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June 23, 2008

On the Road Because …?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 8:01 am

This passage by David Freedman from WWOZ’s “OZone” newsletter was brought to my attention this morning:

Why does WWOZ go on the road for these remote live broadcasts [at Bonnaroo and Telluride Jazz Festival]? It’s our relentless support of live music, in our desire to showcase the likes of Dr. John, the Nevilles, George Porter, Henry Butler, Trombone Shorty, the Dirty Dozen, Wolfman, Big Sam — at their most spontaneous, creative New Orleans best, direct from festivals and clubs around the world. It’s our desire to help publicize these remote outposts that give our musicians work and additional audiences. It’s our commitment to deliver to our listeners a multitude of magical memories and to spend time with all those who have New Orleans in their heart. We find them everywhere — Detroit, California, the Virgin Islands —everywhere.

First, doesn’t it seem like shows that present the musicians at their most creative and spontaneous would be here, where there’s no schedule, no closing time, familiar audiences, and the music is integrated into their daily lives?

… and publicize Bonnaroo? Is a visit from the WWOZ mobile broadcast unit really the thing necessary to help this junior league, word-of-mouth festival hit the big time? Does ‘OZ really think the festival with musical and professional roots in New Orleans will suddenly forget about us if not for the intrepid mobile unit to the rescue? Considering what a good market Colorado has been for New Orleans music, It’s similarly hard to believe that bookers at Telluride were on the fence about whether or not to book Dr. John and the Neville Brothers, and needed a shout-out from WWOZ’s mobile wagon to tip the scales and remind them to keep booking area talent in the future.

There’s a lot to chew on in this – the wisdom of sending a mobile unit to Bonnaroo and Telluride in the summer when a gallon of gas is four dollars-plus, whether or not this is the best way to spend Jazz and Heritage Foundation money, and whether or not these broadcasts are spreading the gospel of New Orleans music or a limited vision of it – one that is working hard to recreate the cultural product of a culture that no longer exists. 

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4 Comments »

  1. so maybe this isn’t the best use of j&h foundation $ but give OZ credit for following the A list musicians out of town for the summer. I would hit JVC NY, Montreaux , North Sea, and Marciac jazz fests too if funding were available. Promoting the culture? more like a good excuse to get out of town and see/ document some good shows – can’t blame them for that.

    Comment by CB — June 23, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  2. It’s not necessarily the J&H money. It’s your money that you or someone else gave to the station during a fund drive.

    Whether the culture no longer exist or not is a bigger debate. I think it does, but not in the same way or form and it will probably never be what it was, but it wasn’t that way before the flood and it wasn’t that way during Jim Crow and they were saying the same things when bebop took over swing music. On the other hand, the culture of New Orleans is the people, and most of those people are not here, and that is a bigger problem and a crime!

    What is the music of the culture of New Orleans? It is not monolithic, and is it the Happy Talk Band any more than it is Neville Brothers? It is not the bullshit Dixieland and watered down funk that they put out for tourists. Let’s not even get into the fact that the city loves the music when they can profit from it or show it off, but when it is a genuine, street level celebration, they stomp it like a palmetto bug (see second line stories in June Offbeat) To me, it’s Rotary Downs, Naked On The Floor, Walter Wolfman Washington, Freddy Omar, Galactic, Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth, Mystikal, and the Next Generation. Or do the powers that be at OZ define (and limit) the culture via what they broadcast? It’s not the programmers because some, not all, are broadcasting a wider range of music than before the storm. Or is it that you’re not going to hear the Morning 40 Federation live on OZ because they can’t do a set without excessive cussing that can cost the station a lot of FCC money when some old biddy in Gentilly complains? And when OZ goes to another festival, they should broadcast the acts that you can’t hear here like the national jazz and blues acts that don’t come to New Orleans. This, unfortunately for us natives living here but good for the broadcast, means the Neville Brothers.

    Also interesting is that Ozone doesn’t even say whether they are promoting what will make good radio, which should be their priority, not promoting Big Sam who, while great and deserving of great praise, has done more live broadcasts for OZ than anyone of a set that is more or less the same.

    Anyway, more food for debate.

    Comment by Jazz Lunatique — June 24, 2008 @ 5:48 am

  3. CB – I understand wanting to get out of town, too, but keep it real.

    Lunatique – I feared when I wrote “a culture that no longer exists,” I was moving too fast. My bad, though I stand by the thought. Any cultural product is the product of a people in a specific place at a specific time; the product is a response to the world they live in (or the ideas floating around in it). Once that moment has passed, it no longer exists. When Rebirth developed its take on the brass tradition, it was a response to the model provided by the Dirty Dozen and a moment when people were asking interesting questions about the nature of brass bands. The brass bands in Rebirth’s mold today sound disconnected from the time and place they live in, instead recreating a moment from the past.

    That may be overstating things a little because anxiety about the relationship between our past and present (and the fear that we’re losing the good thing of yore) does seem to be an ongoing New Orleans characteristic, but why isn’t a brass Public Enemy emerging? Is “Casanova” really speaking to our time? And did Rebirth really nail all there is to do with a brass band? The Soul Rebels certainly suggest that there’s more to do; does anybody want to get on it?

    You also asked (I think rhetorically), “Do the powers that be at ‘OZ define (and limit) the culture via what they broadcast?” I contend that ‘OZ to a greater extent Jazz Fest do exactly that by helping to create a market for certain types of bands, and through their programming create the impression that certain types of music are THE music of New Orleans, and others such as the Happy Talk Band and Morning 40 Federation are minor subsets. This is a long, complicated conversation that I’m sure we’ll return to over and over, but in short – yeah, I think ‘OZ does play a limiting role.

    Comment by Alex Rawls — June 24, 2008 @ 6:41 am

  4. The biggest issue, besides gas prices and culture, is why in the world ‘OZ would spent tens of thousands of dollars on a vehicle that is eventually going to end up on the scrap heap. How many years and/or miles from now is irrelevent. How about using that money as an investment in infrastructure, to establish an endowment, or simply put it in the bank for a rainy day? Who authorized the purchase in the first place? How much did it cost? How much does it cost to travel to these remote locations to broadcast bands that by and large put on better sets at home?

    Comment by Jay — June 25, 2008 @ 7:52 am

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