"Struggle Street for old time Jazzers"

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by powermans, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. As I was driving along today between jobs listening to my car radio as I normally do, I was listening to OUR national broadcaster ABC News Radio (Australia) and, at certain times of the day they take different programmes for half hour segments from international broadcasters.As it happened at about 1pm local time they take the US Broadcaster NPR. And today they (NPR) started a four part programme on the hardship of old time Jazz Players with today interviews from Frank Foster ( Count Basie Band) and Billy Taylor.

    Let me say, it was most interesting however, sad to hear the on going battles of these latter day legends of Jazz and how they strive to survive into the later years.

    Frank Foster, made the point that in their younger day they lived for the day, mostly got paid in Cash because a Cheque would always bounce and you never put anything away for the future because as Frank said, you didn't expect to live past 50! Now on Social Securities and a small pension he says, that after paying rent and utilities there's nothing left. And he's in no physical state to perform any more so things are pretty rough.

    Apparently, Billy Taylor's a bit better off because of Radio and TV Contracts that has pulled him through a little better in his later years. However, Billy's says, that the New York Club scene has died over the past few years and the gigs are just not there anymore!

    Part 2 tomorrow ! :meh:
  2. Jason, I can sense your feelings from here (and I'm half way around the otherside of the planet). Yeh, we're going down the same road over here.... We're known as "The Lucky Country" yet everytime you turn around some one is trying to shaft you up the back end without grease and it's usually some government or local authority. It's just getting harder and harder and I have a job that pays reasonable money and I have my Jazz at weekends to stop me going completely off my rocker!

    I Caught Part 2 on NPR "Ageing Jazz Musos"today and it seems that your age pension system is on par with ours
    " Up to S**T!

    Part 3 Tomorrow!
  3. Eric_J

    Eric_J Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Flower Mound, TX. USA
    Did you catch the NPR report on 'seeing pitch as colors' yesterday, in there arts/science series?

    Check out www.npr.org.

    Jason - If you think NPR is riduculus, don't become a member of your local public radio station, but if you listen regularly, appreciate most of their programing (Car-Talk and Diane Rhemes are my favorites) you might think about becoming a member.
  4. I heard that. I can't say as I understood it all but found it an interesting concept.
  5. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    You know, everyone has a favorite art form. For a lot of us, it's jazz. And some people like rap, and some like polka, and some like paintings of JFK and MLJ on black velvet. I don't tell other peope what kinds of art they should like, and in exchange, I don't ask them to subsidize my tastes, either.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I totally agree with mje. I'm not making any better money playing music than your average jazz musician, and nobody has ever offered to subsidize me or take up a collection for me, nor do I want them to. And what makes a jazz musician so much more special than the housewife whose husband runs away and leaves her with 3 kids and no money, or the old man who worked for 40 years mowing lawns and got no pension because he got paid in cash, or the construction worker who fell and hurt himself and can't get the company to pay his workmen's comp while he goes broke healing up? I feel much more sorry for them than I do a musician who knew it was a risky business and is now struggling to make ends meet in his old age.

    My dad always told me, "The world doesn't owe you a living," and he was right.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have MP3's? Cool! ;)

    But seriously, if you did hear them, you would probably hate them. I don't write jazz songs...I write hard rock and country songs and any emphasis on the bass is purely coincidental. And nobody buys them. I think it's because one of two things...A. They suck, 2. I don't have any way to buy my way into the record industry. I prefer to think it's the latter...YMMV.

    But jazz musicians, while performing music which I think is as noble a job as any, don't deserve any more or less special treatment than anyone else.
  8. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    excellent post jason .

    paying the piper. it could be a childs fairy tale , or , it could be a model for programing , it isnt called programing for nothing

    after 30,000 hours invested where is the construction worker ?

    he's retired 5000 hours ago with a full pension , a jazz musician is just coming into his own at that point.

    the investment is a little lopsided and a bad example however if a musician has made the investment [see above measurement] i dont see why the govt' cant offer encouragement via a littla grant for recording or touring expenses here and there.

    after all we are talking about culture here not award winning cell phone designers or the architectural genius behind the new box shaped bunker/library that's being censored.

    /rant off
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Jason, a very well-thought post and food for thought. I do think everyone should have the opportunity to BUY affordable health insurance, definitely. I get mine through my wife's job, and it's not the least bit free. My wife and I pay a lot for it. The medical industry is under no obligation to anyone to provide them with any more health care than what is needed to keep someone alive. It's a business like any other, just like the music business.

    And while I do think Americans should treat their artists with more respect, where do you draw the line when it comes to government grants and assistance? Do you draw it by amount of record sales? Do you draw it by name recognition? Do you draw it by how many songs they got published in the Real Books? Does McCoy Tyner get more money than the singer for Ratt or Warrant? Does Britney Spears get covered? Ratt probably sold more albums than McCoy Tyner, and Britney definitely did, and more people know them in America than McCoy Tyner. Should they get less just because McCoy played excellent jazz and Ratt and Britney play disposable pop? Does McCoy get more than his band members?

    The government isn't and shouldn't be in the business of drawing those kind of lines in the sand, if you ask me. And they already spend enough money without starting a fund to assist broke artists. Also, I don't believe the government should be going into business with musicians and artists. They have no responsibility to anyone to fund them or help them buy equipment. You want to make a living as a musician? Then buy your own equipment and assume your own risks. The music business is a huge risk, and as someone who believes in a fairly balanced government budget, I don't they should be investing in artists when everyone knows how little of a chance of a return there is on the money. These great jazz artists might be special to you, and that's fine, but not everyone shares that same opinion, and the government certainly shouldn't be deciding who gets it and who doesn't. Maybe you don't agree, and that's OK. But that's what I believe. And if they ever do start subsidizing musicians and artists, if I don't get every bit as much money and assistance as Britney Spears, I will sue ;)

    Oh, and as someone who has done construction, you should know that a musician has a MUCH MUCH MUCH easier job. I've done it too, and there's no way in hell I'd ever say that McCoy Tyner worked as hard as your average construction worker. Hell, that's why I got into music...so I could work a lot less hard than when I did construction.
  10. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    It's difficult for me to picture a construction worker pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into his work, or spending hours on end preparing to swing a hammer, weld steel, etc. When I saw McCoy Tyner, he was Working.
    Sure, I've played gigs that were like punching the clock, but the ones I live for are the gigs where I can give everything I've got, and I'll bet that by the end of the night, I've burned more calories than a construction worker does in an eight hour day.

    "Too lazy too work, too nervous to steal"?

    I got into music because it got into me.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmmm...interesting debate - is culture/art intrinsically worthwhile or more important?

    Personally I believe it is - so a Nation's culture is what defines it - and Jazz is one the art forms that really defines the US , for me - so I look around at different countries and ask what they have given us and most of what I value, culturally, is European - but Jazz is something that the US has given the world, that really enriches it! :)
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    For the sake of a clean argument, insert 'your neighbor' instead of 'government'.

    I personally consider it a crime to hold a gun to my neighbor's head to pay for my choice of lifestyle. This is why I don't and won't collect welfare or will ever live in subsidized housing.

    I'm a bright lad. I know what my risks and possible lot are. It's my freedom and my responsibility. I don't want your money and I get deeply pissed when someone else suggests (and gets) my cash for someone else's BS.

    And, aside from that, I'm firmly convinced that the lack of $ocialization for jazz is the one and only thing that keeps it honest and at a high level. The struggle and competition for the small pie. That's also one of the reasons that NYC is such an exciting place for music.
  13. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    What you're overlooking, Newt, in your accurate depiction of the American health-care system is that the rest of the developed world uses a different model. Most of the countries that have developed health-care systems DO say that health-care is an human right, period. I don't want to divert this discussion further by going into whether that is good or bad; my point is that the American model is a choice not a law of nature.

    I did not "choose" to have the health-care system run on a profit model. Neither did you. But the pay-for health-care system is one of the most substantial contributors to our privately-funded political campaign system, so you or I cannot "choose" to change the health-care model in any meaningful way very soon.

    Punch line: If we're talking about choices, let's talk about ALL the choices. Some we make and others are made for us.
  14. It's interesting to see where this thread has gone. I don't know or understand the US Pension/ medical schemes that your country operates under and would not dare to comment on what I've read above however, I like the comparison given between the construction worker and the Jazz Player! In this regard I can talk from personal experience as I have had my own business for the past 38 years in the installation of Carpets and Vinyl Flooring and, for the last 40 years I have been involved in performing music partime weekends etc.
    (the last 18 playing Jazz).As of tomorrow and Saturday Night ( as every week) my three piece will work a 4 hours Gig. By the time I leave home set-up play pull down drive home, I would have spent the best part of 8-9 hours involved in doing the gig. For this I'll take home $120.00 per night. And I'll come through the front door at about 1am. Now, I can lay a room of Carpet in about 45 minutes with a base rate of $120.00 to me after expenses... this being between 8am-4pm. if you want it laid outside these hours add another $50.00 minimum. If you want me to lay it at 1am in the morning (get stuffed) I'm not interested.
    Now, if the gig wants us to go an extra hour at midnight because the crowd is hanging on, we'll do it for another $30.00 each.... and not think twice.
    Why? BECAUSE WE LOVE IT! :hyper:

    Just one other point on the Older Jazz guys and their incomes, As Frank Foster said on today's NPR.... He would have been a lot better off today had he seen the ROYALTIES that he was owed for such gems as"Shinny Stockings"etc.etc.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've worked as management consultant and had a daily rate that factored in all the organisations' costs - that rate was literally many hundreds of times more than I could ever hope to earn as a musician playing Jazz - but I'm sure the music is far more valuable than any consultancy services could ever be!! :)
  16. I'm a 63 year old jazz musician....I recieve my late wife's Social Security and a very small Annuity check which my medical (Kaiser) insurance has been taken out of.....I own my own home.( Another $50 grand and I own it.)
    The big catch....because of the two Government checks (my wife was a retired Postal Worker) I get as a result of her death, I'm not allowed to make any more than $11,000 a year!

    Just something for y'all to think about as you get older.
    Actually, most jazzers don't have it this well off because most are not home owners. :crying:
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Most countries in Europe have healthcare free at the point of delivery - like the National Health Service in Britain - paid for out of Taxation.

    More socialist (left wing) countries, have even more free benefits for the elderly - like Sweden and Denmark insulate and triple-glaze retired peope's homes for free. :)

    Your point about France is well-made - they are renowned as having the best national health service in Europe - many people from Britain are sent there for operations nowadays and have eulogised about the high standards on their return!

    I notice how it seems that a lot of "experienced" US Jazz players seem to have ended up in Paris, where they really dig Jazz , respect great players and presumably if they get residence, they get all those benefits. :)
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Nope. If I expatriate myself I'm heading for the tropics. Likely Brasil.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The South of France has got great weather and free healthcare - very high cost of living, though...:meh:

    I'm happy just to visit the Mediterranean for holidays (vacations) - off to Greece on 1st May!! :)
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I know I won't be coming along. I'm quite happy here in the good ol' US and A (as Barat from the Ali G Show says).

    As for socialized medicine, don't think that it's "free." Most countries with socialized medicine tax their constituents at rather enormous tax rates. A guy I met in Germany recently told me that almost half the money he made was eaten up in taxes, a goodly portion which is used to subsidize their medical care. I'll take my measley 10-15% tax rate and pay for my own health care if I so choose, thank you. BTW, Sam, why did you call me Newt?

    I completely agree with Ray about the lack of money involved making the competition for gigs much tighter and raising the bar. I don't play jazz as a rule, so I can't speak firsthand about it, but I can completely understand what he's saying. If there's less to go around, only the very best will get the work, which raises the bar for everyone. And that's healthy and good. And I believe that everyone who goes into playing music for a living knows how hard it is to make money after a short time. If you love it, like I do, you either accept the consequences or you hedge your bets and look elsewhere for the money. Those who didn't hedge their bets knew exactly what would happen if they didn't.

    As for construction workers vs. musicians, don't let the fact that we're musicians color our opinions. Sure, playing music is more fun than construction work, and feels more rewarding to someone whose heart isn't into construction, but for someone whose heart is into doing construction, I can assure you that they take it every bit as seriously and take every bit as much pride in their work as the best jazz musicians. Plus, they get the added bonus of people getting killed if their work is shoddy, which, fortunately, we don't have. And I dare say that someone who loves their job in construction has to use quite a bit of intelligence and creativity in it. It's not all just heavy lifting and attaching rivets. There's a lot of creativity involved, especially when it comes to troubleshooting problems. Not everyone who does it has to be intelligent, but the ones in charge definitely do.

    So I is sorry, but I can't share the opinion that creating jazz music is intrinsically more valuable to a society than doing construction, or any other job for that matter. It's certainly no less valuable (and that goes for all music, not just jazz), but if it weren't for construction, we'd all be playing unamplified in a field. And if it weren't for people who pick up garbage, we'd be playing unamplified in a dirty field. And if it weren't for teachers, we'd be playing badly unamplified in a dirty field. And if it weren't for people who work at restaurants and grocery stores, we'd go hungry while we were playing badly unamplified in a dirty field. So no, I don't feel that musicians are more special. Everyone who works shares a part of making this world operate. I know I will offend when I say this, so I will apologize in advance, but to think that musicians like Coltrane and Tyner are intrinsically more valuable to society is, at best, wishful thinking, and at worst, an act of egocentricity based on the fact that we play music. Britney Spears, on the other hand... :meh: