In Memoriam: Ken Levinson

 

If you’re in contemporary jazz, then you probably heard of Ken Levinson before. You probably knew him on Facebook, or if you travel, you hung out with him and his wonderful wife, Robin, at many a show.

What you don’t know is that Ken Levinson was one of the people thanks to whom contemporary jazz had stayed alive. Ken created the Smooth Jazz Spot FB groups, which became the place for advertising jazz shows. This is where so many new artists came to show us all what they could do. In 2010, when the radio stations were collapsing left and right, Ken was the one who took it to the social media networks, and kept an entire genre breathing.

A true unsung hero to us all. A friend to many. A voice of reason and of peace in many ways. Someone calm and steady, someone with a long-range view of things, someone who knew what to do, how to go about it, and enjoyed everything he set himself out to do.

To this day I remember 2011 – Oasis Jazz Awards went under, and both he and Bruce Nazarian got on the phones, mobilized everyone, and salvaged the event within 24 hours. Smaller scale, of course, but the artists who were there already had a gig, had an audience – and those two were to thank for it.

I met Ken and his wonderful wife, Robin, later that year. Dave Koz show in Atlantic City.

And again, in Ft. Lauderdale, 2012? I think? before I sailed off on CapJazz that year.

To all of us, to many, many of us, he was The Smooth Man.

Guys, I ask you this: donate to the family at this link: https://www.gofundme.com/2kxke90

Please. For our Ken.

K.G.

 

 

Posted in The Usual | Leave a comment

So the ‘deferment’ is over.

So today, I mark a milestone: I paid off the last piece of my student loans. The yoke is off my back, the mountain is off my shoulders – insert whatever metaphor you feel is appropriate for the occasion.

Let me make this clear: I did not do this alone. I did have financial help in paying it off. And I know my peers are not so lucky.

And for all the relief I feel at getting this particular burden off my shoulders, for all the spike that I can expect of my credit score once the bureaus process that this gigantic part of my financial life is, finally, paid in full – for all that relief, I feel like I’ve been cheated in the long run. I don’t regret my education, and never will, but if I have to ask if it was worth the 65K of debt I graduated with? No. It wasn’t. I shudder to consider the total amount paid back if I include the interest, but it’s still lower than the payment plan I have been assigned on graduation. I may’ve paid back a small fortune, but I also saved.

Overall, though, my feelings are mixed.

All my life, everyone older than myself always told me: get a good education, get a good job, and that’s the only way you’ll survive. I’ve been told, repeatedly, that Being A Professional is the only way to ensure any and all sorts of financial future for myself. I’ve been told that hard work gets me anywhere I want. I’ve been told that college is The Only Way to do this.

Right now, knowing that the hard financial road has been traveled and is at an end, I frankly feel that this is complete bunk. I feel like this narrative is a lie when applied to this generation. It’s just not feasible to push this on those of us who 1. don’t come from money, even a lower-ish tier of money, and 2. who have to shell out more than what they can afford just so they can come near having a bite at the apple, or 3. those of us who are better off working with our hands. Because really, that’s what it all boils down to in everything these guidance counselors and Well-Meaning Wilmas say: go to college or you’re worthless. Never mind that jobs don’t come from the sky and there’s not enough of them to go around, and there is always a need for manual labor, which is now looked down upon because…it’s not college.

While I’m all for education, and I’ll always be pro-college – especially pro-tuition free community college for everyone, because it does teach a person to see the world a little bit differently – I am definitely against people treating manual or vocational labor as “less than”.

I think that a lot of my peers, myself included, would’ve done a lot better if some of us were trained at a vocational school, taught to build and create and fix things. It would’ve ensured work for life – because really, we will always need plumbers and carpenters and builders – and it would’ve done so with next to no debt upon graduation. Thirteen years ago, when I was graduating high school, working for 30K a year could’ve still afforded one to live alone, even here in NYC, and right now, even the concept of living alone is becoming somewhat of a joke. In fact, I still wonder at times whether or not I should’ve just applied for the MTA and learned how to operate a train – if only because it would’ve cost me less in the long run in terms of loans, and who knows? I may have been a homeowner by now too.

When the previous generation went to college [I’m somewhere between Gen X and millennial, so by prior generation, I mean Baby Boomers], tuition didn’t go past about $4,000 per year, and even working as a waiter in a restaurant would afford one a house. And houses did not cost an arm, a leg, and an offspring back then, of that I’m sure.

Of course, this is no longer the case.

Tuition when I went to college, in 2003, was $19,000+ per year, and I got lucky because my school froze tuition rates if the student managed to graduate within 5 years. I did it in 4, because that was expected of me, my tuition stayed the same, I got scholarships where I could and loans where I couldn’t, of course, and I got the requisite 30K a year starter salary with my first job after graduation, only to discover that this pays diddly-squat in terms of bills. I could barely cover student loan minimums, and rent? LOL. That’s funny… yeah, except for the part where it totally isn’t funny when you can barely put food into your stomach because of loan payments. Yes, I lived at home – I couldn’t afford to live solo. And unless the RE bubble in NY bursts harder than the last time, I am coming to terms with the fact that I probably won’t live alone until I’m in my forties at least – if ever.

And right now, nine years after I walked across the stage and got my diploma, where am I, exactly? I paid out what could’ve been a mortgage, and for what? The past nine years, I’ve been aware only too keenly that I’ve been screwed on a financial level, and the bamboozle continues, because my alma mater’s undergraduate tuition rates have only continued to spike, and it seems like no one, apart from those of us who have gone through it, sees anything wrong with colleges and lenders reaping profits on the backs of an entire generation.

Because seriously: my alma mater’s current undergrad rate is over 40K a year right now. Tell me: who can afford that?! Do you still think there’s no problem with higher ed in this country? Do you still think that “oh, just go to college and get a job” is a viable piece of advice to pass on?”

Because 40K times 5 years is $200K of total tuition… and about half of that is the graduating debtload that the class of 2020 may look forward to.

I also feel horrible for the fact that people had to help me pay this back. Granted, they’re the same people who insisted I go to college to begin with, but nonetheless: how is it fair to them, too? How is it fair for the families of the students, families who want their kids to do well in life, to also be saddled with their debts? Because guess what: while they were my cosigners, it was also their obligation to pay back. And I’m certainly, 100%, not okay with it. Their insistence may’ve pushed me into the debtload, and one may argue that it’s only fair they share it, but not to me. If I’m the one setting out into the workforce, then it’s my obligation first.

“Don’t go to college if you can’t handle the debt!” people say. Really? And this is said in the same breath as “Go to college or else you’ll never find a decent job!” Pick one, people. Which is it? Do we go to college and get the so-called “better jobs” (which don’t really exist) or do we have to deal with your nitpicky bitching when we go into trade? Pick one. Or better yet, shut your mouths and do something about the fact that tuition is now more per year than a luxury vehicle and the financial stability that you enjoyed in the 60s-80s is gone.

Do you remember Bush’s finance reform laws in 2005? Here’s a little something they’ve done: they transformed student loans into a qualified debt. The loans now precede mortgages in terms of what’s on your credit report. The garnishment restrictions on student loans have been lifted, so that loan lenders can now garnish social security of senior cosigners, garnish wages earned of both the borrower AND cosigner – not tax refunds, because fortunately, it’s a different authority, and loan lenders don’t intersect with the Internal Revenue Service. Qualified debts are not covered in bankruptcy laws either; part of the tightening up of bankruptcy laws was to exclude student loans from being subject to cancellation or chargeoff in the event of bankruptcy.

So you know what all of that means? You are stuck with student loans until paid off.

If not for the fact that tuition at state colleges is now upwards of $15,000 per year, not counting room and board expenses, and if not for the fact that costs of living have hiked and salaries have not at all kept pace with inflation, then this particular regulation might bother me slightly less than what it bothers me now, and it bothers me a great deal that this is the case for millions of my peers. Even right now, with my loans paid off, I still keenly recall a talk I had with a mortgage broker, who told me plainly that unless my student loans are out of the picture, I can forget about a mortgage. So basically, until my student loans were finished, I was consigned to living like a college student still: hand to mouth. And again: I am one of the lucky ones. Because my debtload was, if I were to think about it, 1/2 of what some of the people in my graduating class had.

And still – nine years. Nine years of living in a sort of suspended animation. I cannot say in words just how grateful I am for my current job. I mean it. I seriously was losing hope for what my future would turn out to be before I got that job.

The way that my peers live is not even qualified to be called living. I can’t even call it survival, honestly. I don’t care what you believe the current generation lives like, but from my own experience, there’s nothing to take pride in when you’re watching the education that everyone told you to get eat up all of your take-home income. I’m not even talking about medical expenses right now. If you’re living at home, you save a few bucks, but what opportunity is there to build a living, build a life, when one lives at home and is barely making ends meet as it is? There’s no dignity in it, and don’t laugh: if you were in our shoes, you’d say the same thing. Like it as not, there’s a certain dignity in living on your own, in at least making ends meet on your own, and managing your own life. Where’s the dignity in hand-to-mouth for X years that it takes one to pay off debt?

If our parents’ generation has been trying to give us the comforts that it had claimed for itself in the wake of the Baby Boom era, it failed in doing so as a collective whole. Instead, there is a quagmire that has been created by the thirst for profit without consideration for the future ahead, or for the lives of the people who are supposedly to inherit that future. Tuition costs spiraled out of control, cost of living spiked, salaries remained largely static, and as such, the current generation is crippled with debt and survival is impossible unless you’re making six figures a year – and those jobs are not plentiful, no matter what people want to believe. How is that anywhere even close to the standard of the generation previous thereto? The prior generation could buy a house with minimal financial detriment and get a decent education without it completely killing their financial future for a decade. Us? Not so much. Tech advancement is great, but it’s not financial security.

“Get an education!” “Stop being lazy and get a job!” “You kids just want to play around on your phones all day!” You name it, I’ve heard it. All of it is old, old, old, and none of it is reconciling with the very real and VERY difficult road that my generation, and the generation about to enter the workfore, faces daily.

In reality, “we kids” are legal adults, and we want the same exact thing that our parents enjoyed when they were our age: reasonable costs of living, job security, and financial security for the future, and I frankly don’t think it’s asking too much.

It’s only right now that I can look forward to some sort of financial security, but I’m nine years behind in setting that up. It certainly feels like the opening scene to my sci-fi series, when a warrior walks through a post-war battlefield and sees the people slowly coming out to inspect the damage: I’m coming out from the crippling debt that I’ve been saddled with and inspecting the world around me to see what I can do now. It’s like stepping into bright sunshine after a prolonged period of darkness: takes a second to adjust.

But it is nonetheless comforting to know that this time, the future is actually here, and not something I think about late at night. It’s still a feeling, though, as though I’ve climbed out of the proverbial tunnel, and only now have discovered that the light is not, in fact, an oncoming train’s headlamp.

Think of the Langston Hughes poem, “A Dream Deferred”. My peers and I have a life deferred – a life deferred by however long it took us to pay off our loans. So what happens now? That is my question.

K.G.

 

Posted in The Usual

Here we go. Again.

Let me first open this post with this:

I didn’t post about the AZ fest collapse last year on advice of many people, two of them my attorneys. We all decided to err on the side of caution, and considering that my blog has generated quite a bit of traffic with the Maxwell cruise story, I didn’t want to take more risk than necessary. This is where it was a liability issue, and as such, I had to keep mum.

Whether or not people got their money back, I am not sure. I know those who claimed with the bank all got theirs. But I do not know it was all of them.

 

And for the time being, things were Nice and Quiet. At least as quiet as being behind the scenes of a music genre can be.

 

So you can imagine my reaction when I got a forwarded email back in March. I am pasting the text below, just so y’all can get an idea.

——

[All spelling in original context. Name of sender of email hidden]

From: ******* ******
Subject: San Diego Music Festival Opportunity
Date: March 29, 2016 at 5:25:06 PM PDT
To: Undisclosed recipients: ;
Hi hope its a great weekend for you. Please reach me back with any questions I think someone will snatch this up quick. I’d love it to be you.
RTE productions is seeking a savey business person who likes having fun, making money, enjoys music, and is down for being a part of the solution in America and helping all children’s be resolved to succeed at school and life.  Which these festival help support through their alignment with. YouthHealth USA’s Choose2BPositive Movement that is on a path that is striving to reverse the under achievement trends in America. We goal to lift all of us especially children to Choose2BPositive  by supply for free the tools and mentoring needed to change lives for the better across America with the volunteer support of an army of senior citizens and others…
BY STEEPING IN WITH A SMALL INVESTMENT OF JUST $200,000. THAT RTE CAN PUT UP COLLATERAL TO GUARANTEE. MAKING THIS SAFE AND A GOLDEN EGG.
THIS INVESTMENT FROM YOU WOULD ALLOW RTE PRODUCTIONS TO PUT THE REMAING DEPOSITS DOWN ON REST OF ARTEST. THEY ALREADY HAVE CHARLE WILSON, ERIC BENET, BLACK STEET, OTHETS AND THE VENUE verifiably LOCKED DOWN. ONCE they deposit on rest of artest they can start to sale tickets. Announcements will go out next week. They need to deposit on MARY J BLIGE etc THIS IS NOT NEW AND THESE EVENTS ARE WINNERS FOR LAST 5 YEARS. Google “san diego jazz festival 2015” and at top UNDER SERCH click image verses web and see the exitement and crowds. This is fun and a money maker. This is being built and run by all who ran it before exept original owner. PLEASE NOTE THEY moved date from May to June. As a result Georges Tribute to Marvin Gaye which he wants to do as depicted will be moved to next year. And you can be a part of that.
YOU will be pay back starting after 1st week out of the ON SALE ticket sales at 50% of each sale. Once principle paid in full your 20% interest equal to $40,000.00 profit will be paid from sales of tickets to before event.  Thats huge but they are not done they will also pay you an additional 10% of net profit of event about 10days after the festival as a finacial partner benefit which if the event clears $800k you will receivd an additional  $80,000.00 dollars. Wait there is more just because its first time to show gratetude they want to give you 5% on next two events net profit so thats $40,000 × 2 equal to anothther $80,000 potentially or more. That makes for double your investment and thats not all if you can use a vendor both its yours free backstage Vip and a suite. And if you like exposure via marketing with the 40 media outets covering event all for free.  These events have a 5 year proven track record they can give you last years actual ticket recept info. The events do a net $750,000 to a $1,200,000 net each Festival. This is a golden egg.
The husband and wife original owners fell out with each other and to hurt each other dropped their Golden Egg forgetting about staff. So I encouraged the staff to unite and pick it up since they were the back bone and make it even better they did and its supper exciting. Two other festivals are shaping up too. They just have room for one Finacial partner and that prompts me to reach out to you. SO YOU CAN HAVE A GOLDEN EGG :)
This is a fun win win win opportunity. Call me asap.

Where do I even begin? I mean, truly. I can’t even be my normally sarcastic self about this. I just cannot.

A little more research on the company surfaces a familiar face, too. Not like I had to dig very deep.

Still, I didn’t think much of that email. It was worth a few giggles, though, if only for the terrible spelling. But…it gets better, as things like this often do.

You can, of course, imagine the surprise I got when I got the link to this: http://www.sandiegobayfest.com/

Are. You. SERIOUS.

First of all, who’s the fool who gave them money to sponsor this? If I were to get an email like the one above, I’d toss it right into the recycle bin without a second thought.

Second of all, check this little refund policy: http://www.sandiegobayfest.com/refund.html

That’s nice, but considering the two major events that went under in a very ugly fashion last year, I cannot possibly tell you just how many alarm bells this raises. There are still people who hadn’t gotten their money back from the previous fiascos that have taken place within the past year. So now there’s no recourse? Buy tix now and if the show doesn’t go on, then sorry but not sorry?

Yeah, see, I don’t think I like that. After I’ve spoken to one person too many who is still waiting on money back from other events, I would not ever buy a ticket unless there was a guaranteed 100% refund policy, in addition to event insurance.

And frankly, what did we reach if we have to buy insurance for a music event ticket?!

IJS.

K.G.

Posted in The Usual

Addendum

SJC has in fact pulled out a second sailing for 2018.

You know what? Good! Yes, I am in fact glad to see it. Because this means that there is, in fact, sufficient demand and if enough people on waitlist have put down their deposits – which they did – then the production is doing better than I originally gave it credit for.

And I’m glad to hear that.

HOWEVER. My original post, and my original point, still stand: the SJC production definitely, 100% needs to add new artists.

There are more than enough new artists to spice up the sailing lineup. It’s long, long, long past time to introduce new artists to an audience that, obviously, doesn’t know of them, if they keep voting in the same people time in and time out. There is no genre on music that can sustain itself with the same artists: it doesn’t work. Even classical music, which typically does not have a younger-age following, has an influx of younger musicians. These younger musicians, in turn, pull in their peers for the show.

Jazz needs to survive, and because it’s a genre that thrives on originality, on improvisation, on off-the-wall wild creativity, having the same lineups year in a year out does. not. work.

And the SJC, while not the only jazz cruise on the water, is probably the longest-running smooth/contemp jazz cruise production on the water. And frankly, I expect better from it than just the same people day in and day out.

So come on, SJC. Unroll the rest of ’em.

K.G.

Posted in The Usual

We Need Another Wickersham Commission

A decade ago, I was in college studying criminal justice, because I wanted to be an attorney. Also, last year, when I was in college, I wanted to write my first sci-fi book, which ended up directly bringing me to where I am now.

At the time, I didn’t know that I would quit the criminal justice track and never look back, and in retrospect, in light of now, especially, with police officers declaring open season on black men – seriously: two back-to-back shootings and a lynching in GA on top of that is little else, and no, I will not stop calling things what they are – I am glad beyond belief that I left that track of my life.

Criminal justice, for those who don’t know, is a blend of history, psychology, law, management structure, and legal procedure study. It’s perfect if one is determined to become a prosecutor, a judge, or a cop. The four tracks that go from that particular field is 1. Academia, 2. Psychology, 3. Law, or 4. Public service.

Here’s the other thing for those of you who aren’t familiar with it: “broken windows” policing is basically the primary thing foisted into those who go into this field of study. There’s a brief methodic on how proactive and preventive policing is more effective than reactive policing (which is the primary practice today), but the broken windows thing is shoved onto people from the beginning. Even if you will know, from experience, that “broken windows” is BS, and this approach to any police department does more harm than good, guess what: it’s still the first thing you learn in crim-j classes. And in the police academy, too.

Real world living made me see that it is BS. Seeing a disproportionate slant against people of color by the NYPD, the “stop and frisk” which rarely, if ever, targeted anyone white, seeing the incidents of police killing unarmed black individuals steadily rise not just in NY but in the general world, and seeing cops in my own neighborhood harass high-school kids and threaten them with arrest – high-school kids! who were doing no more than what any high-school kid did 15 years ago! – more and more cured me of any thought that the criminal justice system was equal and equally applied. To even think that right now, after seeing what the world became is almost laughable in its idealism. 

But here’s one nugget of history that did stay with me since college, one that should stand out for you, because it exposed a lot about police departments of 1929: The Wickersham Commission.

Short version: we all know what the Prohibition was. Alcohol was illegal, and then the stock market completely collapsed not long after this commission’s report was released, which was when the world needed a nice strong drink. But digressing, and back to the point: enforcing the law of the Prohibition was next to impossible. The average Americans had nothing but contempt for the Prohibition, and the Commission was formed to investigate the lapses in law enforcement.

The report was damning. Police corruption was exposed left and right, police technology was woefully outdated in too many respects, and the report exposed mob ties as well.

What, you ask, does this all have to do with the current state of affairs? What does a commission on exposing corruption in the 1920s could have possibly anything to do with the police lynchings going on today?

Because it’s ripe time to clean house with the police departments again, and we need another Wickersham Commission-type investigation to expose what’s going on behind the scenes. From training to handling complaints against officers. All of it. 

Already, we know that the cop who shot Alton Sterling had multiple investigations for excessive force. Why was he allowed to stay on the job? Again: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s sure as hell not a goose. Someone with multiple excessive force complaints should not be out in the field – period. I don’t give a damn if he’s cleared: if more than three people who aren’t related or connected all say the exact same thing, there’s a very high chance that they’re telling the truth. Balance of probability/law of averages.

Already, we had a warning from the FBI about white supremacists infiltrating the police departments. We ignored it. This is the direct result. Why are police academy and applicants not screened for ties to white supremacist groups? It’s as easy as a Facebook search. Anonymous, the hacktivist group, already exposed multiple KKK members in the country’s police departments. Do they still have jobs? If so, then why do they?

We see police officers who are involved with these shootings all pull out the trope of “I was afraid for my life” – even with 12-year-old Tamir Rice. They back up their completely irrational fear with the same racist tropes against black men that have been perpetrated since the post-Civil War era. If they’re that afraid for their lives and hold these views, then perhaps they should find a different job. If a twelve-year-old boy with a BB gun scares them to where they have to shoot to kill, then they need to not interact with the public. If they are former military and still think their everyday lives are a war zone, the last thing they need is a job where they are carrying guns. 

We know broken windows policing doesn’t work. Why is this the first thing that is being taught in criminal justice classes? Is it also part of Academy training?  What are these police cadets learning? Why is this not audited? 
What we need is to, once again, collectively, expose and clean house when it comes to police departments, and we need to do so in a thorough a manner as possible. If it means that the UN will spearhead this commission – please! Go ahead. Because at this point, I truly cannot trust, especially with the GOP holding court until this year’s elections, that such a commission will bring forth any sort of results if it’s headed by US citizens or residents. Why? GOP.

While it’s never a good idea to assume, I nearly always make the assumption that if someone is an elected official in the GOP today, they’re likely a racist. Yes, I’m aware that not every Republican is a racist, but every racist is a Republican. And right now, they’re bought, paid for, and armed by the NRA, and they’re in the majority in both parts of Congress. This makes it imperative that a commission to investigate the US police departments is comprised of people who are not part of the US body of government or leadership.

This is why I want an outside agency to spearhead this sort of an investigation in the country’s police departments. Because, obviously, the US has failed, on a very basic, fundamental level, if this is what we’re seeing. It failed on a human level. It failed on a life level, because in this country, people are still not allowed to ask the police to stop killing them without the police continuing to do exactly that, or the “all lives matter” crowd to yeah-but their arguments.

This is why I say: re-establish a Wickersham Commission 2.0 to target racism, white supremacy, and corruption within every police department in the country.

Yes, I know how expensive an undertaking like this is. But tell me: how expensive are human lives? What’s the monetary value of somebody’s father? Son? Brother? Husband? Wife, mother, daughter, sister? A friend? And tell me now that the cost of establishing an auditing commission is somehow more important than saving lives. 

I’m white, and it astounds me that more white people don’t have a huge problem with the way that the police has been treating the black population. Do they not realize that their children are every bit as likely to be targeted? All it takes is the wrong cop, all it takes is one wrong word before bullets fly, lives are gone, and someone has to arrange a funeral. And there are way too many wrong cops, who don’t like their authority questioned, and to them it doesn’t matter who their target is. White people, know this: you have twice the onus to speak against the systemic racism in this country. If you are not protesting this, speaking against it, you’re as good as complicit.

And one more thing: time to criminalize white supremacy groups. It’s a hundred years past time to make the KKK, etc. a bad memory. Don’t even begin to trot out “freedom of speech” – at no point is speech supposed to put lives in danger, and at no point is propagation of your views supposed to come at the expense of others. Hate should never be protected or tolerated.

How did Germany make amends post-Nazism and Holocaust? They banned and criminalized all associations with Nazism. The swastika in Germany is a symbol of hate and grounds for immediate arrest. The shame in Germany’s history runs deep for ever having allowed the Holocaust to happen. Where is such shame in the US for slavery and the Civil War? It doesn’t exist. Some people in this country still, to this day, delusionally believe that the Confederate flag is a symbol of “heritage” and conveniently  divorce the heritage from the ugliness that that heritage actually carries. There was an actual fight to keep a Confederate flag flying. The KKK was an organization directly rooted from the remnants of the Confederacy that were not okay with losing the Civil War and never got over the fact that they could no longer own people with dark skin. This is the “heritage” that the Confederates created, and this is what some people in this country are actually proud of.

I think that, like Germany, the US can do with criminalizing white supremacy groups. Instead of allowing people to be proud of being racists, it should shame them. It should shame them into the ground and ensure they never get back up again. It should make membership in the KKK an imprisonable offense. It should enforce the laws that require any symbol of the Confederacy to be treated as treason. And maybe, maybe then, it can see better days. 

Maybe. 

My faith in humanity is quite low today. 

K.G. 

 

 

Posted in The Usual

The Coat Theory

People ask me sometimes: why do you even keep a blog if you don’t like being watched? Why even go online or be public?

Because, once in a while, and lately more than usual, someone will reach out to me and say, “This post you wrote was powerful, and I love what you’re saying.” They tell me that that post helped them. That it made their lives easier. Or it made them laugh. Or think differently.

THAT is why I keep a blog. At first it was a method of promoting myself and my books. The books took a slight back burner to my photography, but I still need to write; it’s the only outlet that lets me articulate the chaos that often goes on inside my head. But most importantly, I write because I know that reading something powerful can sometimes make all the difference – as a reader, I know it well, and as a writer, I strive to help someone.

Please remember: no one who goes online or who goes online publicly ever does so to provide looky-loos with free entertainment. People go online for their own purposes, and their own reasons.

And I’m now finding out that the post I wrote about depression, The Coat Theory, has had a much, much more reaching effect than I ever thought it would. And it’s feedback like this that reminds me why I keep it public in the first place. Because someone comes back and tells me, “This post helped SO much, and SO many.”

And here it is again. For you guys. For anyone who may ever find use for it. Please refer people here.

Improvisations on Reality

Revisiting this topic on the anniversary of Robin Williams’s passing.
It’s taken me quite a long while to get this post together, so please bear with me.

At the time I wrote the original piece, I didn’t even think that this is the caliber of impact that that post would have. I speak of the long treatise on talking about depression, linked here.

I don’t even remember how I came up with the analogy the first time, but let’s talk about the condition of depression as a coat.

The Theory

Let’s make this an exercise. Look into your closet. Look at the heaviest possible coat that you have. Feel free to even put it on for a moment, just so you know how the weight of it feels.

Now imagine that it’s alive. Imagine that it has a purpose, and its purpose is to break you. Imagine that it’s heavy, heavier than…

View original post 3,144 more words

Posted in The Usual

Seriously? Is that the best you can do, SJC?

So I got the email where Dane Butcher, the cruise director, announced the voted-in headliners for the Smooth Jazz Cruise, which is setting out for its 15th anniversary and 20th overall sailing.

It was a huge disappointment. Why? Same people! Again with Peter White, Candy Dulfer, Brian Culbertson. Rick Braun. Same. Exact. Thing.

If this is the case, then here’s one little question to the SJC:

Why. The hell. Did you bother. To hold a vote.

Seriously. Why did you bother to hold a vote when you are just going to have the same headliners anyway? And moreover…what in the world are the fans of your production thinking?

If ever there’s been a reason to facepalm, now is the time. I feel like I’m screaming into a wind tunnel when I call out for new artists, and this is pretty much the reason why. I cannot possibly tell you just how absolutely, incredibly, infuriatingly frustrating it is to keep seeing the exact same thing recycled day in and day out. The SJC’s new artist spectrum has, historically, been scant. Apart from perhaps Grace Kelly and Vincent Ingala, and if memory serves me right, Eric Darius, and Julian Vaughn, I don’t recall seeing many of the new artists on the cruise the past 6 years.

Do I really have to explain it that no genre is capable of surviving with the same thing and the same people being cycled in day in and day out? Because honestly, I thought we’ve been over that.

But you know something, it seems like I just might have to explain it, because if these were the headliner choices by the public, then the collective smooth jazz fan base needs a massive smack upside the head.

People, seriously. Right now you’re just ruining the genre by refusing to sample new music, and I direct this to both the fans who keep voting for the same artists, and to the people who produce shows that have a more than 70% recycle rate for the lineups year to year.

Let’s make one major point clear:

Choosing new artists and bringing new artists on board is not a slight against the current headliners, and you are definitely not helping by deliberately shutting out new talent.

Besides, because they’re headliners in what seems to be every major event in the genre, does it really hurt them if they don’t headline X or Y for a change?

And while you’re over there going “Well, these new artists need to draw better crowds” – they already do draw crowds, and you’re part of the problem if you’re not voting them on the big stages. You’re actually already part of the problem by having that attitude in the first place, because you’re expecting artists who are all but deliberately shut out of the genre to suddenly generate crowds like the headliners without even acknowledging your responsibility to hear them and be part of the crowds you want them to draw. If you keep bitching about how they don’t draw, why don’t you provide them a stage and marketing to help them draw? It’s a two-way street.

Explain to me please: how are they supposed to draw headliner-worthy crowds if 1. the crowds they should be drawing are comprised of you and people like you, and 2. You are the ones not giving them the time of day? Yes, that’s right, I’m saying it: you’re shutting the new artists out of the genre. It’s A-OK for them to make new music for you, it’s A-OK for them to plan and rehearse and deliver a show that’s on par if not better than the headliners, but not OK for some reason for them to get a spot on a big production because you’d rather have the same laundry list and deliberately shut them out? Because the promoters who shut out new artists are always the quickest ones to say “Oh, that guy doesn’t draw” – and the fans believe it.

Fans, please understand this: your headliners are not going anywhere! Peter White will still have a spot on the SJC. So will Brian Culbertson.Would it kill to have Jazmin Ghent on board? Would it be so awful if Tony Exum Jr. and Dee Lucas took their Grover and George show on a cruise? Matt Marshak wins everyone over at any show he plays; why not double-bill him with JJ Sansaverino and toss him onto a ship? Or Phil Denny, who can easily pair up with Steve Cole and square off newfangled Detroit funk and entrenched Chicago cool. There’s more out there than just the same laundry list.

Now look. Not for nothing, but I am having some doubts that the SJC is doing so well financially speaking, and I’ll tell you why I think so: for the really lengthy waiting list for 2017, notice that it’s one sailing this time – after doing two a year since 2010. There was a pretty hefty sale for one of last year’s sailings a month before go time; a sale so hefty that I could’ve easily gone on board, solo, for not much above 2K (except merger, job, etc) – and the sale price was actually below what would be the average new-person solo booking. And they changed from Holland America’s fleet to the Celebrity Summit – all is great, except it’s an older ship, possibly dry-docked for a repair and refitting. Consequently cheaper to rent out for a chartered sailing. All of this adds up to “Not doing so well compared to before”.

Here’s a thought, SJC: If you want to actually justify your slogan of “the greatest party at sea” – I won’t even come near opining on the slogan as a whole – make new artists the focus of your cruise as opposed to the same headliners. Because seriously, those of us who love the genre and are not past guests, are not inclined to come on board your production when there’s absolutely no urgency and no novelty to your lineup. I cannot possibly get excited for your production when I see every single person in your headliner list in the NYC area or on other productions nearby. I just cannot. I love all the artists you have on board, but I cannot justify the expense of flying to a cruise event to see them. There’s no urgency and, unless there are new CDs in production and new music in the show, there’s no novelty. So why spend the money?

And I’m not saying all this because I’ve been a Capital Jazz Productions customer for what will be 6 years with this coming sailing. I’m a regular for a very good reason: the variety is top-notch. Yes, Cap is a mixed-genre cruise, but 1. they’re honest about it and 2. they give every genre equal weight. If CapJazz were to recycle its lineup for X years in a row, they’d get much the same earful as I am giving you. But whom do we have on CapJazz this year as compared to you, SJC? We have Diane Schuur. Lee Ritenour. Jazz/Funk/Soul. Howard Hewett. Incognito. Four80East. Tom Browne. While yes, BWB is on the cruise this year, look at everyone else in the jazz segment of the lineup. Do you get the idea of what Cap is doing here? It’s this little thing called variety.

And it should not be too much to ask for.

Let me once again remind you guys that the radio station shutdown was preceded by a recycling of the same artists and the same music ad nauseum until listenership plummeted. Do you not realize, fans and promoters, that this is pretty much the same situation? What in the world do you think will happen to your events? The law of averages and patterns are pretty much predictable.

Fans, understand this: your dollar speaks, but you really, really need to step up as to the message you need to send. And I suggest you get on that sooner rather than later.

K.G.

Posted in The Usual | 7 Comments