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Entries in Night of living DIY (1)

Wednesday
May162012

Jazz + House Parties = Happy People

Well this is just an awesome bit of news that happened over the past few days. The Undead Music Festival based in NYC thought to do the coolest crap ever, and for one of the days, the festival organized a “Night of the Living DIY” for jazz folks. It was a night of DIY jazz concerts not just at professional venues but at houses and cool spaces all over New York, the US and the globe - taking jazz back to its roots, and I will definitely participate in some way next year.

Jazz began as this kind of music; played in dingy bars, houses and in the streets. Even when it became popular, black jazz players were not allowed into venues, and frequently played house parties and supper clubs until all hours of the night. Or until they ran out of pot. Whichever came first. On a side note about the munchies, let’s talk about how much us darkies love chicken and waffles. It is delicious. This magical combination started out with jazz players, who played at these late night jam sessions at houses. The hosts usually didn’t know whether to make breakfast or dinner at 5am, so they would do chicken and waffles - the best of both worlds.

Another fun fact is that there used to be (and still are)  jazz house parties called “rent parties” where jazz cats would get together to put on a show to help the resident of that house pay the bills.

These jazz house parties still happen, but not even close to as regularly as they did in the 30’s and 40’s - there’s only one I can think of that happens regularly up in Harlem. So it’s pretty unbelievable that there’s a large orchestrated effort to encourage this again. One of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Schatz thinks traditional jazz clubs, with drink minimums and hounding wait staffs, have done as much to harm jazz's popularity as have those clubs' own scarcity. (It's why Search & Restore typically favors standing rock clubs and other alternative venues.)”

I can’t tell you how much truth there is to this. It was heartbreaking for me as a jazz player to finally get to New York to these famous jazz clubs only to be greeted by condescending staff, rude sound guys, asshole club managers, high ticket prices, and a ton of snotty customers. The vibe that some of these so called fun “jazz” places is really atrocious. I also completely agree about the alternative venues, most of the bands and musicians I played with would much rather play at any other venue than a stuck up jazz club. This is all definitely much more so the case in Manhattan, but there is a overall pandemic of the attitude of like, “well we play jazz so you can’t complain or change anything about how we run this club because we are one of the few ones left.” Which I somewhat understand, but as Shatz implies, these actions are self defeating.

Which is why this DIY concert series is so cool. Cut out the middleman. Make more money. Have people at an intimate show who actually care about the music. The end of the post mentions how with social media it is obviously much easier to organize these kind of shows to attract fans. The article also makes the direct connection that jazz players are already kind of outsiders, and house parties fit into the vibe of this wonderful counter culture.

Super cool shit. I’ll see you guys at the next jazz house party!

Here is a video link to the House Party that still goes on every Sunday in Harlem called “Parlor Jazz,” and run by the beautiful Marjorie Eliot. If you ever happen to be up in Harlem on a Sunday between 4 and 6pm please go to her welcoming house and support jazz! The show is free every week too!