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.

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7 thoughts on “Seriously? Is that the best you can do, SJC?

  1. “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 THAT is a show I would pay top dollar to see at any venue! BRING IT ON!!

    1. You and me both!! Every time I see a new artist, I get a show that’s equal, if not better, than the headliner squad. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have to.

      And here’s another name to get into the circuit: Andreas Varady. Let me put it like this: Jeff Golub lives on. Varady’s sound is so reminiscent of Jeff it almost makes me misty-eyed.

      Matt Marshak made jaws drop on CapJazz last year. It was glorious.

      1. I agree! The only way to keep the smooth jazz genre alive is to get these young artists on the big stage. My favorite shows come when an artist new to the big stage takes the stage with a long time headliner. It brings out the best of everyone on stage and makes the audience go crazy! Same reason I enjoy going to small venues to see unknown artists. An awful lot of hard work being done by some phenomenal artists that need to be seen and heard and encourage continued growth.

      2. I love discovering new music, and I absolutely can’t stand that so few of these great artists ever see a major stage. It rankles me in a way that I find hard to describe.

        I’m no longer motivated to attend the bigger events, because the lineup is so heavily slanted to the same-ol’ same-ol’ that I just can’t get excited about it. I would love to see Josh Vietti at Wolf Creek, because how frequently do you see a jazz violinist take a headliner spot? We love Ken Ford at CapJazz, but there’s so many more. Chelsey Green, Karen Briggs… the list goes on.

  2. You forgot to mention David P Stevens and Andre Delano to that list of newbies….lol

    1. By this point we can stop calling either of them newbies, lol. :) Dave knocked them out on Cap in 2013. Andre Delano needs to GET on Cap…. A lot!

  3. Great read!
    Unfortunately. ..SJC isn’t listening. What you will find are many artists doing it all themselves. The mindset should be “all for one “! Let’s help one another to the promised land. I know I am , with inviting artist to perform with me when I book shows. I do wish for the day that the people who insist on a closed door policy are gone from this genre and we once again have SJ radio in all major markets…like the “Good Old Days “!

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