Despite economic woes, Salt Lake Jazz Festival plays on
Don't worry that you inadvertently missed the annual Salt Lake Jazz Festival, which in the past took over Washington Square during the height of summer.
The festival showcasing local and nationally touring jazz musicians, now in its 12th year, has gone through two moves this year, said Jerry Floor, festival director and cofounder with former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
The festival has moved to the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, with educational clinics at the University of Utah on Saturday, and afternoon and evening performances on Sunday. In a cost-cutting move, the festival's performance day will be at the Gallivan Center instead of the park around City Hall. The Gallivan Center was $22,000 cheaper than holding it at Washington Square, Floor said.
Headliners are Deana Martin, the daughter of the late, great Dean Martin, and the Oakland-based Tower of Power, celebrating more than 40 years of horn-heavy R&B.
For this performance, Martin will be reunited with Vincent Falcone, former music director for her father's Rat Park comrade Frank Sinatra. Falcone will conduct the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra during Martin's performance of her father's most well-known songs. "I've known Vinny for a very long time," she said from her home in Branson, Mo., where she can also see family friend Andy Williams' home across the golf course. "Any place I go, if I am with Vinny, I know he has my back," she said.
Besides being on the road 280 days a year to perform, she is working with actors Bonnie Hunt and Joe Mantegna on adapting her 2005 memoir Memories Are Made of This into a film.
Martin already has ideas about who might portray her in the movie. When she was performing at the legendary Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York City last year, Martin talked to the crowd about the film. If she had her choice, she told the crowd, she would tap Jennifer Love Hewitt. All of sudden, from the back of the venue, a voice yelled, "I'll do it!" Coincidentally, Hewitt was in the audience.
After Martin's performance, Tower of Power will close out the night on one of the band's more than 200 days away from home. When band founder Emilio Castillo moved from Detroit to the Bay Area when he was 11, he turned to the first friend he found there: the radio, playing some of the greatest songs to come out of Motown.
He received a tenor saxophone when he was a teenager. "From the day I got an instrument, I formed a band that day," he said. "When I say my life changed, I mean it. I was obsessed with the band. It became the central point of my life."
The band has been around for 44 years, with many lineup changes, but Castillo's tenure as bandleader has remained constant. The band continues to be the gold standard of its genre, from time spent as visionary promoter Bill Graham's favorite band to opening for the Dave Matthews Band earlier this year. "If you're into this type of thing, we are the thing," Castillo said.
Floor is excited about the impressive lineup assembled for this year's festival, although he expresses frustration at what he perceives as a lack of support from past partners. Once the weekend event was free, but now organizers are charging $16 for Sunday's jazz shows. "We didn't have the funding to do the whole enchilada," he said.
Salt Lake City has cut its financial support from $45,000 during Anderson's tenure to $5,000 this year, Floor said. "As soon as [Mayor Ralph Becker's] administration came in, the money dried up," he said. "As our title sponsor, the city's 86 percent reduction of our funding has been a very difficult pill to swallow, but we appreciate any and all help we can get."
In addition, Floor complained, the nonprofit Downtown Alliance pulled its $2,500 support from the festival at nearly the last minute.
Previously, the city's process for applying for event funding was fragmented and selective, and individual departments were sometimes heavily lobbied by organizers to waive fees for services, said Karen Hale, director of communications for Mayor Ralph Becker.
Now, the city has a centralized cost recovery process, implemented through a special events office. Each event is charged for utilized services, and organizers may apply for funding to offset costs through a Special Events Fund.
"In 2010 and 2011, the Jazz Festival was given Tier 1 funding, similar to the Utah Arts Festival, Pride and EVE," Hale said. "The Jazz Festival's attendance has diminished significantly over the past few years and did not demonstrate the needed criteria for a 2012 Tier 1 event. Secondly, as the city has opened up the process for other events to apply, SEF has become much more competitive."
Mathis, at the Downtown Alliance, said when the Jazz Festival applied for funds in April, it was planning a three-day major music festival downtown. But the alliance had to reconsider its level of support when the downtown portion of the event was limited to one Sunday afternoon and evening, with Saturday events at the University of Utah. "Our mission is very specific to downtown," Mathis wrote in a letter to festival organizers. "It would be inappropriate for us to use the very limited funds paid by downtown property owners, for the purpose of supporting events downtown, to subsidize educational efforts outside of the Central Business District. I certainly wish you every success, but it is hard to justify the same resources we committed in April when the impact to the downtown community has been so dramatically cut. I wish we could be more helpful."
Floor remains hurt. "I'm not angry at anybody," he said. "I'm just disappointed."
Let's hope that performances by Martin and Tower of Power help to alleviate that pain.
2012 Salt Lake City Jazz Festival
When • Saturday, Sept. 1
Where • Gardner Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
Admission • Free
9 a.m. • "Playing Together for Maximum Performance," Westminster College Faculty Quartet
9 a.m. • "Troubleshooting the Big Band Rhythm Section," Jay Lawrence, Denson Angulo, Ken Green, Ira Nepus
10 a.m. • "From Louis Armstrong to Paul McCartney," Ira Nepus
10 a.m. • "From Buddy Rich to Hollywood," Chuck Findley
11 a.m. • "Compositional Approaches: Conceptual vs. Technical," Russell Schmidt
11 a.m. • "Improvisation In the Key of Rhythm," Greg Floor, Vincent Falcone
1:15 p.m. • Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra performance with Deana Martin and others
Note • All attendees receive $5 voucher for discounted admission to Sunday's events
When • Sunday, Sept. 2
Where • Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Admission • $16
1 p.m. • The Hot Club of Zion
2 p.m. • Kathy Kosins with the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra
3:30 p.m. • Redtet University of Utah Faculty Jazz Group
4:30 p.m. • Dave Hall & Friends
5 p.m. • Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra with Emilee Floor, Churck Findley, Ira Nepus, Greg Floor and more
6:30 p.m. • The Drones
7:30 p.m. • Emilee Floor
8:30 p.m. • Deana Martin with Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra directed by Vincent Falcone
9:30 p.m. • Tower of Power