Quick response to this year’s Jazz Fest talent roll out:
– It feels old to complain about the lack of contemporary jazz at Jazz Fest, but this year’s lineup looks like the jazz bookers threw their hands in the air and quit, opting almost entirely for locals. I see Esperanza Spalding, David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco, smooth jazz in Dave Koz, and two Latin jazz artists (Pedrito Martinez, Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Band with Terence Blanchard). For the second year in a row, the contemporary jazz offerings are so meager that they should shame Jazz Fest.
– The heavy influx of rock and indie rock is a thorny issue. On one hand, I want to see a lot of those acts, and I think they’ve booked about as consistently as can be managed with an eye to a Jazz Fest/roots music aesthetic. Most of the rock bands can be seen as contemporary expressions of roots-oriented musics. Still, their presence does serve to mute the difference between Jazz Fest and other major festivals. A passage in Keith Spera’s article this morning on the lineup almost lets the cat out of the bag:
After the Eagles and Petty were confirmed, the festival received a call from the Foo Fighters camp. Ten years ago, Davis likely would not have considered a raucous arena rock band of such recent vintage. Pearl Jam’s well-received set at the 2010 Jazz Fest paved the way.
“Pearl Jam opened that window,” Davis said. “That was the first time we got on that ledge.
“We look at icons, people that are, besides talented and brilliant, important in a whole genre. We’ve always looked at it in the Santana sense, or the Al Green sense, or the Allen Toussaint sense. We saw that in (Pearl Jam’s) Eddie Vedder. And you have to see that in (Foo Fighters frontman) Dave Grohl. He is a seminal figure in a few decades of American rock.”
Spera’s suggestion that the reception Pearl Jam received made the Foo Fighters’ booking possible seems to acknowledge that ticket sales and audience reception and not some aesthetic rubric governs decision-making. That’s certainly what critics have charged for years, but Quint Davis’ quote doesn’t exactly echo what Spera says; instead, he talks about Grohl as “talented and brilliant, important in a whole genre … a seminal figure in a few decades of American rock.” Not exactly a defense of the booking in terms of how he fits into Jazz Fest, but not a concession that it’s all about the money either.
Still, could Davis sound less excited by this development? “Pearl Jam opened that window. That was the first time we got on that ledge.”