While scrolling through twitter late Monday Night/early Tuesday Morning I saw a tweet by @Elementsofjazz with a link to the official lineup for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I was shocked when after reading through the article all I read about was Elton John, Lady Gaga, No Doubt, and T.I. Not a single well known Jazz artists headlining! How can this be? I was filled with anger and confusion. I sat there for a few minutes trying to make sense of how, in the birthplace of Jazz, the city of New Orleans, would have these non- jazz musicians as the focal point of this festival. This really made my blood boil.
Let me continue by saying that this post is overdue. This kind of crap has been going on for quite some time all over the country. Even last year, New Orleans had acts like Christina Aguilera and Arcade Fire at the New Orleans Jazz fest. The issue is not that these acts are bad. (I have my own opinions on these musicians, but at the moment that’s neither here nor there). The issue is that this is a Jazz Festival. And if we are going to be true to that name, if we are going to take this opportunity to celebrate our music, and bring in a large variety of jazz acts from around the nation and the world, then bringing in acts like No Doubt undermines and destroys the entire purpose of having a Jazz Festival in the first place.
Jazz music is slighted, undermined, and ignored by the general population on a daily basis. All record sales, music award shows, and attendance of live music shows proves this. My theory is not that this music is inferior, but that the market has been manipulated so that jazz music really doesn’t have a chance to be exposed to the general population unless they go out of their way to look for it. These Jazz Festivals are an excellent opportunity for the average person to be exposed to jazz music and not only listen to it, but to be exposed enough where they might take interest in the music after the festival is over. Sure this is more likely to happen at a Free Jazz festival like the one here in Chicago, but still New Orleans is a jazz city, and large crowds are expected at this jazz festival even with paid admission being required.
So instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to celebrate jazz music, to have large crowds of music fans listening to jazz music, to have jazz fest being the buzz in town for back to back weekends in the city of it’s birth, what do the organizers of the New Orleans Jazz Fest do? They shell out big bucks for Elton John, No Doubt, Jimmy Buffet, Pitbull, T.I., Keith Urban! What a slap in the face of the jazz community! Fine our music is not the most popular music around, but this is OUR festival. Calm me crazy, but I thought a jazz fest would have, you know… Jazz!?! This is the birthplace of jazz and to celebrate it you bring in rock, rap, and pop stars? What a disgrace.
Now before you go on and post angry comments like. “Who cares! “so and so” is playing on the first day” and “If you don’t like Jimmy Buffet listen to someone else!” please finish reading this post. I’m well aware that there are many local acts (I believe forty or so) that will represent the New Orleans Jazz scene appropriately. I’m sure you could attend this festival and never listen to those acts I mentioned earlier since Jazz still dominates the festival. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they don’t represent the jazz community. They are diluting this festival and undermining the purpose of having a jazz festival in the first place. Large crowds are traveling to New Orleans to listen to The Who and have no intention of listening to jazz music.
Pitbull doesn’t represent the jazz community. He represents the exact opposite. He represents music corporation manufactured music. Music created solely for the purpose of being consumed by as many people as possible. There is no art, there is no craft, there is only the intent to create a product that will generate a profit. The music is not only not Jazz, but it is the opposite of what nearly every jazz musician is about. If you like Pitbull, or The Who, or No Doubt, that’s cool, but I thought at a Jazz fest, while I may not like every act, I would only be exposed to this type of music. That this was a place where I was safe from that scene. That this was our festival and for these few days, we owned the town. I guess I was wrong.