BoMuse News, vol. 17, no. 3
BoMuse News is a monthly newsletter from BoMuse Music. It presents items of interest related to jazz, and advocacy for music education, as well as news of releases from BoMuse Music and the performing activities of Paul Combs. Questions and comments should be sent by visiting “Contact” at Paul Combs’ Web-site.
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1. New Venue: La Mesa Wine Works
2. Return to Dizzy’s/CD Update
3. Cambridge Likely To Loose Ryles
1. La Mesa Wine Works is a tasting room here in La Mesa, CA that has jazz every Sunday afternoon. I’ll be playing there on Sunday March 18, 1:30 – 4:30, in a duo with pianist Adam Wolff. Adam and I had discussed the possibility of duo performances after we met at one of Tony Ortega’s jam sessions up in Encinitas. The Sunday jazz series seemed to me to be a perfect setting, and fortunately Cindy Rutledge who operates the the tasting room agreed. While I would not consider myself a connoisseur, I do like good wine, and tasting some of the offerings at La Mesa Wine Works has introduced me to the unique flavors of Southern California wine, which I had not encountered before. I now have my favorites, and you may find a few that you like, too. Sometimes there is a food truck outside, but folks are invited to bring a little “picnic” to go along with the wine.
2. My Quintet that has been celebrating the music of Tadd Dameron will return to Dizzy’s
on Saturday April 7, at 8:00 PM. I will be on the East coast the two weeks before, so I wanted to make sure to get this in in this issue, since the next may be a little late. Joining me for this will be Derek Cannon, trumpet, Kamau Kenyatta, piano, Rob Thorsen, bass, and Richard Sellers, drums. I am delighted to have the support of these esteemed musicians, and we will be playing some more of the rare Dameron compositions I have collected. These are wonderful tunes, and we hope to make them less rare. As reported in last months issue, there are light refreshments at Dizzy’s, provided by the parents of the jazz big band at San Diego’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), with all the proceeds going to support the trips the band makes to perform at various festivals, and other events. Copies of my book Dameronia – the Life and Music of Tadd Dameron, will be available at the concert.
After I post this I’ll be off to the Bay Area for the third of the four recording sessions for The Unknown Dameron CD. It has been my good fortune that Danielle Wertz, who performed with me at the Smithsonian last April, has moved to the East Bay. We will be recording three of the Dameron rarities we presented in D.C., along with my old friend and band mate from many years ago in Boston, pianist Ken Cook. Ken has lived in Northern California for several years now, and has established himself as an in-demand pianist and educator. The final session will be with the San Diego Quintet, after we play Dizzy’s, and I hope to be wrapping the project up over the summer.
3. I Just received some unhappy news from a friend in the Boston Area. After 40 years of operation Ryles Jazz Club will be sold, and unless it is bought by someone who cares about Jazz it will cease operation. Given the astronomical price of real estate in Cambridge, where the club is located, it is unlikely that an investor is going to come along who will take a chance on a jazz oriented venue at whatever price the place will get.
Ryles was started by Jack Riley, a prince of a man, and a true friend of musicians. Before Ryles he had club called Jack’s, in another part of town, that featured mostly what we now call Americana music. Many folks who played there went on to considerable success, among them Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne. After he sold Jack’s he decided to go to an all jazz format at the once-Italian restaurant he purchased in Cambridge’s Inman Square. He was a champion of the local musicians, and while you had to have your business act together in dealing with him, he was never one to take advantage of the struggling artist.
Finally, as he got into his 80s, Jack was ready to retire, and the Mitchell family, who own the S&S Deli in Inman Sq., made Jack a good offer. To those of us locals it appeared that the Mitchells were more interested in gobbling up real estate in the Square, than in carrying on with Jack’s vision. Not only did they buy Ryles, but they purchased the building next door to their deli, home of another bar and music venue. They used the space occupied by the bar to expand their restaurant, rented out the rest of the retail space, and moved their offices into the upper floors.
Upon taking over Ryles the hiring policy changed. Where Jack would pay a reasonable fee for the musicians in return for a good performance, and professional conduct, the new regime involved getting a percentage of the door. Further the responsibility for promotion was now put on the shoulders of the performers. We have seen this trend since the late 80s, and for various reasons this was the business model the new owners decided to follow. In addition, acts now had to go through a booking agent/musician who clearly had a conflict of interest (not to say all those who ware both hats do). He was unpleasant to deal with, and pretty much universally disliked by the musician community.
Often attendance at Ryles was disappointing after the Mitchells took over. I blame the lack of proper promotion on the part of the venue for this. While all of us performers try to use our networks to get the word out, promotion is not our main skill. Preparing and performing music is, and it takes a lot of time and energy, something all too many venue operators do not seem to grasp, or respect. For instance, highly esteemed trumpeter, arranger, and Berklee Professor Greg Hopkins put together a big band for a show a Ryles. The band included some of the finest players in town, at least one of them a former Jazz Messenger, but the room was only one-third full. With proper promotion, it could well have been sold out, or close to it. Proper promotion is something that is not only the responsibility of the venue, but in their economic interest. As they say “go figure.”
The situation was even worse when there were performers from out of the area, especially those, who because of their stature, could easily be promoted by the venue. Of course, the venue operators need to have some idea of their stature, and I never got the impression that the Mitchells actually had much interest in jazz, or the musicians who play it. The almost consistently low attendance at Ryles would not argue well for the new owners, whoever they might be, continuing with a jazz policy. That is if they are interested in continuing to operate a bar/restaurant/music venue. Having lived in the neighborhood for many years, I would not be surprised if the building will be sold to a developer, who will tare it down, and build a taller one with condos on the upper floors and retail on the street level. The Ryles building is only two stories tall, and current zoning would allow for four.
I hope I am wrong about this, and that someone who cares about jazz – or at least live music in general – someone with the experience in presenting live music, purchases Ryles. However, with the lack of support for live music venues, and the economics of real estate in Cambridge, it does not seem likely. We will have to see what happens.
As I reported I’ll be playing at the La Mesa Wine Works on Sunday March 18, and I will be playing with singer Ruby Barnard at Bouree on Sunday March 11. My Regular Wednesday and Thursday gigs continue, even while I am away to play a few in Massachusetts. Click here to get the details.
As always, thank you for supporting LIVE MUSIC!