Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lets Include All The Jazz Artists

Tuesday nights in the summer are reserved for the Big Band & Jazz series in Ecton Park. They have been for about 17 years. We used to take blankets and the kids, have a picnic dinner then the kids would run and play while we listened to the music. We have graduated to collapsible chairs and a bit more adult fare now that the guys are teenagers, but they still go off and play with friends.

The musical groups originally would alternate weeks, with Big Band on one week and jazz the next, but lately the schedule has leaned heavily toward the jazz. I can see a possible explanation. I think that most of the Big Band enthusiasts are dwindling in number and moving on to the Big Band in the sky. And I won't say that it is a bad thing because there are a lot of young people out every Tuesday night.

Tonight I took a good look at the crowd while I listened and Mrs. Sweeper read a book. Here we were, smack dab in the middle of the lily white 40502 zip code, listening to jazz from an all white jazz band. Again this week, a black family arrived after we did and the disabled father rolled his wheelchair into the park to enjoy the music. This made me look around for additional similar families or couples...and there were a few...very few.

Twenty years or so ago I used to frequent a place in Chevy Chase called The Bistro. They usually had a jazz trio playing in the corner of the bar area. The owners wife and a small contingent of older couples or older ladies would spend a few hours sipping drinks and listening to the musicians. The majority of these musicians were black. Sometimes, the owner chef , his wife and a few of the regulars would be invited to a small storefront restaurant on Georgetown St for a Sunday evening jam session of the local talent. You never knew who might show up or how long they might stay, but they put out some mighty fine tunes. As white folks we were a tiny minority in that place, but we enjoyed going.

So, if the long running Big Band & Jazz program can be called Lexington's showcase of the talent in that genre, where are the black musicians? I can't believe that they all left town. I doubt that they all passed on. But maybe they aren't members of the Jazz Arts Foundation.

Can anybody answer these questions for me?

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