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Are we "laying off" jazz during this recession?

jazz stockAs the effects of this recession take hold, some are asking whether jazz is recession-proof,as in a recent post on musing on the "big elephant in the corner of the jazz club that no one is mentioning" of what may happen to the music as the layoffs and financial uncertainty unfold.

Some might say we don't have it so bad here in Rochester.  Unlike New York City, the focus of the post, we here in Rochester don't suffer from the same level of wallet-draining effects of a night out hearing jazz music(my recent foray to see Joey DeFrancesco and Larry Coryell at Iridium was a reminder for me). At many local jazz gigs we pay (less) for the drinks and our jazz usually comes with no cover and no drink minimum, not to mention the parking (we howl here when parking is $5...I used to be thankful when I could find parking within a mile that didn't cost $20 or more in Chicago). However, we are getting more than our fair share of layoffs and pink slips around here (and have for quite awhile before the recession started) and, let's be frank, the audiences at jazz gigs were nothing to brag about before this economic mess started. The real issue, as jazz writer Howard Mandel notes in the comments to the post, is how this recession will affect the musicians themselves: 

Musicians will carry on--there's no evidence of musicality vanishing in the financial meltdown--but there are few young players emerging who believe they can survive without doing something other than playing. Let's not kid ourselves that jazz is immune from economic downturns.

Sure, the music will survive. It survived the 1930s and has done OK during all the other recessions since then. But don't kid yourself. Like the rest of us, musicians will have to make choices when faced with the realities of this economy and sometimes those choices will undermine their art. And it is not only the musicians. Venues around here are already cutting back on the amount of live music. Restaurants in general, on which our local jazz scene is heavily reliant, seem to be getting hit pretty hard. Some of them will not be around in a year or two. I wouldn't hold my breath on jazz getting much of the stimulus package.

We here in Rochester are blessed with incredible local talent, young and old, a major music school, a jazz festival that is putting us on the international jazz map, and more than our share of opportunities to hear artists from out of town who played NYC or Toronto the night before and are known to jazz audiences throughout the world. So what can we do?  Like I ask most Wednesdays in the Jazz@Rochester jazz listings, just try to get out and hear some live jazz. Take a chance on an artist, either local or from out of town, who may not be familiar (I try to link to sources where you often can hear them or watch a video of a performance). Even if we are still heading for harder times, at least we'll doing so tapping our feet and nodding our heads.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how this recession will be affecting the music in Rochester and in general in the comments to this post. 

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.


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