Jazz Musicians to Protest at 6 NYC Jazz Clubs Tonight

Group says jazz musicians are denied pensions, fair pay and other benefits

A group of musicians called Justice for Jazz Artists will stage a protest tonight in front of six top Manhattan jazz clubs, in order to draw attention to what they say are policies that are keeping some musicians in poverty. Members of the group will hand out leaflets between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Birdland, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Iridium, the Jazz Standard and the Village Vanguard.

According to a press release sent out by Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA), “The top jazz artists in the world live and work in New York City, yet many older jazz musicians are forced to retire in poverty. Even those musicians who play in the most prestigious and profitable jazz clubs are denied basic benefits and pensions. While musicians who play on Broadway and in symphony orchestras are protected by union contracts, jazz musicians are not. The Justice for Jazz Artists campaign seeks to work with clubs to ensure that jazz musicians receive fair pay, modest pension contributions, protection of their recording rights and a reasonable process for addressing grievances.”

J4JA says that the clubs have refused to work with the musicians in order to right the situation. “This is despite the fact that in 2007 the Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA) campaign helped New York City jazz club owners to successfully lobby the State Legislature to waive the sales tax on admission charges, with the express understanding that a portion of this savings would be directed toward a modest pension contribution on behalf of musicians. Since the law’s passage, not one club has made any pension fund contributions,” says the press release.

“Several efforts have been made to engage the clubs in being part of the solution, without success,” said bassist Ron Carter, quoted in the release. “Now it is time for jazz fans to let the clubs know that exploiting jazz artists is no way to show respect for the men and women who fill their venues and sustain this great American art form.”

“All we are asking is for club owners to agree to sit down and discuss a viable solution to a situation that they should frankly be ashamed of,” said John O’Connor, Recording Vice President of Local 802 AFM, in the press release. “Making these minimal contributions to a pension fund would show they truly value the hardworking and skilled musicians who bring patrons through the doors of their clubs every single night-and who deserve to retire with dignity.”

Justice for Jazz Artists, founded in 1997, has launched a new website that allows site visitors to sign a petition and send emails directly to club owners. The site is accompanied by social media-Facebook, Google +, and Twitter.