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COIN OF THE REALM - Money, Politics and Jazz in Chicago
(Published: January 07, 2015)

It was a summer of controversy for the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC). The flagship Chicago 
Jazz Fest swirled with public discontent over booking issues. I found myself uninformed and 
decided to take a closer look.

After months of digging, the greatest discovery is the JIC is designed to be the best appointed
organization for running an event of this nature. Beginning with the Association for the 
Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), this model of non-profit community activism is a
proven success. The threads of connectivity between noblesse oblige, city government, and 
the network of program operators, form a cohesive front and allow the City of Chicago to offer a free summer weekend of jazz, in its marquis lakefront park.

Nobless oblige...a pillar of the creative world. How much classic art would exist without church sponsorship, how much Mozart without imperial Europe' At the turn of the millennium, jazz 
became a cause célèbre in Chicago. A lavish amount of money flows into the institutional effort affirming jazz as our city's preeminent music entertainment industry. Boeing, no less, was the prime motivator in the formation of the Chicago Jazz Partnership in 2005.

The list of partner contributors to the 2014 Jazz Fest reflects a broad cross-section of foundations, trusts, and corporate sponsorship. Without an effective method of distribution, this largess risks waste. Enter the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). This division of city government presents and promotes free festivals, exhibitions, performances and holiday celebrations each year in city parks, the Chicago Cultural Center, and other venues throughout the city.

The Chicago Jazz Fest must be a free exhibit appealing to traditional and publicly familiar 
interpretations of jazz. A beautiful weekend in the park for the fair citizens. It takes an 
organization to pull it off, and personnel at the JIC work a complex room. This level of 
interaction is the territory of professionals, not musicians.

It is a worthy moment when we reflect on history. The story begins in the raucous Chicago of 
the 1960's. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) formed amid 
cries of inequality and the horror of riots. Black America reached the boiling point in the early 
sixties and was ready for action. Of the organizations that became instrumental in the "black 
revolt": NAACP, SNCC, SCLC, and CORE, most important for the AACM was CORE, the 
Congress of Racial Equality. Several members of the AACM joined the Chicago founded 
CORE and helped to combat racism in employment, housing, and education policies.

Originally formed as an organization to help musicians find work, the AACM expanded their 
reach and addressed social concerns by providing free music education and instruments to 
the children of inner-city Chicago. In time, the AACM earned support from philanthropies such as the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust. Their model of non-
profit activism was a success to be envied.

In 1969, Muhal Richard Abrams, a founding member of the AACM, brought this organizational template with him when creating a new entity, the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC). With minor 
variations, its mission statement duplicated the the AACM mantra, a dedication to advancing 
the art form and a commitment to education. The nascent JIC membership included a more 
representative cross section of the city's jazz population with the addition of Art Hodes, Joe 
Segal, and Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records, among other local jazz luminaries. This 
was to be the AACM, writ large.

As the city consolidated several lakefront music events in 1979, the JIC began its tenure of 
organizing and booking the Chicago Jazz Fest. The jazz community held its ground. This was 
no small feat considering the domination of rock and a nascent hip-hop scene. In 1996, 
community activist Lauren Deutsch was appointed its Executive Director, and consolidation 
accelerated. Among her accomplishments was a partnership with the Chicago Park District that brought jazz programming to select communities throughout the city, forging even more 
political ties.

The educational imperative has an interesting evolution. Is there any downside to music 
education, regardless of content or target' In this case, the jazz zeitgeist is replenished by 
reinforcing a target style early in the education cycle. For the sense of order, some "things" 
are omitted. But hey, it's not nihilism, it's music.

To say that the "big" decisions are not about music is too simple. There is a risk devoting effort into every creative salient and judgments need to be made. Musical issues sometime have a different priority. The larger group involved here has a perception of jazz, as they wish to hear it. More than a vision, it's the "bread and circuses" aspect of governing several million people in one of the world's larger metropolitan areas. And it's something the city government does right, for a change.

Most of the current problems arise from personality issues. How can this be news' We can 
only speculate about another's words and actions but it is important to recognize "alpha" 
personalities in their chosen profession, competing with other "alpha" personalities that we 
have no knowledge of. Charm is a commodity. The coin of the realm; the aggregate 
resources of revenue, regulatory authority, and operational programming; exists in balance. 
Many personalities will float in and out of the gravitational center of influence, but the system 
works on.

In the mean time, enjoy the show.

More Information: http://thechicagoprogressive.com/MUSIC0115.html

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