Survey says . . . a few of my readers' thoughts on the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part Two)
This second post on the RIJF survey is a bit more difficult as the responses were so diverse that I think it's best to paint it with a broader brush, highlighting some of the areas where several people had something to say, but not providing a verbatim account (I will use quotes where I am, however). As far as the question about suggestions for the RIJF to see, I will be sending the full responses on to the RIJF staff, both positive and negative (so as not to lose any of their, shall we say, direct and sometimes earthy expression). I appreciate the kind words many of you had about Jazz@Rochester and will take to heart some of your suggestions regarding our RIJF coverage.
If you would change one thing about the RIJF, what would it be?
While some couldn't limit themselves to just one suggestion, there were some themes in the responses to this questions, including:
Comments on the strategy of selecting artists:
- I liked the response from one reader who wrote that the RIJF should "...keep balancing the old and the new...need big names for the draw, and build a reputation as the "Cannes" of new discoveries who are just turning the corner into notoriety."
- Several people thought there should be more local talent included in the festival. More than one suggested a secondary series of shows, like the Nordic Jazz Now series, dedicated exclusively to Rochester area musicians. As one wrote, "[i]f this were the Chicago Int'l Festival, say, then most likely there would be many Chicago-based musicians on the bill.The RIJF is a fantastic opportunity to put some of our best local musicians in the spotlight."
- Several spoke to specific artists or genres of artists they'd like to hear at future RIJFs. One was looking for more "elite" headliners, naming Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, Chick Corea, Asleep at the Wheel, or Taj Mahal and adding "hang the expense." Another spoke to the lack of emphasis on "contemporary jazz & R&B artists such as Lee Ritenour, Fourplay, Bobby Caldwell, Ivan Lins, Patti Austin, Dave Grusin ,Brian Auger, Tower of Power. Another, a fan of artists like John Hollenbeck and John Zorn and the more abstract scene felt there was virtually nothing from that area to check out this year and would like to see more.
- One reader thought there should be bands roving the streets a la New Orleans.
- Another reader wrote of wanting to know the artist roster much more earlier than just one month before the festival begins. The reader wrote that "once the artists have been secured then the blog and various media could start the buzz around Rochester and choices could be made well in advance as to what shows are the most interesting to prospective patrons" (this comment was really on the Jazz@Rochester question, but I thought it fit here).
Comments on the sound:
- "Fix the sound at Christ Church--it was a nearly unlistenable venue this year" (I have to agree with this assessment).
- One reader questioned whether all venues or artists need amplification, including Kilbourn Hall (recalling hearing an acoustic set of the Phil Woods Quartet at Red Creek without mikes years back finding the sound great). Also had words about the tent. Another found that Harro East's sound so bad that "the music suffers greatly."
Comments on the Club Passes, food & other logistical issues:
- There were some who thought that RIJF should try different types of Club Passes, including passes good for the weekends to make it easier for someone visiting from out of town to get all there was to get out of the fest for a particular day and day passes.
- Several had suggestions regarding the food and other offerings of vendors at the RIJF, including: providing more vegetarian options ("vendors were too meat centric and we ended up eating dinner before we left for the festival. If there was a good veggie alternative we would have spent more money at the festival and just ate there"); serving beer brewed by Rochester's High Falls Brewery (OK, the reader said Genny...); and a wider wine selection at Max's.
- Of course, there were issues with the lines and scheduling conflicts (although on the latter, the reader noted that this is a good problem to have). One reader suggested that the times for performances be alternated so that there is no dead/down time; for example 6:00, 7:30; 9, 10 or 10:30. Another suggested having more artists appear on more than one day.
- There was a suggestion for more afternoon concerts.
- One reader says that RIJF needs to "[g]et a different artist to do the poster. What was originally artistic has become a series of cliches."
Comments on the jazz vs. non-jazz:
- On reader wrote that "[m]y worst memories of this year's festival are leaving a wonderful jazz concert and stepping into the street to hear blasting, pounding non-jazz. From the sublime to the ridiculous, literally. It's the RIJF, for crying out loud, not some drunken East End Fest." He also had a problem with the "slobs putting their feet up in Kilbourn Hall."
- Another reader wrote "[p]lease leave the Jerry Lee Lewis shit at home. There's no justification for that as he and others (FS jr. for ex.) are not showing up at the hipper more revered jazz fests across the land and certainly not in Europe."
- However, another wrote "I would like RIJF attendees to stop whining when there are 'other than mainstream jazz' acts at the fest. The RIJF allows us the opportunity to come together as a community and experience musical art that we may not otherwise be exposed to during the course of the year. Just like TV there are some 800 channels to choose from—if you don't like one channel then change it."
What kind of coverage would you like to see more of in Jazz@Rochester during the festival?
While a lot of responses to this question were complimentary, there were several observations and suggestions for coverage of future RIJFs that I'd like to share and solicit your further comment:
- Several spoke to wanting to see more daily coverage and to hear more voices. One reader wrote "[m]ore contributors so broader and timely daily coverage is achieved." Another wrote "[i]t would be neat if you had multiple reporters feeding live updates of various performances so, for instance, someone could've written a rave at the first set of Timo Lassy and folks could rearrange their plans to catch the second set." Another suggesetd that "[I] could rely on more local musicians, especially younger people, for guest reports and things of that nature. I noticed that happened a bit before the festival on your site, but during, you seemed to be flying solo...  more opinions=better coverage to me." The more voices I was working on, but just didn't get it in place beforehand. I recognize the need for more help and will be recruiting some more during the year so we're prepared next RIJF. Let me know if you'd like to contribute.
- One reader remembered an earlier interview of pianist Geri Allen from last year and suggested doing more of that. Interviews are hard work and I just couldn't swing a credible shot at them this year, but perhaps more next year?
- Someone suggested more "DaJazz" podcasts (our inaugural issue from last year is here). Seth, Ken and I just didn't get to it this year. We tried to record one, but it sounded pretty lame, so we didn't inflict it on you.
- Someone suggested more video. I don't have a camera, but I'm happy to post more of it if someone else takes some quality footage and wants to send it my way (or send me a link on YouTube or other video aggregator). There is quite a lot of video of the RIJF available out there and I have been thinking of doing a series of posts highlighting them.
- One person suggested there be less promotion of alcohol. This was one of the surprise comment, but in looking back over my posts, I can see the reader's point. Jazz is often found in close proximity to the stuff, and I do like my beer and other spirits. While I don't like the idea of censoring myself, there is no need to waive the stein in people's faces quite so much.
So there it is. I really got a lot out of this exercise and intend to do this every year. As I noted in the companion to this post yesterday, if you missed adding your voice to the poll itself, feel free to add
your two cents in the comments below on this post (I'd
ask that you add it to the one that includes the questions you want to