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"It's 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 night."
-- Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner, 1/14/04

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From Bud's Room II

As many of you know by now, in the middle of June 2004 I received a letter from the newly anointed executive director of Centrum in Port Townsend informing me that my services were no longer needed or desired. Fired after 21 years!

In the middle of June 2005 I received a telephone call from the executive director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop (NMJW) saying that his board had decided that not only were my services not required, neither were those of the faculty and our main stage and club artists. We were ALL fired! Batting two for two.

Everyone involved had signed contracts with NMJW. We as musicians rely heavily on the integrity of a signed contract. Our financial life depends on it. When we receive a call and a signed contract we believe in this. We do not go out and book a "backup" job for the same date just to protect ourselves. If that date approaches and we have booked two jobs, what do we do then? Say, "Hey man, I'm not showing up this weekend. Got a better job."?

If this were to occur, we would be crucified, blackballed, sued, and run out of town on a bed of old saxophone reeds. But it is just fine for this bunch of small-town, amateur board members to pull the rug out from under all of us three weeks before the event is to take place!

We, as tribal elders in the jazz world, feel that it is our duty to pass our knowledge on to younger students. In my case, I have always made an effort to hire only active, working professional musicians as faculty members. Many jazz workshops hire members of the world of academia as faculty. Okay, you want me to say it? What the hell do they know about being a jazz soloist, riding the band bus, playing a long concert after spending all day in airplanes and airports? What do they do when the accidentally plan an A natural on an F minor seventh chord?

Let me say this: for guys like us, teaching is hard. We would much rather be playing somewhere -- anywhere! We do it because we know that is what it takes to perpetuate this art form.

It would seem to me that anyone who seeks to be a board member of a jazz organization would firstly be a dedicated jazz fan, and secondly, would have a desire to help young people have exposure to good musical (jazz) education. Obviously this does not apply in Albuquerque. When this situation occurred in Port Townsend, the board there was pretty much snowed by a very small group of people lacking a shred of integrity. In fact, we have been told many board members quit when they got word of the nefarious goings on there.

Apparently, the board in Albuquerque suddenly noticed they were $35,000 in debt, all due to former events and nothing to do with my workshop and festival. They made the ridiculous assumption that my event would not only pay for themselves but cover the huge debt resulting from their incompetence. They would even have money left over for a rainy day, or maybe a sunny day on the beach in Mexico.

When the executive director and I began planning this event a year ago, I told him explicitly that the workshop does not pay for itself, especially since we provide many scholarships to deserving students. The festival makes the money and that money goes to support the workshop, period. That has been the case for 21 years of the Bud Shank Workshop and Jazz Festival. Simple math.

The board at that time expressed their pleasure at the low level of budget. Sure they did! I got all of my friends to act as faculty at low salary, and then for a few pennies more to play on the main stages and clubs, saving a ton of money on performance fees and transportation. The faculty filled 27 spots. This board then came to the conclusion that dumping the workshop would double the festival budget (?). Except there is no festival now either. Go figure.

In summation, I am asking the question: Why do we musicians break our asses to do these workshops for very little money when we are at the mercy of idiotic, uncaring, integrity-less jerks -- uh, board members? At the slightest doubt about our ability as musicians and teachers to make this event a financial success, they say, "Go away, little boy. We don't want you or need you."

As I said before, someone has to be concerned about the future of this musical art form. We as professional players, ARE concerned. It might be natural to assume that the board of an organization that does nothing but jazz would feel the same way. Wrong. It appears that many of them have some other agenda.

It takes a hell of a lot of effort and time to be a professional jazz musician. Practice and more practice. Writing new material. Wasting endless time in airport security lines and overbooked flights. Doing interviews. And, playing as much as we can. It is called earning a living. We have neither the time nor the resources to produce our own events. We need help from people in a position to help. Yes, we hear it every day: the world is changing, and not for the better. But are we the only ones left who care?

As for me, I'm through. I dedicated more than two decades of my life to the workshop in Port Townsend, and the last year to the workshop that isn't in Albuquerque. Enough. I have better things to do, like practicing and playing my saxophone.

Until next time,


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