Saturday, June 02, 2007

Update: Yoshi's pulls CD

Yesterday I mentioned the controversy surrounding a new 10th anniversary CD from the venerable Oakland jazz club Yoshi's - a CD that didn't include any music by black artists. Well, in today's San Francisco Chronicle, word comes that the club has decided to pull the CD, and is working on putting together a more diverse compilation. They had sold about 500 of the 1000 CDs printed, before they decided to pull them from their website and club store.

As I pointed out in my post yesterday, and as Peter Williams of Yoshi's explained in The Chronicle tooday, Yoshi's simply went through the Concord Records archives (a label formerly based in the Bay Area, and still with some Bay Area ties through the Fantasy Studios and archives) and selected tracks by Concord artists who had been recorded live at Yoshi's. Two additional tracks (Madeleine Peyroux and Robben Ford) were added from broadcast airchecks from San Francisco radio station KFOG.

In the same article Orrin Keepnews chimes in with the following insult to all of the artists on the CD:
"With all due respect to the venerable Marian McPartland, whom I love and have always loved, there's nobody on that record of major current importance," said Keepnews. "The club put out an anniversary record that was thoughtless and not very well put together. They limited themselves to material recorded live at the club. You have a half-dozen things here that don't have the making of a significant or representative record, regardless of what color anybody is.'
Questioning why a "Live at Yoshi's" CD would only include performances recorded at the club, makes one wonder what sort of relevance Keepnews has in today's record industry. Of COURSE they limited themselves to material recorded at the club - that was the concept of the album. And it's nice of Keepnews to insult musicians like Poncho Sanchez (jazz snobs will always look down upon any music that actually encourages people to dance) and Joey DeFrancesco as not being of "major current importance." (whatever that means - Keepnews must have a direct line to the jazz police).

Bottom line: Yoshi's should have tried to include recordings from other labels as part of their CD. But they went with Concord, and it just so happened that the artists on Concord who recorded at Yoshi's weren't as diverse as Yoshi's normal lineup. But Yoshi's lineup IS diverse, always has been, and I'm sure will continue to be.

However, in the jazz world, there are still problems of diversity in many areas. The world of institutionalized jazz education is much less diverse than jazz as a whole. There are several record labels that I can think of (mostly small ones though, as almost all jazz labels are small) that don't feature any, or maybe only one or two releases by artists of color.

When I'm on the air, I don't pay attention to the race of the musician in selecting what I play. On occasion I'll look back at a playlist, and I'll notice that it was a pretty diverse mix. Other times, I'll say "wow, in this hour, I didn't play any music by white musicians," or "wow, in this hour, I didn't play any music by black musicians," or "wow, in this hour I didn't play any music by Latino musicians." I think this is what happened with the Yoshi's CD. I think it was an honest omission, (not a mistake) but an omission, and given Yoshi's track record in booking diversity, I think they should be given the benefit of the doubt.

This matter does bring up a larger issue which needs to be addressed, however. At the same time that jazz is growing in popularity around the world, and in some ways is thus growing more diverse, here at home, jazz is losing its traditional African American audience. And are as many young African American musicians going into jazz? Do they have the same opportunities to participate in the jazz education system as white musicians? The situation reminds me a lot of the issues facing Major League Baseball, which is facing a steep drop in the number of African American players. Maybe this Yoshi's controversy, which is a little overblown, if you ask me, will shed some light on the more significant issues of race in jazz. It's a big, important, and complex topic, that warrants more discussion than I can provide right now, but I'll try to revisit it soon.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are still two things missing from Yoshi's bookings on any sort of regular basis, and those are: local artists, and jazz artists who are actually innovative, vital, and worth listening to. It's too bad. They used to have a much more righteous policy about presenting. Now it's mostly corporate.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Lodo Grdzak said...

Im on the east coast, so I know little about Yoshi's. But Im quite certain that the great Mulgrew Miller recorded a smoking hot, live album there within the last 10 years. Again, I know little about this situation, but that Mulgrew stuff is awesome and would have to be included on any compilation of the best Yoshi's stuff. Its just too damn good.

Lodo Grdzak

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could care less about Yoshi's so called mistake, it was not a mistake. I have seen among others at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland over the years: Shirley Horn, Branford Marcellis, Jimmy Smith, Nat Adderley, Stanley Turnteen, Betty Carter, Kenny Barrett, James Moody etc; so very very many African American Jazz Artists. You cannot have Jazz anywhere in the "World" without have an African American Artist, we are the people who created this music.........not Yoshi's! You cannot tell me tha this was a so called mistake, it was "blatant predjudice" just like the so called "Fillmore Jazz District" in San Francisco, where Yoshi's has opened up their "Flagship Jazz Club". She will not get my money, I don't care who is playing there, she won't get my money. Oh, by the way 95% of the great Jazz Artists are no longer with us they are all dead..............Puleeze. This was an abomination, I just found this venue about this "Hot Mess" from 2007, CD.

Miz Heidi

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:22 AM  
Anonymous Mus14 said...

The lack of diversity was needed in the jazz music at Yoshi's. Who knows it could not have really been a mistake. It was good however that is was recognized.

3:06 PM  

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