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Jazz Beyond Jazz Blog
July 8, 2012

Funding Jazz Projects:  Kickstarter and Other Pleas
Actual Story

By Howard Mandel

Do-it-yourself practicalities pertain to serious jazz projects — artists whatever their art form do what they must to fund their projects. Hence Kickstarter, the platform that seems to have become the functional alternative to asking wealthy patrons to underwrite expeditions, experiments and print folios. That model worked for Columbus, Edison and Audubon, so why not for Franz Jackson, Electric Ascension and the Peace Old Jazz Band?

Kickstarter started as an alternative way to connect with venture capital, not meant to be a funding end-in-itself but rather to launch things that would eventually be self-supporting. Given the tough economic times, of course musicians turn to platforms like ArtistShare or Kickstarter, but it goes against my belief jazz should engage with the market as a balance against becoming precious and elitist. Also, Kickstarter takes a small percentage of the donations simply for providing the platform, and projects get no $ if they don’t reach their goal.

The results of a Kickstarter campaign are not as completely out of the applicant’s control as applying for the very few grants available to jazz artists today, and good things have come out of it, including Darcy James Argue’s second recording, Nogales NM’s Charles Mingus Jazz Festival and $76,000 for the group Search and Restore to video document new jazz performances in NYC. Current interesting projects crying for donations include:

The deadline is Tuesday, July 10 — act now: Franz Jackson was a long-lived, life-long jazz reeds expert and vocalist, active from the Roaring ’20s through 2008, and would be an unlikely candidate for posthumous release if his daughter wasn’t going the Kickstarter route to issue a 2-cd set of his last concert, a three-hour session with all-star guests performed on his 95th birthday (he died six months later). She only seeks $9000, and last I looked was but $150 short of that goal. Jackson recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, James P. Johnson, Fletcher Henderson and also jammed with Johnny Griffin, Ira Sullivan and Von Freeman. In some countries a man like Jackson would be celebrated as a cultural hero — here devotees to his music must take responsibility for preserving a moment of America’s indigenous art. Even at age 95 Jackson could play strongly and with spirit; it is be well-worth having his last date available.

Channeling Coltrane: A concert video of Electric Ascension  Larry Ochs of ROVA Saxophone Quartet has convened a stellar ensemble to perform one of John Coltrane’s most daunting works, challenging to musicians and listeners alike. His goal of $30,000 would cover a professional five-camera shoot of an “Electric Ascension” performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival (in Canada) on September 7, 2012. Filmmaker John Rogers who will direct, edit and distribute the final product, is likely to loose $ on the final product (according to Ochs) but approaches the projected as a “dedicated artist who looks at this the same way we musicians do.” A labor of love and independence, the film will be a boon to listeners in the future who are trying to figure out just how “Ascension” works and sounds, as well as capturing a key performance by the ROVA Quartet plus Nels Cline on electric guitar, Fred Frith on electric bass, Hamid Drake on drums, Jenny Scheinman and Carla Kihlstedt on violins, Ikue Mori and Chris Brown on electronics, and Rob Mazurek on cornet and electronic. (That personnel is at some remove from the original; what we wouldn’t kick in to have video from Rudy Van Gelder’s studio the day the Coltrane quartet w/McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison plus second bassist Art Davis served as platform to Trane, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown, John Tchicai, Dewey Johnson and Freddie Hubbard?)

Uli Gaulke is finishing a film documentary about what he claims is the oldest band in the world – ages 65 to 87, the Peace Old Jazz Band, originally from Shanghai — and it’s trip through the past 30+ years of Chinese history to play at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague. But he’s been hit by music rights costs exceeding the budget, and is trying to raise $25,000  via Kickstarter by August 4. As of this writing, less than $2k has been pledged. Principal photography is completed, editing is in gear, and if Gaulke, a German, gets the bucks he wants the film may be presentable by early 2013. Some of the musical clips — “fortune cookies’ — are here. ( passwords POJB1 – POJB7 if necessary). One thing nice about this campaign: if they raise more than they’ve called for, Gaulke and his producer Helge Alberts will donate 10% to the music school run by Mr. Zhang – the pianist in the Peace Old Jazz Band. The rest of the surplus they say they’ll use on English lessons for Gaulke and to make a 35 mm negative and prints for distributions to less-developed cinema markets.

Pianist-composer Bob Albanese wants to make a record called Just Play! with Eddie Gomez, the estimable bassist, and drummer Willard Dyson; to do he’s seeking $4,500 by July 31. A former Berklee College of Music student, influenced by the iconic pianist Bill Evans (in whose trio Gomez was long a stalwart), Albanese has a lovely touch on the keys but doesn’t tell his Kickstarter story with much focus. He just wants to make an album — he was determined to record it last weekend, but that’s only the start, and he’ll have to pay for studio costs, editing, mastering, etc. In the ol’ days a small indi record company might have taken a $5k bet on him, but now that’s not much happening. Kick in or wait to buy the eventual album, assuming someone else had greater interest in this trio getting its shot and contributed to make sure you as well as they would get to check it out.

Luis Muñoz is a Costa Rican-born percussionist-composer who lives in Santa Barbara and is seeking $9000 to create a cd, dvd and performance of his composition Luz, which he says was inspired by “the concept of illumination, darkness and light as paths and by the capacity of humans to travel freely and at will from one to another.” The music on Muñoz’s Kickstarter video is gentle to the point of limpidity. Footage for the dvd has already been shot, during a performance in Costa Rica.

Mark Ruffin, program director of the Real Jazz channel on Sirius/XM radio, wants to produce a memorial album to Gil Scott-Heron, as a follow up to the cd he produced with vocalist Giacomo Gates, which was a tribute done while GSH was still alive. Singer Charenee Wade is Ruffin’s choice — as he writes, “a woman to give a different point of view to the material” — and he intends to have bassist Christian McBride, pianist Marc Cary, vibist Stefon Harris in the band. “ I already have six grand promised, but need another seven to have the project shine,” Ruffin says in his project description. With 29 days to go, he’s raised $101 so far.

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