Search & Restore New Orleans

Some of you are probably familiar with the NYC based organization called Search and Restore. It is run by a tireless man named Adam Schatz. Well, Adam is bringing his ever-excited craziness to New Orleans via a three night festival in New Orleans on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Jazz Fest.

Search And Restore: New Orleans is a 3 day festival (April 30th-May 2) celebrating the incredible new jazz musicians, creative composers and improvisers operating in New Orleans today, organized by Adam Schatz (founder of Search & Restore), Justin Peake (founder of the Merged series @ the Dragon’s Den) and Jeff Albert (founder of the Open Ears series @ the Blue Nile)

There is a Kickstarter campaign in place. I know I am always curious about how the Kickstarter money will be used. Your donations will help us guarantee a fair fee for every musician performing in the festival, with equal pay going to every artist in an effort to truly value the work. This financial security will allow us to go above and beyond with promoting the event, so that we can expose bigger and newer audiences to this vital community, and we hope you will be a part of it too!

Please pledge at the $600 level. It is the only way my wife will let me have my favorite summer hair style…

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The Jazz Session podcast needs (your?) support

Wow, two posts in row pointing out friends who are asking for money. I guess such is the world in which we live. The truth of the matter is that the old system of media/entertainment/art/whatever is dying. It no longer does any sort of good job at producing interesting and fulfilling material. The job of producing good stuff has fallen to the artists themselves, and other people who are personally vested in quality. That is why we have artists making and funding their own records now, and that is why some of our best music journalism is done by independent bloggers and podcasters.

This stuff has to be paid for in one way or another. With artists making CDs, the answer is fairly easy: buy their CDs. Jason Crane, who produces the fabulous music interview podcast called The Jazz Session, has adopted a somewhat public radio style way of trying to make his show economically feasible. He is seeking members, people who will make an ongoing commitment to financially support the show. We do these things (produce podcasts, run music series, etc) because we love to do them, but it does cost money to make them happen. Sometimes we can subsidize it from our personal lives, and sometimes we have to ask the people who enjoy this work to step up and help pay for it.

I love Jason’s show. I listen to it regularly and have learned a lot from the interviews. Jason has a wide ranging aesthetic and does a great job of giving exposure and forum to artists whose work falls left of the mainstream. I am a member.

I would recommend that you go to the website and listen to a show or two. There is a long list of artists from which to choose. I particularly enjoyed the Ken Filiano and David Weiss interviews. If you like what you hear and feel it deserves your support, you can join here:

The show needs about 15 more members by the end of Thursday August 11 for it to continue.

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You gotta pay the band

I have produced a few CDs over the years that were solely funded by me, and had no chance of being big sellers. This situation makes budgeting the project difficult, especially when it comes to paying the musicians. In some instances, I have just built a modest (but hopefully respectful) amount of money for each musician into the budget, and paid them for the recording. This makes the gamble mine alone, and makes the bookkeeping much easier, in the unlikely event that the CD actually makes money. We did do the first Lucky 7s CD with the understanding that once the initial investment was made back, we would share equally in the proceeds. No one was paid for the recording on the front end. Happily that CD has made a little money, and every once in a while I get to send each of the guys a check (a small check, but a check none the less).

Recently Kickstarter, and similar sites, have become a popular way of trying to finance recording projects. It is not difficult to see how this could seem more appealing than the personal savings method of financing. There has been a good bit of reaction to this trend, both positive and negative, and some insight as well.

All of this brings me to a new Kickstarter project I was recently asked to support. It is Steve Swell’s Nation of We. Steve has taken the curious angle of running the campaign to pay his band. It is not uncommon for artists to make a recording on their own, and then have a label pick it up. It is also not uncommon for the label to pay the musicians in product, i.e. the musicians provide the master, the label pays for pressing and distribution, and the musicians get paid in product (CDs they can sell themselves to make their money). Unless the CD really sells a lot, there is often no exchange of cash between the label and the musicians. NB: I don’t know that this is Steve’s deal on this CD, I just know it is common practice.

Part of me wants to complain about what a shame it is that we have to resort to organized begging to pay musicians for their creative work. The other part of me thinks it is cool that Steve wants to do right by his band, and that using Kickstarter to offer what amounts to CD pre-orders is a great idea. I’ll save the long form rant for a time when my thoughts on the matter or better organized.

I supported this project, and recommend that you check it out and see if it is something you would like to support as well.

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New Orleans gets Downbeat Critics Poll love

I just received the August 2011 issue of Downbeat Magazine, which contains their Critics Poll results. I have long been ambivalent about magazine polls. There is no doubt that being listing in these polls is a good thing, but there are always so many good musicians who deserve to be listed and are not. Of course there are the usual silly results, like people appearing in the main category and the rising star version, such as Nicole Mitchell who won both categories on flute this year. Then there is Julian Priester appearing in the Rising Star Trombone category. Mr. Priester is near 70 years old, and is on some truly classic recordings. His star has been risen for some time now. In spite of these peculiarities, it is still an honor to make one of these lists. I write all of this to set up this post about how much love New Orleans musicians got in this year’s Downbeat Critics Poll.

Of course this post about New Orleans musicians in the poll is just an excuse to mention that I am listed in the Rising Star Trombone category this year. While I could name a number of other trombone players whose work I admire greatly who are not on the list, it does feel good to know that people are noticing what I am doing. And apparently some other New Orleans musicians are getting noticed as well.

Critics poll

We have our already world renowned musicians who still live in New Orleans, like Terence Blanchard, Herlin Riley, and Nicholas Payton, who got their expected mentions in the Jazz Group, Drums, and Trumpets lists. Our clarinet scene is well represented by Evan Christopher, Dr. Michael White, and Tim Laughlin. NOLA placed 3 trombonists in 4 spots on the Trombone and Rising Star Trombone lists. Delfeayo Marsalis and Trombone Shorty made the grown-ups tableTrombone list, and Trombone Shorty and I were at the kid’s table on the Rising Star Trombone list. It was also nice to see Kidd Jordan get some critic’s love, along with Jason Marsalis on vibes, John Boutté (Rising Star Male Vocalist), and Matt Perrine on sousaphone. I was especially pleased to see Jonathan Freilich on the Rising Star Guitar list and Aurora Nealand on the Rising Star Soprano Saxophone list, both well deserved.

The magazine lists the critics who vote in the poll, and I believe that only two of the voters in this year’s poll are New Orleans residents. The way the scoring works, one must appear on the ballots of at least three critics to make the list, so it is nice to know that critics from outside of New Orleans are aware of what we are doing here, and not just the stereotypical “New Orleans Music” version of what we are doing here, but some of the more creative aspects as well. I got 32 points, which means that at least six critics had my name on their ballot. To those of you who have noticed what I have been doing, thank you, I deeply appreciate the attention.

I hope I can handle the huge influx of CD orders. That is what happens after one makes one of these lists, right?

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Why I de-faced or “This corporate Facebook obsession will be dangerous”

Sometime ago, I deleted my Facebook account. Then a few months ago, I had to start another one, because a professor of mine wanted to do some of the class online discussion on Facebook. That class ends soon, and I will de-face again. Here is why:

I don’t want to be forced into a system that is controlled by a single entity. I think it becomes dangerous. The world wide web was built on the premise of open standards and open access. Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently wrote a great article for Scientific American on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the world wide web. The whole thing is a worthy read, but I will quote only a few paragraphs here:

The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

The idea that I can link to any site on the web, and any site can link here, and any user can follow those links is foundational.

From Hypebot:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used last week’s Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco to share his most sweeping vision yet of how Facebook will fundamentally change the music, film, TV and media industries within the next five years. Zuckerberg believes strongly that insurgent entrepreneurs will “reform” the music, film, TV, news, e-commerce and perhaps many other industries using Facebook as a platform. Facebook will then profit from the value that it has added to the new landscape through advertising and, perhaps, other partnerships.

I saw a billboard today (along I10 in Baton Rouge) for a well known brand of vodka. The website listed on the billboard was the company’s Facebook page. I don’t get it. It’s not like this company doesn’t have its own web presence. I have been told that companies like Facebook, because it has “all those users”, but “all those users” are also available on the open web, plus many more.

Have we forgotten about the last days of AOL, when they were trying to control our internet experience? We should heed the warnings of Sir Berners-Lee and be vigilant for the open web. We will be in trouble if it slips away while we aren’t paying attention, and the curmudgeon in me wants to say that that is exactly what Facebook would like to happen.

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Why I will never fly Vueling airline again (and if you travel with an instrument should consider the same)

Yesterday, I travelled from Seville, Spain to Brussels, Belgium with Hamid Drake & Bindu Reggaeology. Our tickets were sold to us by Iberia Air, but the flight was operated by Vueling. When we boarded the plane in Seville, Jeb and I had no problems getting on with our trombones, but Hervé and Hamid were each carrying a guitar, and they were hassled greatly. Eventually they were allowed to bring the guitars on, but only after all of the other passengers were on, and the flight attendant determined that there was room for the guitars. Even that required some persistent negotiation. At the time, it entered my mind that the two dark skinned band members carrying instruments were hassled and the two light skinned ones were not, but there was no other evidence that it was anything other than guitar prejudice.

When we made our connection in Barcelona, it was a different story. As soon as I entered the plane, I saw the two guitars in the flight attendants area, and thought that we might be in for the same scene, but the flight attendant then told me that I must check my trombone, and said the same to Jeb, actually following him down the isle because he didn’t notice the trombone right away.

I explained that I have flown many times, and the trombone always fit, and that that very morning we had flown on the same airline in the same model aircraft, and it fit just fine, but he adamantly said that there was no other way but to check them with the luggage. We asked if they would gate check them, so that we got them back right at the plane door in Belgium, but he aid that was impossible because they must go through security in Belgium (which was a stupid excuse because the flight would be over at that point, and they had already gone through security). We soon realized that his sole intent seemed to be to exercise his power to see that we were not satisfied customers. Several flight attendants were involved in these conversations, but none of them seemed to have any interest in solving the problem in a reasonable fashion. They kept saying that they were not allowed to make exceptions. He then said that if we want to bring the horns on, we must purchase a seat for them. i said “great, how much are the seats,” and he said, “well, it is too late now to do that,” even tough that had been offered (by a different FA) as a option early in the guitar negotiations in Seville. I left my horn and sat down. Jeb continued to argue that he didn’t trust the latches on his case and asked for tape, which they didn’t have, but eventually the guy told Jeb that he would put his horn in a closet in the cockpit. Jeb asked about mine and he said, “No, it goes under.” So even though they weren’t allowed to make exceptions they did.

I tried to be nice and not become enraged or be a jerk, but that didn’t pay off. I got screwed because I was trying not to be rude to the people. Eventually Hervé left the plane (and caught a later flight on a different airline) because he would not allow them to check his guitars. That seems to have been the right call. My horn was checked, and when I got to it in baggage claim in Brussels, the bell was severely damaged. The case has a big roughed up scuff where it was dropped and that spot aligns perfectly with the damage that was done.

The claims office in the Brussels airport says there is no recourse because the case wasn’t damaged (the big scuff is normal wear and tear). I have insurance and we’ll see how that shakes out. A wonderful repairman, named Jos Briers, in Genk fixed my horn so that I can finish the tour, but that bell will never be the same.

I have never before encountered personnel in an allegedly customer service oriented position that showed so little interest in helping the customer find a viable solution to a difficulty. I have never dealt with another airline that had what seemed like an active vendetta against musical instruments.

The things I have learned from this:

1- If they make me check my horn, I will leave the flight. (Gate check is different) Getting to the gig with an unplayable instrument is the same as missing the gig.

2- The people in Belgium, specifically Taxi Peters Genk and Jos Briers, and great helpful wonderful people.

3- I will never again board a flight operated by Vueling.

Vueling code shares with Iberia and they are part of the OneWorld system along American Airlines. I would like to publicly ask AA to disassociate with these people. I know when I deal with AA that I am dealing with a real airline, when I deal with their partners, I would like to be able to know the same, and in the case of Vueling that is simply untrue.

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good advice for self promoters

A Basic Question Answered :: offBeat :: Louisiana and New Orleans Online Music Resource:

“Why do some bands get attention and others don’t? One of the simplest things those who feel shunned can do is have a print quality photo (a jpg that’s 300 dpi and shot by at least a semi-pro) that can be easily found online.”

Alex Rawls (editor of offBeat) offers some good advice for musicians looking for press coverage.

Of course, I thought that they covered me because they liked the music, come to find out it was just because I had usable photos on my website. Oh well, any press is good press.

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studio story

Stories: Sinatra, Herman and Manne – Rifftides:

Have you ever gone into the studio and had someone say, ‘I want you to sound like the guy who did the drums on … ?’

Shelly Manne:
I did a date with Jimmy Bowen, the song was ‘Fever.’ I had never worked with Jim, but I had made the original record of ‘Fever’ with Peggy Lee. It actually said on my part, ‘play like Shelly Manne.’ So I played it just like I played it originally. The producer stormed out of the control room, walked over to me and said ‘Can’t you read English? It says ‘play like Shelly Manne.’

When I told him I was Shelly Manne, he turned around and went back into the booth. I think he’s selling cars now.”

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Energy Efficiency in the Arts | SOUNDSLOPE

Over at Soundslope, Dan Melnick has presented a thoughtful look at the intersection of the energy economy, and the creative music economy.

Energy Efficiency in the Arts | SOUNDSLOPE:

“An interesting feature of the career of any successful modern jazz or creative musician is the huge reliance on the European market for work. I don’t have any numbers to back up this claim but I know through conversations and anecdotal evidence that the ability to play in Europe regularly is an essential part of any musician’s career who attempts to play this music as a full time occupation.

How would our artists be effected if it was no longer practical for promoters in Europe to fly them over for gigs due to rising transportation costs? Or, even if they could continue to do so, if it cut into the artists’ bottom line, essentially coming out of their paycheck?”

I’m all for world travel in the name of music making (I’m heading to Europe in a week and a half myself), but as Dan alludes, it would be great if we could make good livings closer to home.

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