JAZZ - COMPLACIENCY VS CONSISTANCY

THE PITTSBURGH JAZZ FAN APPRECIATION EVENT

Hi everyone! For the past few months Bob Davis and a few other folks have been on my case about writing this piece. I was going to write something for Black Music Month but it just did not feel right to me. After all, every month is Black Music Month and our music should be celebrated all the time. Not just for some sort of "special occasion". Kevin Amos has not been complacent but steadfast and consistent.

Great Black Music, as a lot of us call it, is celebrated each and every day across the universe. Sun Ra often stated. "We travel the spaceways". We make the journey to spread the word. Personally I have been spreading the message for over thirty years now as a broadcaster, music advocate, writer, musician, promoter and events planner. All of this did not happen overnight. It has taken a lot of hard work and has not always been fun. However, I have been consistent in my exposure of our culture to many people be it Jazz, Reggae, Rock, Blues, Soul or Gospel. In other words I just don't talk the talk but press on, outweighing the negative and accentuating the positive. If you remember, the Pittsburgh area is the home of many Jazz giants. Earl "Fatha" Hines, Roy Eldrige, Earl Garner, Ahmed Jamal, Billy Strayhorn, Dakota Staton, Horace Parlan, Art Blakey, Mary Lou Williams, George Benson, Jimmy Ponder, Stanley Turrentine, Ray Brown,Mickey Bass and many, many others. We are quite proud of our Jazz tradition and we have an awesome live Jazz scene.

The Jazz Fan Appreciation Event is built on an old model that some of us forgot. That model is supporting local community establishments, supporting musicians, bringing folks together and just showing up. Creating partnerships has been central for the promotion of this event. Soul-Patrol.com, the New Pittsburgh Courier, Nu-Groove Records, Shanachie Entertainment, Aprils on the Avenue, Malika's Gallery, and Little E's Jazz Club have been very supportive.

Local businesses survive when people support the establishment by having a chicken dinner, buying an affordable drink (water included) and by not having to pay $25 or more just to get in the door. The music comes back to the community from where it came from. Musicians get paid a fair wage. They also increase their fan base by exposing their music to a wider audience. In addition, musicians come together for a good old fashioned jam session. Younger musicians get a chance to really go to school by honing their chops and sitting in. The monthly event that I created does just that.

Over the past year, more than 2,000 people have attended the sessions. We were even able to have presentations in two of the Pittsburgh city parks and also created two new venues for these free musical events. Economic opportunity has been created for both venues owners and our core group of musicians that play at the sessions. The artist plays an important role in the economic life of our neighborhoods and our nation.

We cannot just sit on our hands and do nothing. This event can take place anywhere in the world. It just takes some initiative. On that note let's discuss the impact this event has made and who is actually attending. The overwhelming amounts of new and "regular" patrons of this event are not African-American. Even though members of our community have disposable income, some find it difficult to support this event. Note there is an exception. When the events are held in a city park, everyone shows up.

The only solution to lack of support is to step up educational and promotional efforts. That is what you must do to get folks to "just show up". Future plans are to increase sponsorship opportunities for potential partners and create spinoffs of this event.

In closing I would like to leave you all with a statements made by President Obama and the late Abbey Lincoln. I think this sums up what the objective is.

"Throughout our history, African-American music has conveyed the hopes and hardships of a people who have struggled, persevered and overcome. Through centuries of injustice, music comforted slaves, fueled a cultural renaissance, and sustained a movement for equality.

Today, from the shores of Africa and the islands of the Caribbean to the jazz clubs of New Orleans and the music halls of Detroit, African-American music reflects the rich sounds of many experiences, cultures, and locales."

"African-American musicians have created and expanded a variety of musical genres, synthesizing diverse artistic traditions into a distinctive soundscape. The soulful strains of gospel, the harmonic and improvisational innovations of jazz, the simple truth of the blues, the rhythms of rock and roll, and the urban themes of hip-hop all blend into a refrain of song and narrative that traces our Nation's history."

"These quintessentially American styles of music have helped provide a common soundtrack for people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, and have joined Americans together not just on the dance floor, but also in our churches, in our public spaces, and in our homes."- President Obama

"I was looking for the people who were making the music inside the cabinet.

I would look in there and see if I could find somebody who was making all this wonderful music."- Abbey Lincoln

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Kevin Amos