Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tony Lindsay at San Jose Jazz Fest (and me). Thanks Tony
I had a great time at San Jose''s Jazz Festival, and take great issue with the review written by Rich Scheinin, one of the people at the often out of touch newspaper I used to work for, who I usually respect.
Scheinin's complaint was that the festival didn't have enough of the straight-ahead jazz he favors, but I see that as this festival's strength. You can get hardcore jazz at festivals in Monterey or San Francisco, but you can't get stages devoted for two days to gospel, Latin jazz, salsa, blues, R&B and young artists, and be able to wander freely between them.
And the festival crawled late into the night with packed club jam sessions, and hot young artists such as Ryan Shaw.
The salsa stage was so packed Sunday that fire marshals were keeping people out...and it was an outdoor venue. As a critic myself, I know that popularity doesn't mean everything.
But I think Scheinin shows himself to be out of touch with the intent and goals of this festival, which is to please a large group of people and introduce them to all kinds of diverse music, not just one genre.
He lamented not having enough acts to move him to rush to the different stages--but that is a joke. With 125 performers, I wanted to rush all over the place, and could barely see an eighth of what I wanted, including straight ahead jazz. I didn't meet anyone else who shared Scheinin's complaint.
And even he said he saw a few great performances, which for a $5 cover, seems like a great bargain to me.
Scheinin worries that corporate sponsorships may be diluting the festival, but the bigger problem is in the city's lack of financial support.
City government gives the festival about 60K and charges it about 100K in park rentals, security and cleanup.
Contrast that with the 400K it gave the Grand Prix, and you have a real issue. What kind of culture does the car race give and why is it worth more than a great jazz festival?
It also shouldn't have to charge $5 for what was once the biggest free jazz festival in the world. Not because that is a lot, but because it requires fences to be put up all over town and makes the audience feel caged. It doesn't present San Jose in its finest light. Before the charges, people wandered all over town, sat on curbs and lawns and listened and danced comfortably.
San Jose has a knack for ruining people's attempts to enjoy their downtown, and it's given up a lot with those fences. They mar the beauty the city wants outsiders to see.
And it's hard to fault corporate sponsors who have stepped up to the plate to fund known and unknown jazz, and brought so much great music to so many people.