early, in what looks to be a good jazz year ahead, to be making brash
predictions, but, still, I doubt I'll hear any better jazz in the next
50 weeks than I heard played by Bud Shank's sextet at Yoshi's on Thursday
From Bud's Room
This explanation is the personal interpretation of events by Mr. and Mrs. Shank.
I hope this will be a monthly message to my friends and fans. It might be more at times, and other times less. The topic this month is my departure from Centrum in Port Townsend. I was Artistic Director of my workshop and festival there for more than twenty years. I had anticipated that interest about my being fired from that position would have died down by now, as it happened in July. But instead, the e-mails, phone calls, letters, and faxes have increased. This is thanks not only to our legion of friends worldwide, but also to the marvelous and flattering letter on the subject written and posted by Phil Woods. It seems that Phil's letter has circled the world twice now! Many of you in your communications have asked the question "What really happened?" Well, here it is.
About ten years ago, at my request, two advisory committees were established, one for the workshop and one for the jazz festival. The members mainly were people involved with jazz radio, newspaper and media, concert producers, former students -- in short, people who knew something about the jazz business. Also at the meetings was one of Centrum's board members, who was probably there only because the meetings were held at his house. His name is David Marriott and at one time I considered him a friend.
He has two sons who are fine musicians in New York (also products of the workshop). Soon, these meetings became an annual event. A recurring theme emerged from Mr. Marriott: Our faculty was stale and stagnant, and so were the performances in the clubs and mainstage the faculty donated to help Centrum hold to its minuscule budget. Imagine, Pete Christlieb, George Cables, Bobby Shew, Bob Florence, Ray Brown -- STALE!
Mr. Marriott requested that I tell these faculty members to take a few years off and then maybe they could come back. These people were on the faculty accepting ridiculously low salaries because they are my friends and I asked them. Many have been with me for twenty years. Do you think Bobby Shew would come back after being replaced by Jon Faddis for two years? Do you think that musicians of this caliber, such as Jim Hall, Bennie Golsen, Jon Faddis, or any of the rest of them at this level would even accept such a heavy duty week for so little compensation? So the stage has now been set.
I had been too naïve to see what was happening, despite warnings from my wife who has a better nose for treachery since she had been the victim of it at Centrum herself years ago. David Marriott was the first of five people involved in my dismissal. The second was a man named Joseph Wheeler, who is the founder of Centrum and was Executive Director at the time I took over the workshop. He and I ran the workshop and festival all the years it ran until he retired a few years ago. We were assisted by a steady stream of "Program Directors" who for the most part wanted to be chiefs and not indians, didn't know squat about how to run a jazz event, and were generally a pain in the lower extremities. After his retirement, Wheeler was officially uninvolved with Centrum until he joined the board.
Now enter the third member of the cabal. This is a person named Thatcher Bailey. He was hired in 2003 to be the new Executive Director of the foundation. He was on staff at Centrum years ago, and I never could figure out what he did. His primary claim to fame is founding a hospice in Seattle for AIDS patients, a worthy cause, but hardly preparation for running an arts foundation! These are the three people that convinced the Centrum Board that I had to go by telling them that I had indicated a wish to retire. This is absolute bullshit.
I feel like I am playing better than I have ever played in my life. Aside from a couple of "old guy" aches and pains, I have never felt or been better. My wife, Linda, takes great care of me. She does all the work in her office as well as assisting our agent with bookings and promotion and answering thousands of e-mails every month. She also tours frequently with my various bands as manager and "band mom." I have a million reasons to be grateful to her. She has given me the time I needed to practice, play, compose, and finally learn how to play the damned piano! As I said in my departure speech from the stage, the only time the word "retire" passed my lips was when I bought new tires for my pickup (the one with the clarinet in the gun rack).
When the true story began to surface, the board members, not to mention our faculty, students, and audiences, were horrified. This was a monumental con job that was perpetrated for the sole purpose of replacing me with one of my faculty members. The letter they sent three weeks before my event stated that they were removing "all" of the main Artistic Directors. However, in the end, only myself and the man running the writer's workshop (who had a long history of enmity with Bailey) were fired. A new "direction" was required, they said. WHY? Our student numbers were climbing every year. Our faculty and student surveys were glowing. Our audiences grew every year, and the media raved over our musicians and our festival. So if it ain't broke, why fix it? Read on.
Now enter our last two members of the team. Two years ago a student at our workshop offered to use a sum of her husband's large fortune to act as main sponsor for my workshop and festival. Not long after, she suddenly appeared on the faculty roster, even though her ability level did not begin to approach the other faculty members, all of whom are professional musicians, and many of whom are leaders in their own right. We let this go by, being grateful for the financial support.
At about this same time, a former faculty member who had left at his own request came back and asked to be reinstated. I agreed to this, never dreaming I was cutting my own throat. This individual was someone I had hired and given support to for years. My wife Linda, while Marketing and Development Director of the Northwest Chamber in Seattle, commissioned this man to write one of his first pieces for jazz and classical orchestra. We had all been friends for decades. His name is John Clayton. When I asked our Program Director what his duties would be, I was told that he would be walking around with his friend the sponsor, visiting classes and giving combos the benefit of his wisdom -- a light load compared to the burdens of the other faculty.
About a year ago, our new sponsor placed a conference call to me while I was on tour back east, a call that included the Executive Director at that time, her husband, and the Program Director, none of whom said a word after saying "hello." She proceeded to grill me in an hour-long inquisition, demanding to know my future plans, my thoughts about faculty, when I was going to "finally" retire, etc., etc. Talk about completely out of line. This woman was student for years at my workshop. Where does she get off thinking her money has bought her my event? This is a sponsor talking. Sponsors don't talk. They hand you their money and wave to the audience and keep their mouths shut about the artistic direction of an event. They certainly do not, or should not, dictate policy or program mandates.
I knew the handwriting was on the wall, and was making plans accordingly. But before I could do it gracefully, those five perpetrators got me fired, and number five got my workshop and festival, lock, stock, and barrel. Not a shot was fired, unless you count the ones that hit me in the back from five people I thought cared about me and respected me.
Well, actually, they did us a favor. Two years ago we were approached by an organization in the Southwest about moving our workshop and festival to that area. At the time I declined out of loyalty to Centrum. After receiving the infamous letter, Linda called the organization. They said that they had just been waiting for the telephone to ring. So, it looks like within a few weeks we will have a major announcement to make regarding the Bud Shank Jazz Workshop and Jazz Southwest Festival for July 2005. We are moving on, and taking our faculty, our students, and our reputation for the best jazz camp in the USA with us.
Thanks for caring. We will be in touch.
Bud and Linda