Don’t abandon the faithful in a futile bid for a younger audience

Perhaps there is a metaphor in here somewhere for newspapers in general and the new publisher of the Las Vegas newspaper in particular.

We just returned from the 57th annual Monterey Jazz Festival. The program has a feature story titled “Big House With Many Rooms” that carried the subhed: “Rebuilding jazz for a new century.”

The article talked about the younger generation of musicians and the evolution of the century-old genre called jazz. It prominently featured Saturday night’s big attraction in the main arena: The Roots. The Roots weren’t jazz, they weren’t music, they were rap. We walked out near the end of the first “song” and listened to a piano driven quartet in one of the side venues. We feared that would be the case but gave the band a chance.

The Roots

We also walked out of two of the arena acts on Friday night — left the Robert Glasper Experiment when the singer’s voice came screeching from some sort of synthesizer and fled the venerable Herbie Hancock when the only sounds coming from his keyboards were as melodic as a cat with its tail caught in the wringer.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with experimentation and innovation — that is how jazz got its name. But it still should be music. You don’t one day decide to publish the newspaper in pig latin.

We loved the off-beat, belted-out blues of Davina and the Vagabonds and were sorry we only got to hear a couple of tunes from Red Baraat, a group from the Indian province of Brooklyn whose leader, Sunny Jain, encouraged the audience to do a Punjabi fist jab to the beat of their music. Also enjoyed Australian singer-pianist Sarah McKenzie on the Garden stage, as well as SambaDa’s Brazilian tunes.

Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs fame was still innovating but playing actual musical notes.

Jon Batiste & Stay Human rocked the arena with New Orleans-style stage antics and a parade around the arena while playing the melodica.

Marcus Miller’s band played a tune called Blast, which was influenced by a recent trip to Istanbul. (Sorry, Marcus, Dave Brubeck did that 50 years ago.)

Michael Feinstein closed out the festival on Sunday in the arena with “The Sinatra Project” — not imitating Sinatra but singing and playing Ol’ Blue Eyes his way. He did a Cole Porter tune that Sinatra never performed during his collaboration with Nelson Riddle in the Riddle style. Speaking of the next generation, Feinstein was backed by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, made up of high school musicians.

Newspapers are running celebrity gossip, social media rip-offs and lengthy features about youth trends, fashion and so-called music. At least the Las Vegas newspaper has nearly given up on blogs. Haven’t received a “Columns and Blogs” email notice since Aug. 15.

When you go seeking a new, younger audience, be careful to not alienate the faithful.

Jon Batiste & Stay Human

Jon Batiste & Stay Human

Here are a few bootleg videos grabbed off YouTube:

Booker T. without the MGs:

Davina and the Vagabonds:

Red Baraat:


Charles Lloyd:

Jon Batiste & Stay Human (that’s us in the stands at the back of the arena behind the guy in the red shirt):

Michael Feinstein:


9 comments on “Don’t abandon the faithful in a futile bid for a younger audience

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  2. Steve says:

    Looks like you had a good time Tom!

    I like Count’s Vamp’d and Count’s 77 and (when I can) the John Zito Electric Jam on Wednesdays at Vamp’d

    For those who like 70’s rock and roll Counts 77 is the ticket and John Zito makes the middle of the week a great night with the Electric Jam… Local artists get to rock out in a very good venue. AND this is even more fun when Danny Count Koker comes by and an impromptu Counts 77 set happens.

    Vamp’d is the venue the Hard Rock HOPED “The Joint” could be.

  3. Steve says:

    West Sahara east of Rainbow.

    Great people and you may remember Danny Koker from the 80’s on that late night horror flick host show. He was Count Cool Rider. And the “Count” nick has stuck ever since.

    And today of Counting Cars on History Channel featuring his custom shop Count’s Kustoms. It is open to the public daily located on Industrial and Presidio. Just south of Sahara.

    The sound system at Vamp’d was designed by Vince Neal of Motley Crue. There is not one bad seat in the house. And all the tables are cocktail. Good bar food and the Vamp’d Lager on tap is a personal favorite.

  4. Steve says:

    Here is a snippet of “Rocky Mountain Way”
    I took this vid on the Iphone. The audio is acceptable for being so close to the stage.
    The guest on the slide is Frank Hannon of Tesla (the band, not the car) He and Zito play some dueling slides in this bit. AND take a close look at the acrylic guitar Zito is playing…Joe Walsh owned that one, way back in the good old days.

    Click the HD for better quality.

  5. Might need ear plugs.

  6. Steve says:

    Good chuckle.

    It is a rock venue. Don’t judge the sound by my Iphone vid. In fact if you think about it, the sound system has to be good to get a phone’s AGC to get that clear a recording freehand.
    And I was close to the speaker system.
    There a bunch of people all ages at these events. You would fit in OK.
    But you are correct about it getting loud, though with the clean sound it doesn’t effect the ears the way bad audio does.

    AND this comes from a guy who has seen Alice Cooper in concert…now THAT is a loud concert!

  7. Winston Smith says:

    Yeah, Tom, and you might have to lose the cowboy hat for a night 🙂

    BTW, Steve, saw A.C. in ’75 doing Welcome to my Nightmare, and it was loud.

  8. Steve says:

    Alice is always loud. And Tom would not have to lose the hat.

    Though, Vamp’d is a rock club, not a country bar.

    Plenty of bikers like the place and once in a while there are a slew of classic cars and vans around.

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