Kenny Rogers: Jazz Great

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The time has come for my annual ritualistic beating from the Ottawa jazz establishment … such as it is.

The Ottawa International Jazz Festival has come forth with its lineup for this summer and guess what? It’s a tad low as usual on jazz on the main stage. Call me a maverick but your agent believes a jazz festival should have jazz on its showcase venue.

So the jazz festival features country singer Kenny Rogers on his last tour … thank goodness for small mercies.


Video above: Enjoy the jazz of Kenny Rogers.


The fest also gives us Feist, British singer Joss Stone, the Downchild Blues Band and Mavis Staples. Most are wonderful acts but in this jazz-starved community, they aren’t jazz. And that’s what’s on the marque … jazz and funding agencies see the word jazz. Hard to image why my tax dollars are going to support a country music act and the like when so many valuable uses for tax dollars are available elsewhere.

Perhaps the public-funding agencies should review exactly what they are paying for. All the acts above could be brought to Ottawa by private promoters and without tax money. In fact, the whole festival could be done by one promoter and save all kinds of bother plus get roughly the same acts.

But that would mean some all-year festival jobs would disappear.

All this rock and country would no doubt cause festival founding program manager Jacques Emond some substantial discomfort. Emond would stumble over introductions on the live stage but he could balance popular with jazz to produce a great festival. Your agent used to schedule his vacation around the festival in those not-so-long-ago days and buy the most expensive pass available.

Not anymore. If I want to hear jazz outdoors on a lovely June evening, best I delve into my monstrous recorded music collection.

Don’t get me wrong. Your agent misses the jazz festival but all good things come to an end. Perhaps the event could get smaller to actually put jazz on stage but then a lot of full-time jobs would disappear. In defence the fest will break out the schedules from Montreal and Montreux with their rock and country acts to prove the Ottawa version is no different. But that doesn’t make it right.

You know, your agent (with a fair entertainment background) and a couple of friends in the music promotion industry could probably put together a jazz festival plus make a couple of dollars, too. But the festival schedule in Ottawa is too crowded to try that.

For holding these views, your agent has been called a snob and stupid in his former publication the Citizen, a moron by a PR person from the festival and told I have no idea what it takes to put on modern music festival by the same. Of course, your agent was working in the entertainment field before the aforementioned PR type was an embryo  But then your agent thought he knew everything at that age and when the PR type grows up, he’ll be surprised what he doesn’t know.

One thing he doesn’t understand is not to call a media type a moron. That’s likely to come back to bite him … as this post is doing now.

Jazz at a jazz festival. A very logical concept appears to have hit a nerve among the principals.

Wonder why that is? Perhaps a little too close to home?

In the meantime, enjoy the jazz of Kenny Rogers.

 


 

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3 thoughts on “Kenny Rogers: Jazz Great

  1. It’s not just the “Jazz Festival” that’s bringing in all kinds of artists from other genres. You’d be hard-pressed to find any musical festival these days whose line-up reflects the supposed subject of the event. Then they tell us that it’s harder to book enough acts to fill the multiple stages at the festival.
    Here’s a thought – maybe if the blues festival wasn’t booking the rock groups and the rock festival wasn’t booking the jazz acts and the jazz festival wasn’t booking the country acts and the country festival wasn’t booking the folk acts, then the folk festival wouldn’t have to book the blues acts.
    Artists are very careful about over-exposing themselves so, if they’ve been in town recently at another festival, they won’t come to the one that celebrates their style of music no matter how much sense that would make. There’s also a circuit of venues that book the same set of acts so that Ottawa festivals happen the week before or after those in Montreal or Toronto and present the same core line-up. That saves money for the artist in travel expenses and guarantees them a series of shows over a period of time. The festivals can then book that ‘set’ of performers for a lower price and potentially get bigger names than would otherwise be possible.
    Try paring these festivals down to fewer nights, fewer stages and return to the basic music genre that you built the festival on. The real fans might come back and you’d attract people who want to see that type of music. It might not make the money that you get now but it would improve the music which is what it’s supposed to be about.

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  2. Ken,
    A dear old curmudgeon friend of mine earned some of his living playing jazz trumpet. He had many talents but jazz was certainly a passion. He would turn over in his grave if he heard jazz in the same sentence as Kenny Rogers.

    I have enjoyed the songs from Mr. Rogers since I first saw him on Hamilton’s TV station. He was the host in a variety show featuring Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. My friend would have liked him too because he appreciated all talented people.

    I’ve seen Rogers live a few times. A great entertainer Rogers is, jazz he is not.

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