I see these folks on the street, I don’t know their names, but yeah! He shows up to the gigs. When there is a gig the door may yield the band 250-300 bucks but they sell 200 bucks worth of CDs. There is something interesting happening with the breakdown of retailing in the United States and the emergence of the Internet as a marketplace that I think puts small independent or artist-produced labels on a much more even footing in the marketplace than they have ever had before. Tim Berne no longer distributes Screwguns: Internet sales only. Those are the market conditions that are going to feed into the evolving definition of jazz.
Bill Smith: Before we go on I’d like to say that having been involved in one of the earliest independent record companies in Canada which has now been going for something like 35 years, we never took any kind of notice of what Verve and those kinds of people did. We just knew that you could pay the artist only a certain amount of money and if the artist wanted to record you, someone like Roscoe Mitchell or Dollar Brand or Braxton would record for you for something like $500 because the possibility of selling more than 500 of their LPs was minimal. And so we did, we gave them small amounts of money with really quite good royalty contracts. If the records did sell, then the musicians benefited for this sale.
We didn’t take any notice of the idea that so-and-so was selling 300,000 copies because we actually knew they would get 290,000 of them back. Those were what they called ‘shipping numbers.’ They created this artificial idea of how many records were being sold on the planet and its not actually true, a lot of it. Independents shouldn’t be striving to be there, shouldn’t be worrying about all that stuff. They should be worrying about the size they are and the music they represent. Bill [Shoemaker] says “Forty people”. If that’s how many people really come to the music, you shouldn’t really be pressing 10,000 CDs. It’s that simple.
Inaudible audience member.
Bill Smith: I should point out that just because you make a film doesn’t automatically mean that everyone is going take notice of it. I’ve made a film already called Imagine the Sound with Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Bill Dixon, and Paul Bley, and we didn’t make the money back that we put into the film. I’ve already been in this world for a while and I know lots of artists who have made films. It hasn’t made the artist rich and it certainly hasn’t made the filmmaker rich.
Paul de Barros: Can I jump back into the music for a bit? I want to answer a previous comment. You asked what kind of things are happening in the music. I’ve noticed that everyone wants to play with machines. Evan Parker plays with machines in an interactive way, and so does Bugge Wesseltoft [of Norway]. Hip-hop artists are playing with machine. We are going to see more of this because we are entering an era where our bodies are starting to interact with machines in medicine. I think that it is a real natural development. The other thing I have noticed is that musicians both black and white in America say this to me all the time in interviews – middle-aged musicians that is – “I want to relate to the music of my own youth.” So you talk to Kenny Garrett and he says, “I listened to soul music when I was 16, so therefore I should incorporate that into jazz.” Personally, I don’t understand that argument. But it seems to make sense to the musicians. And then I talk to Wayne Horvitz and Bill Frisell and they say the same thing: “Well, I listened to this music when I was 15.” I understand that it comes naturally to them, but why it needs to be necessarily part of what they do in jazz eludes me. I notice that similarity and a lot of it has to do with working with machines.
Bill Smith: Well, I find myself working with broken children’s toys. Where does that put me? [Panel and audience laughter]. Peggy?
Peggy Walker [co-owner of a BC CD store]: Inaudible.
Mark Miller: I didn’t read the commentary of my colleague, but my review of the [Ken] Burns series made exactly the points you just made in terms of the deficiencies in recent history.
Bill Smith: But it was put forward in the popular press that at last we have a real history.
Mark Miller: Some people bought into it and others didn’t, but I think that the Globe and Mail is part of the popular press. And the Globe didn’t buy into it. Other folks who write for publications like it, the Atlantic Monthly and who knows what else didn’t buy into either. They made those points. I don’t if people coming to jazz for the first time via that series really cared. They took it as face value.
Bill Smith: it is interesting to go back to the idea of how many records or CDs are sold from something like the Ken Burns film, which is of course totally the biggest thing that has happened in that kind of way in jazz films ever I would think. The reports that we got were that they sold tons of the “The Best of Ella Fitzgerald,” “The Best of Duke Ellington,” the “Best of … .” They didn’t sell specific music because of that massive promotion. I should also point out that the little bit of Cecil Taylor they did use, the stole from Imagine the Sound, the film that I made. [laughter from Panel and audience]
Unknown audience member off-mike asks about funding of music.
Bill Smith: In actual fact, the largest organization who helps festivals across Canada is the Canada Council for the Arts. They put in tremendous amounts of money just like the Dutch and the Germans and so on. From my own point of view, from being active in the arts world for so many years, is that without those Councils, I would have never, ever come to Vancouver and played at the Western Front [a Vancouver artist-run cooperative] in the ‘70s.
Mark Miller: If I might add just a cynical thought, really the largest organization supporting the Festivals is a tobacco company.
Bill Smith: Oh he [the audience member] is talking about government rather than private sponsorship.
Alex Varty: I would like to contribute a little on that since I have sat on Canada Council juries. I found the juries are not really interested in definitions of jazz. They have been interested in the quality of the music being presented and whether any new ideas are being advanced. It doesn’t matter if you can put a jazz label on it, from the point of view of the Council.
Bill Smith: In fact it’s not so separate, the Council. It’s more like Music.
Alex Varty: It’s incredibly healthy. I must say, after eight years of running the music program at the Western Front I was getting rather cynical about the Canada Council and its ability to help. When I sat on the Canada Council juries, I actually realized the process is well-thought-out and, what’s the word? Ah. Ethical! So I’m completely behind the Canada Council.
[Laughter from all]
Bill Shoemaker: We have just opened the can of worms.
Bill Smith: We were talking about musicians coming to Canada to play, and it is not really the Canada Council that sends Canadian musicians abroad. It is the External Affairs Department, I think. These Councils that send musicians from other countries to Canada are set up to do that, to promote their music in other countries. The Dutch want musicians to play in Canada so that Canadians hear about Dutch music. They want to be part of their own history and their own promotion internationally. This is a little bit different than to being on Council giving local musicians money. This is to actually make the music move all over the planet. This is what the Dutch and the Germans do. They send them abroad to other countries. Coat?
Coat Cooke [Musician, Artistic Co-Director of NOW, the New Orchestra Workshop]: inaudible.
Paul de Barros: I’m glad it does, and yes, I have talked at length with many musicians about this. My counter to what you are saying is that any of us who grew up playing an instrument were also exposed to western classical music. Why aren’t jazz musicians saying, “Yeah, I really gotta get that Mozart into my music?”
Coat Cooke: I’m working with a player right now who is really interested in improvisation … [inaudible].
Paul de Barros: I agree with you. The context you are putting around it makes a lot more sense that the subtext of what I believe is going on when you talk to people about saying “I want to put the music of my youth in my music,” because the subtext really is: “I want to sell records. I want to put a beat on it or I want to appeal to people who are young because I see that is where the audience is.” I certainly don’t say that is what is going on the minds of a group like Medeski, Martin and Wood, which is one of the most creative improvised groups on stage today and consistently gets dismissed by jazz critics because they say ‘that’s not jazz.” It’s a lot more like early jazz to me.
Bill Smith: Is this because of the same thing we were talking about earlier, about equating popularity with not being creative?
Paul de Barros: And marketplaces, like Bill [Shoemaker] is saying. Even if you say that, it’s not an excuse not to deal with it. That is what happens with it. You’ll appreciate this, Kate [Hammett-Vaughan, a Vancouver-based vocalist-singer]. I had a conversation with Kitty Margolis, a singer in San Francisco. Her new record incorporates a lot of things we are talking about. Kitty was saying “I can’t get this reviewed. Jazz critics listen to it and say ‘That’s not jazz.’” Fine! But that does not mean you can’t write about it?
Bill Smith: Could we move this along to the idea that we are actually at a jazz festival and all the jazz festivals, in Canada anyway, are really quite different. They reflect the personalities of the people who put them on. Whereas I find that a lot of the so-called international festivals have exactly the same musicians at every one of them. Whereas the difference between the Vancouver festival and the Victoriaville or Guelph festivals, possibly the three most important festivals, they have the personality of the person who puts them on stamped upon them. Even though they are supported by corporate money, the corporate money doesn’t make the music. Whereas in some festivals I feel as if it is the corporate money that is making the festival rather than the producer. Could we try to talk about the festivals and what they represent in this process?
Bill Shoemaker: I think that the Festivals are the last line of defense for jazz as a live performing art form. With the exception of just a few cities in the United States, regular commercial venues for jazz are a thing of the past. When bands make tours it is an almost underground proposition. Finding folks in various cities who can find a church hall, some sort of free room for the music to exist in. It’s very do-it-yourself. Given that perspective, the Festivals are really becoming the center or the central forum for jazz as a performing art form. But I would say that the idea of a festival being a personal imprint is something that is not limited to Canada, although Canada is right up there. There are presenters throughout Europe and even in the United States that have done the same. The menu that you tend to see in any given European festival season of the same attractions showing up festival after festival speaks to the entrenchment of an establishment agency-Festival cartel who are in bed with each other, quite frankly. But these are alliances that know no border or stylistic parameter. It’s what is available in terms of buyers and sellers on a given day.
Bill Smith: I should point out, Bill [Shoemaker], that those three festivals were not the only ones. I just meant that I’m a Canadian and I was talking about Canadian festivals. I realize there are also all these other festivals in the world. Mark [Miller], you are traveling these days writing about festivals for the Globe [and Mail].
Mark Miller: I think that with all due respect to your references to Victoriaville, Vancouver, and Guelph, which all happen to be at different times of the year relative to each other, there is a real sameness to the Canadian circuits that are going now. There are acts playing in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, to some extent Montreal, and Toronto. They are just on the circuit. There is the kind of ‘in-bedness’ that Bill [Shoemaker] referred to a little while ago between festivals and the circuits that are set up by various record companies, and circuits that are initiated by the festivals themselves. If there are festivals in this country that have an imprint, you are right, it is the imprint of the people involved with the festivals you referred to. But more generally, I don’t think we can claim that Canadian festivals are free-standing, unique-from-each-other events.
Bill Smith: I didn’t mean they were free-standing, in fact the genius of creating a western circuit was because of these individuals that put on these festivals and this was the only way they can make them travel. I find that in the cities I referred to, these traveling groups are also available to them and don’t pick up the most interesting music, or from my point of view the most interesting music. The most commercial music, but not the most interesting music. So it is not entirely a pass-along situation, they still have to pick from the group which ones they want. This one [Vancouver] picks a wider or more diverse ideology than is used say in Victoria [BC, city close to Vancouver]. Lots of these players aren’t going on to Victoria.
Mark Miller: I think we could probably cite Toronto as being the most egregious example of the city that is missing out on the most interesting things.
Bill Smith: Well that is a deteriorating city, I heard on BCTV news yesterday [laughter]. We only have five more minutes, do we have any other comments from the audience.?
Eugene Holley: [Comments mostly inaudible, but speaks about New York City festival programming and compliments the Vancouver festival programming].
Bill Smith: Thank you for the round of applause, but I would have thought the New York festival wasn’t the JVC festival but actually the Vision festival. I would have a different idea of what the New York festival was because I wouldn’t go hear all those people at the JVC.
Eugene Holley: [Comments mostly inaudible but:] The same kind of people who play at the Vision festival in New York, they play at Studio 16 here in Vancouver and the people soak them up. At midnight! That’s unheard of in New York.
Paul de Barros: I’ve worked as a presenter as well as a critic and I would like to draw a distinction that is very relevant to this festival. There are promoters in this business and there are curators. The people that put on this [Vancouver] festival are curators. They know the music, they are interested in the wide breadth of its possibilities. They think about how to present it to their audiences, they about the history of the music. I don’t think it has anything to do with Canada. It has to do with the fact that the people who put on this festival happen to have found a very lucky chemistry among themselves and hit at the right historical moment and are very good at what they do. But Randall Kline at the San Francisco Jazz Festival raises more private money for jazz than anybody in America and also has a vision. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, despite the fact that it has booked a lot of commercial acts over the last few years has a distinct vision. The Vision festival obviously has one too. The Earshot Festival, though it is small, has a particular point of view. I think it has to do with curating the festival rather than just answering phone calls from agents and saying, “Yeah, we can give you $12,000 instead of $15,000.”
Audience member: [inaudible]
Paul de Barros: And there is more government support yet in Europe. But you can get all the government money you want and still put on a bad festival.
Alex Varty: I also think that something important to mention is that government funding for this festival [Vancouver] very often goes to subsidize free concerts, which allows people with a passing interest in the music to acquaint themselves with it on a deeper level. That also feeds back into our responsibilities as journalists. I think we are allied with the curators at times in putting the music forward, and just having to keep pushing to say, “this is interesting, check it out.” I think Ken [Pickering] and the rest of the festival people are doing a brilliant job.
Bill Smith: Can we end this discussion now and give a round of applause, perhaps, to all these wonderful people who do put on these festivals. [Applause]. Thank you all for coming!