Jazz News Update: Herding the Jazz Cats

By J. R. Carroll.

Updated. Reeling from the impending cutbacks to WGBH’s programming, the Boston jazz community is beginning to find its footing in organizing a response. First up, a jazz funeral on the 5th of July.

Jazz funeral for Michael P. Smith

New Orleans jazz funeral(for Michael P. Smith)Photo by Derek Bridges [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Following the flurry of outraged—but probably fruitless—messages to WGBH and much, much discussion, the first concrete actions to protest the elimination of Steve Schwartz’s Friday evening show and the compression of Eric in the Evening to nine weekend hours are beginning to materialize.

Saxophonist and activist (saxivist? actiphonist?) Ken Field is organizing a New Orleans-style jazz funeral on Thursday evening, July 5th—the station’s last weeknight edition of Eric in the Evening and the eve of Steve Schwartz’s final show—at 8 p.m. outside the WGBH studios in the Brighton section of Boston.

With his years of experience parading with the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble and the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band (who will be among the participants on Thursday), Ken is the ideal person to put together such an event. Boston area musicians and WGBH jazz listeners will finally get a chance to honor Eric and Steve while—like their NOLA counterparts—dancing through the tears.

Updated. For those planning to take an active role in the music, Ken posted the following information on the event’s Facebook page:

Musicians: Please arrive by 7:45pm.

We’ll be at the corner of Guest and Market Streets. Please do not block the entrance to WGBH, do not go onto WGBH property, and stay out of the street.


1. Solo trumpet (Jerry Sabatini) plays “Peace”, the Horace Silver song that Eric used as his theme for many many years (this was suggested by Greg Loughman and seconded by Russ Gershon).

2. “Peace” ends in Bb with a held note. We’ll all join in on that note, holding notes from a Bb major chord, in a big harmonic vibration.

3. From the basis of that chord, we’ll start a slow processional version of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” in Bb (music is [here]). (If you are still holding the Bb chord, move to F7 for bar 2!)

4. On my cue, that will shift to an uptempo, celebratory 2nd line section.

5. I’ll say a few words, and then we’ll play Down By the Riverside in Bb, uptempo.

6. Russ Gershon will lead a group performance of Eric’s longtime opening theme song “Peace”. [Charts of Russ’s arrangement are available in concert pitch, for Bb instruments, and for Eb instruments.]

Updated. Meanwhile, we now have details about the open community meeting at Boston Public Library that JazzBoston is organizing:

The future of local jazz radio—An open meeting of Greater Boston’s jazz community

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 6:00pm until 8:00pm

Boston, Massachusetts

Members of the jazz community and allies inside and outside the arts world who share our concerns

Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Mezzanine Conference Room

To forge ties, agree on goals, and begin developing strategies for collaborative action to address the immediate issue of WGBH’s withdrawal from weeknight jazz programming and the broader issues of local jazz radio and the place of the music in our city’s cultural life

Conversation led by JazzBoston board members Emmett Price, musician and Chair of African American Studies at Northeastern University, and José Massó, community activist and announcer/producer of ¡Con Salsa! on WBUR FM.

Updated. Fearless Arts Fuse editor Bill Marx’s suggestion for picketing and/or leafleting the upcoming Summer Arts Weekend sponsored by WGBH, the Boston Globe and Citizens Bank has been picked up in the form of a “folk, blues and jazz funeral” by a new Facebook event. (A great many details still need to be worked out.)

Other proposals for actions by the Boston jazz community have emerged:

  • Gathering outside the WGBH studios on Friday night (July 6) to greet and thank Steve Schwartz.
  • Signing an online petition to WGBH management.
  • For those who have made them, cancelling sustainer donations to WGBH.
  • Contacting WGBH trustees and advisors, major underwriters, and local politicians who may have influence on WGBH funding.
  • Raising awareness by government and local/regional economic development organizations that, as Sue Auclair has pointed out, “Members of these [Facebook] pages are music industry professionals including jazz artists, faculty members as prestigious institutions, concert and festival presenters and promoters, publicists, television producers, radio personnel, media, press and more. There is an entire industry in Boston that is impacted by these changes. Boston has a huge music community.”
  • Getting the leadership of Boston-area educational institutions involved in the efforts to preserve jazz programming. (Is this happening? Does anyone know?)
  • Seeking support at a national (or even international) level from organizations and individuals.
  • Asking artists performing at area jazz festivals to speak out, on- and off-stage.
  • Creating an independent nonprofit entity that can accept donations solely for the purpose of supporting jazz programming on WGBH and which will only disburse those funds contingent upon the continuation (or expansion?) of that programming. (Alternatively, create a foundation that will support jazz programming on all Massachusetts noncommercial stations.)
  • Donating to local college stations that play jazz (WHRB, WMBR, …) instead of to WGBH.
  • Taking a page from last year’s Wall Street protests, “Occupy WGBH!” or “Occupy jazz!”

Updated. Coverage in the press—online and offline–continues (with numerous reader comments):

  • Long-time jazz writer Doug Ramsey has posted a provocative article on the place of jazz—if there still is one—on public radio, and readers from across the U.S. have weighed in with their own observations.
  • Brilliant Corners blogger Steve Provizer has followed up his initial post with a hard look at jazz exceptionalism and the media.
  • BU professor (and former producer of WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston”) John Carroll reacted to the programming changes on his Campaign Outsider blog.
  • The Boston Globe published (or should we say buried, given their Saturday readership) a brief editorial concerning the WGBH programming changes. Not a peep in the Sunday paper, of course.
  • HubArts.com blogger Joel Brown has picked up the story about the jazz funeral.
  • Arts blogger Jim Sullivan has also taken notice.
  • So has blogger Jennifer Waits at Radio Survivor.
  • And (hmmm…) the competition has jumped into the fray.

Meanwhile, reactions continue to pour in on the Save Jazz on WGBH Now! and Save Eric in the Evening Facebook groups and the JazzBoston Facebook page, as well as in comments to earlier articles at the Berkshire Fine Arts website, on Jazz Journalists Association president Howard Mandel’s blog, at Dan Kennedy’s website, and on the Radio-Info.com Discussion Boards.

The cats are gathering, ensuring that there will be more fireworks after Independence Day.

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