All that jazzy: The Richmond Jazz Festival

A point of contention for some and a highly anticipated event for others, this weekend’s Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont Park is expected to draw big numbers to see the international, national, and local artists.

Pictured: Guitarist Norman Brown is scheduled to perform at the Richmond Jazz Festival

A point of contention for some and a highly anticipated event for others, this weekend’s Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont Park is expected to draw big numbers to see the international, national, and local artists. The name — along with a perusal of the artists scheduled to perform — says it all: Richmond Jazz Festival.

Some might call it false advertising. After all, it’s true that the presence of straight-ahead jazz artists appears to be non-existent on the festival’s bill; just about every name fits the mold of smooth jazz, R&B, or soul. That’s not a surprise considering that the people who organized the festival are the ones behind Fridays at Sunset, the summer concert series that generally only presents artists of those genres. The conflict is more about the title of the festival giving the impression of inclusiveness, whereas it’s actually representing only a tiny sect of the music.

Whether you feel jazz is being misrepresented, or that the misrepresentation of jazz by its more commercial and easily ingested sub-genre is a backwards step for educating the public about the music and its history, there is a silver lining. For one, tourism to Richmond should prosper for the weekend, bringing tons of out-of-towners to see the big names that will perform. In addition, Richmond Jazz Society — who puts on monthly concerts of visiting artists and is dedicated to community outreach, education, and preservation of jazz — is receiving proceeds from the ticket sales.

And for me, nostalgia plays a part.

As a young musician growing up in the D.C. area, I was attracted to smooth jazz. The grooves were unlike anything I had heard in popular music, the harmony was exceptionally different, and I was just beginning to get into instrumental music of all kinds. In the radio world — which, much of the time, only gives straight-ahead jazz one day out of the week or a certain time frame every day — smooth jazz was available around the clock.

Though I no longer get the same enjoyment out of it as I once did, I can appreciate that it was smooth jazz that helped bridge me to straight-ahead jazz, bebop, and more.

So what is smooth jazz, and why is it generally abhorred by most of the jazz community and accepted and praised by others? It’s important to note that as there are many offshoots of jazz — and more and more developing as genre boundaries continue to close in on one another — smooth jazz is one of them.

Smooth jazz (or “smazz,” as some call it without affection), is just as much influenced by R&B and soul than it is by jazz. We normally think of smooth jazz as its timbre being overly polished and produced compared to other jazz; the solos tend to come across as charted out and far too perfect. Coming out of the studio, it sounds more like engineer-perfected pop music than nuanced jazz.

Timbre, Early Jazz author, composer, and jazz historian Gunther Schuller says, is an identifying feature of jazz that can immediately differentiate between “real jazz and commercial derivatives of jazz.” Written in 1968, he refers more to composers who adopt jazz instrumentation and timbre and create something that lacks jazz’s other elements (swing, improvisation, etc.) to confuse the audience into believing it’s jazz. He may not have predicted that in the future there would be a genre doing the opposite: avoiding the jazz timbre and still calling itself jazz.

Along with rhythm, form, harmony, melody, and improvisation, timbre is an essential part of jazz. Schuller writes,

“The sonority of real jazz is traceable directly to African singing and indirectly to African speech and language… One of jazz’s great attractions is that it has preserved the typically African open tone and natural quality. Some would refer to this quality as ‘earthiness,’ others as ‘beauty of sound,’ while still others have seen it as raw and vulgar, since it lacked the ‘polite’ sounds of European art music.”

In the last few years and especially due to the dwindling economy, jazz festivals have had trouble bringing in audiences. In order to draw the numbers and keep their businesses afloat, festival organizers have taken to bringing in big non-jazz acts to fill up the bills. Seeing names like Pearl Jam on jazz festival line-ups is a reality that jazz fans have had to accept. Such is the case with the Richmond Jazz Festival: there will be acts along the R&B and soul tip that sound “jazzy” but really have nothing to do with jazz, the vocalist’s bluesy melismas the closest thing to come to improvisation in their set. While other festivals at least book real jazz (as Schuller would call it) to counter the totally non-jazz acts, we won’t find such counters at the RJF.

The landscape for jazz has changed and will continue to change. As in politics, there will always be the conservatives (traditionalists) and the liberals (ground-breakers and genre-benders). Arguing about what the festival should be called would take the immortal ability to answer the question, “What is jazz today?” Only, this is art and not politics. Good luck answering that one.

The Richmond Jazz Festival will take place Saturday, August 14, and Sunday, August 15, at Maymont Park and will feature Chaka Khan, Poncho Sanchez, Chuck Mangione, Boney James, Ledisi, Stanley Clarke, Norman Brown, Plunky and Oneness, and more. For more information and for ticket sales, visit

  • error

    Report an error

Dean Christesen

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. lindsey on said:

    don’t you yourself host an rvajazz fest with jazz in the title which pretty much exclusively includes avant garde and experimental jazz? by not including smooth jazz and straight ahead jazz in your own fest, aren’t you being hypocritical? perhaps some might call your fest false advertising as well.

    that being said, my favorite thing about rvajazz has always been its acceptance of all kinds of experimental music, without putting limitations on what is called “jazz.” if we are going to put boundaries on this music and say this is “real jazz” and this is not, the content of this entire website would have to be filtered and edited, sorting through some crazy experimental music that no longer has anything to do with African singing, speech or language.

    I respect your opinion concerning smooth jazz, and it certainly is not my cup of tea, but I hope you see that by writing a scathing personal opinion about smooth jazz, you are slightly closing the umbrella for experimental music in rva which you have so lovingly opened.

  2. james on said:

    Thank You Lindsey!! This is very biased!!

  3. @lindsey RVAJazz is going on three years old now, and there have been a couple events to our name (2 RVAJazzfests, we presented Jason Ajemian & The HighLife, the straight-ahead Glenn Wilson Quartet, and we helped sponsor Matana Roberts, etc). There’s a certain genre associated with the website and its name. Call it branding, maybe. “Richmond Jazz” as in “Richmond Jazz Festival” is generic; there is no branding associated with those two words. It suggests one of two things: “Here’s jazz from Richmond,” or “Here’s jazz in Richmond.” As I said, that suggests inclusiveness of other jazz sub-genres, and at the least straight-ahead jazz.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. @lindsey ………………. seriously …………… People can have opinions other than yours….. Thats what makes it their opinion and not your opinion.

  5. Andy on said:

    Dean, I like your article and the reader’s comments. You handled the subject matter gently. I’m a little confused by Schuller’s use of the word “timbre” to distinguish “real jazz”. I also think the Maninka and Bamana instrumental music of Mali had more to do with influencing the development of jazz music in New Orleans than African singing or speech. By the time of the slave trade, Mali was already influenced by Arab and European music. Schuller would suggest that jazz has a “typically African open tone and natural quality”. American jazz is a blend of European and African music, born in the post Civil War brass band era. It is a truly American art form.

  6. Trey Pollard on said:

    Good for you, Dean. Well done. “Jazz” is such a hard thing to define. Every time I think I’ve got it nailed down, I think of some artist that I consider “jazz” that doesn’t meet the requirements I previously decided upon.
    I’m inclined to narrow the term down to mean: “traditional jazz.” Swing & Improvisation. That’s it.

    Smooth jazz…eh?!

    To be fair, I will admit that I was apart of a RVAjazz Fest that had, in my opinion, no jazz. Only improvised music. It’s just words.

  7. Thanks for the comments, Trey, Andy, and Pace. I’ll be curious to read your opinions on the musicians in the two posts that will follow. YouTube clips galore.

  8. lindsey on said:

    @pace i don’t believe i said anything anywhere in my comment about people not being allowed to have opinions other than mine?

    i said in my comment “i respect your opinion.”

    there’s no need to be rude.

  9. Pace In Yo Face on said:

    @lindsey Sorry. Didn’t mean to be rude. …This whole “what is or isn’t jazz” convo kinda makes me touchy….. I wish music didn’t have to fit into little boxes. .. But i guess i has to for organization purposes….sucks

  10. Rosemary on said:

    Dean-Smooth jazz also served as a “bridge” for me. I became interested in it in my early twenties and still very much enjoy listening to many of the artisits who I assume fit this category. One of my favorite shows was a Norman Brown performance numerous years ago. It was here in town–a very intimate gathering of folks and a very good performance. Other Richmond shows that I fondly remember: Joe Sample at the Byrd. He was fantastic and we had a wonderful after-show gathering at TJ’s. Then there was Boney James and David Sanborn at The Landmark–a great show that Jay and I still talk about. Very accessible folks, just like all the folks who play here in Richmond. All of these smooth jazz artists along with many others, helped me begin my travels down the jazz path. Frankly, it’s performers such as these who helped me introduce the jazz form to my friends, many of whom thought jazz was for everyone but them.

  11. I suppose this discussion runs along the same line as the debate (although I think it’s only me) about the term ‘musical’ or ‘musicality.’ I challenge anyone to tell me what it means to play musically.

    For every characteristic we throw into the definition, there are plenty of examples of music we’d put under the umbrella that don’t share said characteristic. Would we have to say jazz must a) swing b) include improvisation c) base itself on blues or popular song forms d) exhibit vocal-like timbres? I know we can all think of plenty of ‘jazz’ that lacks at least one of those elements. Even swing can be defined VERY broadly. I would offer that rumba music swings and includes improvisation but we don’t call it jazz. I like where Trey is going with his definition. Words have to cut between things, including some characteristics and excluding others. That being said, I think ‘improvised music’ even the ‘experimental’ kind, has more in common, especially in spirit, with the term jazz than smooth jazz does.

    The history of what we call jazz is dominated by musicians who found beauty in being adventurous, raw, and at times unsettling. I doubt that the lineup for this festival strives for the same things. I suppose for each of us, jazz is like porn, we know it when we hear it. Beyond that, taste is impossible to totally objectify.

  12. @Rosemary True, and I hope people think about that next time they bash the genre (or any genre of music). There’s this argument that it will be a gateway to new discoveries. Then there’s the idea that millions of people can’t be wrong. I’m not so sure that I subscribe to that belief, but any music that is that popular should really make you think.

    @Bryan Yes.

  13. It kind of makes me nauseous to hear the word “jazz” over and over again when reading or talking to people.

    I’m not sure why but it seems that Jazz is one of the touchiest musical “genres” to discuss with people. When ever it is argued it seems that people are discussing the idea that there is a supreme correct way to play jazz and everyone else is not authentic in the genre.

    I think one of the main reasons this happens is because traditional jazz become an area of study in universities around the world. Now it has become somewhat standardized as to what constitutes the genre. You don’t learn about smooth jazz in school, therefore….not really jazz. Also, in my experience, “jazz” teachers also tend to marginalize anything, and I mean ANYTHING that is not their own personal idea of jazz.

    I had one of my teachers describe Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as “stiff white boy jazz”. I think he was missing the point. Just because the piece has jazz elements….it doesn’t necessarily mean that Gershwin is trying to write “jazz” music, it’s scored for orchestra for Pete’s sake….

    ….and speaking of that, what definitive jazz artist EVER wrote anything in a strict sense and “by the book”.

  14. Roman L. on said:

    Dean, this article is very well written. Adopting names under any type of specific genre of music is difficult, and I compare it to when you ask a person ( a person who is not a musician) what is classical music? and they say, ” Brahms”. I don’t know if there will ever be some sort of guild to govern what falls under ” Jazz”, but I do know that if I hear of a Jazz festival, I don’t expect to hear R&B. On a side-note, I once drove passed the Hampton coliseum either a year to two years ago, and I saw that Robin Thicke and Lil’ wayne were performing for their Jazz festival. Awesome.

  15. Andy on said:

    I agree with SnowPanda’s comments. I guess the topic of jazz is a touchy subject because it’s such a personal thing for the musicians that create it. When the magic happens, it springs from the musician’s very soul and so there is a natural feeling of ownership or love held for that creation. Maybe that’s where some of the resentment stems from, when elements of jazz are borrowed to create new styles of music. But isn’t that how jazz first was invented anyway? Jazz has always been a “gumbo” of all sorts of musical styles.

    BrianH’s description of “adventerous, raw and unsettling” describes only one style of jazz; the experimental variety. It also implies that jazz music needs to be unpopular, or understood by an enlightened few, in order to be authentic. I have an old lawn mower motor that has dynamics, pitch, tone color, rhythm and melody, of sorts, – but I wouldn’t call it musical. All music should communicate in a laguage that the listener understands, as well as the player, otherwise its babble.

    The artists that are playing at the Richmond Jazz Fest (Chaka Khan, Poncho Sanchez, Chuck Mangione, Boney James, Stanley Clarke) all have solid jazz credentials. With all due respect, any one of them could play circles around any of our local talent. As far as personal taste goes, think about this: Louis Armstrong’s favorite band was the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. It spoke to him. Music, like art and beauty, is subjective.

  16. @snow pea I completely understand what you mean about talking to someone about “jazz”. It is almost a given, with very few exceptions, that, in my mind, whoever it is that I am talking to about “jazz”, has a COMPLETELY different idea of what it is I am talking about.

    Wrongly, in my mind, when I tell someone that most of the music that I listen to is “jazz”, I assume they are thinking of an entirely different kind of music than what it is that I listen to. I assume that their concept of “jazz” has been obscured by this smooth jazz/r&b/adult contemporary instrumental/fireside white zinfandel/mock ribbed turtleneck/weird soft world/sensual relaxation music.

    Sorry. That’s my hang-up. Out on the line to dry.

    I love Rhythm & Blues, R&B, Soul Jazz, “jazz”, etc., but it IS touchy. I personally don’t want people confusing the music being presented at this festival with the music that I am talking about.

  17. What about Bill Frisell?
    All his albums are classified as jazz.

    If someone heard Disfarmer, Nashville, Richter 858, Blues Dream for the first time…..I don’t know if their first, second or even third instinct would be to call them jazz

    …..but all his albums sit right there in the jazz section at your music store.

    I mean that right there tells you how crazy and loaded the term “jazz” is.

  18. DHood on said:

    I don’t use the word Jazz. Its hard for me to say. I even cringed a little when I wrote it… [i.e. Hey, I’m going to see a show at the Jazz Standard! (*shutter*)] That being said, they can call the festival anything they want. My mom really likes Chaka Kahn, I used to listen to Chaka Kahn with my mom when I was little, and she was on Herbie Hancock’s River album and I love that album and it won the Grammy for Album of The Year. Maybe I’ll go see her at that festival going on in Maymont this weekend….oh it costs $30?!?! That’s what I’m upset about. I’ll just save that money for october to get a ticket to see SF Jazz Collective (*shutter*).

  19. Davezac on said:

    Because so much music contains elements of the genres that have come before, I think it’s hard for us to be able to definitively state that something ISN’T a certain genre. If someone hears a blues lick in a pop song, are they really wrong in saying that the song is blues? Classifying it only as blues might be misleading, but I don’t think it would necessarily be wrong.

    Jazz especially is a genre with so many different things under its umbrella that it’s difficult to come up with criteria for what constitutes jazz. When possible, I like to describe a song or piece of music by several of the most prominent characteristics rather than try to figure out one label for it.

    I don’t mind so much that we feel the need to put things in little boxes–I just wish that the boxes weren’t seen as limiting or exclusive.

    @Andy I think that saying that the Richmond Jazz Festival’s artist lineup could play circles around the local talent is both false and not really the point. It’s not really the point because music isn’t a competition. It’s false because can you honestly say, for example, that trumpet players like Rex Richardson and Taylor Barnett aren’t as skilled and talented as Chuck Mangione?

  20. DHood on said:

    Oh and Brian, I walked around the fan musically today and it was awesome..

  21. DHood….I like your style.

  22. maybe we could have a shirts vs. skins jazz game. loser has to play chuck mangione’s hits.

  23. Tom B on said:

    I only take issue with the article in one respect. It casts a negative light on Smooth Jazz. Sure it might be bland, great fodder for jokes and over-produced, but do these guys have any less chops than the guys and gals in the experimental scene? I seriously doubt it. I don’t want to subscribe to the ideal that someone decides to play smooth jazz because they don’t have the chops. In many cases I think that the compositions are the important thing instead of the improvising. Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell record is completely composed, as was Charles Mingus’ final work. Pat Metheny gets respect in most jazz circles even though his Speaking of Now Record is smooth and easy to digest as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.

    I don’t think it’s right to include groups like Ombak (who dive into math-rock, metal, and classical territory), Fight the Big Bull (Who in many ways are more folk/rock than Jazz – except for the improvisation and overall makeup of the band), Verbatim, UTV (chamber-jazz), YellowGrass (Pat Metheny Inspired Smooth Jazz), or the national groups like Ken Vandermark and John Zorn etc into a Jazz Blog and speak with a looking-down-your-nose tone about Smooth Jazz. I think there are two sides to the genre, one being composition/commercial appeal (Smooth), the other being experimental/heavily improvisational. Both need to fall under the fast-closing ‘Umbrella’ of Jazz or it’s going to blow away.

    Or, RVAJazz needs an update to RVAMusic to skirt this touchy ‘Jazz’ subject. Or this article belongs in the op/ed section.

  24. First of all, I don’t think Dean or anyone else specifically said Smooth Jazz was bad music! The larger point is that this is too small of sub-genre under too large of a word. Imagine holding an American Music Festival and only programming the symphonic works of Aaron Copland

    @Andy I agree with you that jazz has been and always will be a gumbo. That’s one of my favorite parts about it.

    One could easily use the words ‘raw, adventurous and unsettling’ to describe early reactions to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and many, many other musicians who we hold up as the giants of jazz. This was true even before some of them entered their experimental phases, whatever that word even means. On some level, all music is an experiment.

    I did not, and would never imply that jazz needs to be unpopular to be good or authentic. That’s silly. I was only saying that jazz has been a traditionally envelope-pushing music. People love plenty of things that are jarring: horror movies, playing contact sports, sky diving, etc. The fear/relief thrill we get from our physical world is replicated in the tension/release sensation we get from music. Great musicians balance both sensations. There’s a great quote from Ken Vandermark that fits here… paraphrasing: “People always ask me why modern music is so dissonant. I ask myself ‘is it dissonant enough?'”

    As far as the player/audience understanding issue, music operates in a different way than a language does. The sounds in music don’t stand for something else, the way words do. The sounds are ends in themselves. I hope audiences experience music more than they understand it.

    I might want to use your lawnmower in my new band if that’s ok. The local lawnmower cats around here aren’t quite cutting it.

    Also, I wish everyone would spell my name correctly. I have to go practice.


  25. Elizabeth on said:

    Despite what your feeling is about Jazz (and music in general), I love that this article has brought about so much discussion! Positive and negative – getting this much talk about one article is what a good blogger dreams of! I’m hooked now, and will continue to check out RVAJazz!

  26. Jason on said:

    The definition of “Jazz” will probably be much more clear cut in another 100 years. It is a fledgling musical genre.

  27. andy on said:

    BryanH – My Lawn Mower is booked up until Christmas and then it’s going on a Carnival Cruise gig.

    Dean needs to do an article on what the definition of a successful musician is in the 21st century. Now THAT would be a discussion. P.S. – I love all of you guys (and gals). No disrepect was intended.

  28. Bryan said “First of all, I don’t think Dean or anyone else specifically said Smooth Jazz was bad music!”

    That’s my cue:

    Smooth jazz is bad music.

    It is high fructose corn syrup, sacharine, sweet and low, etc. to someone who prefers pure cane sugar.

    I don’t care about chops. I don’t care what kind of music these folks *used* to play, or *can* play. All that matters is what music they *do* play.

    Ps this is a blog. This is my personal opinion. Please take it with a huge piece of course rock salt.

  29. Hajjilee54 on said:

    Always one in the crowd. Richmond needs “something” to put it on the map. It seems that whatever it is, music, theater or whatever, Richmond is the last place to “make it happen”. Nobody wants to come and see it. Well, I take that back, the watermelon festivle is big as was ther Ukrops run. But seriously, Richmond needs the flavor of smooth jazz as well as all the other forms of music for others to enjoy. I don’t know if anyone remembers but one of the best music events that I have seen in several years was when Joe Sample performed with his trio at Friday’s at Sunset. It was off the chain and nobody (perhaps other than 300 or so people) saw him but he gave one of the best concerst that I have ever seen. Richmond, let’s get busy and support Richmond Jazz when it comes her and maybe Richmond can be the new place to go other than the Capital Jazz Festival in the future. I am really looking forward to this weekend.

  30. John S. on said:

    Music and Language:

    Someone needs to do a little reading….

  31. John S. on said:

    Someone needs to do a little reading…

    Music and Language

  32. irishjazz on said:

    There is nothing wrong with Smooth Jazz that isn’t also wrong with Big Macs, Fox News, Budweiser, or any other product commercially crafted to reach a large mainstream demographic. Some musicians want to be John Coltrane, some are OK with being Barry Manilow- if there is an actual living in it.

    The insufficiency of the term “jazz” to capture the full range of improvised, partially improvised or just “music that has a saxophone in it” has been noted since Ellington. There has always been the divide between artist and entertainer, and between substantial innovation and simplistic crowd pleasing- not that the realms are mutually exclusive.

    Nevertheless, it is disappointing for those of us who prefer substance and chance-taking creativity when a “Jazz Festival” comes to town larded with pop performers. For the same booking fees (or less) we could have had people we wanted to see rather than the people They want to see.

    Nevertheless, it makes no practical sense to root against it. If the show makes money, maybe there will be a bit more opportunity to bring in someone riskier and more interesting. If it doesn’t, well, you know jazz is dead, right?

  33. andy on said:

    This web page has a flow chart of Jazz Styles derived from Joachim Berendt’s, The Jazz Book. It may help to make sense of it all. Check it out.

  34. Jackie gets to the point with his class, but you have to sit through some saxophone playing before he gets to it.

  35. I’ve always felt that the true delineating factor (or tell-tale sign) between real jazz and R&B smooth jazz is the drumming. If it has that familiar “this song is for dancing” back beat (hitting on the 2 and 4) and it stays basically the same throughout the song, it’s smooth jazz to be sure. Smooth jazz bands don’t want complex rhythms gumming up the dance beat. Steady beat with solos kept short and no fancy stuff is the m.o. A perfect formula for boring.

    I think the Jazz at Maymont gig lost a lot of value to me when they dropped Terence Blanchard from the line-up. Without him, it’s all smooth jazz, save for Poncho Sanchez, who is well worth the price of admission. His latest release is excellent.

    Just across the street on Saturday, though, and for FREE is the last of the jazz offerings for Dogwood Dell’s Festival of Arts Series. I’m not familiar with the artists, but here are the details…

    4th Annual Latin Jazz Festival
    August 14: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
    Featuring a variety of live Latin entertainment and presentations.
    Emcees for the festival include “Sweet Lou” Hidalgo and Miguelito “El Guiro” Lebron, the hosts of WCLM 1450 AM’s The Latin Jazz Show, Antoinette Essa and Angela Pellergano anchor/reporter from WTVR CBS 6, Richmond.
    Guest DJ’s will be Richmond’s own Eddy Mayorga, Steve Greene and Renee’ Lacey and her Cameo Models.
    Entertainment including…
    “El Gran Meñique” • Eddie Ortiz and his La Ro-mana Orchestra
    Jose Lorenzo • Timbason La Original • Gio & Clara Toro’s Salsa
    4Life • Tanya Gonzalez’s (AHAR) La Mezcla Que Baila
    A “live” conga line and more.

  36. Thanks for that, Ken! I agree wholeheartedly that Poncho Sanchez and his band should be worth the price of admission to the festival. But the Latin Jazz Festival down the street should put up a good fight for attention tomorrow.

  37. Bob L. on said:

    The other night I was having a beer with my friend Elliot, when he imparted some truly frightening information (If you have young children at home you may
    want to have them leave the room for a minute). Apparently there is a
    Professor of Jazz somewhere (I’ll presume at a college) who is against
    downloading. No, not all downloading. He’s just opposed to people
    downloading Jazz.

    Now, you’re probably thinking the obvious at this point (Unless, after 30
    years, the Manson Family’s plans to dose the nation’s water supply with LSD
    have finally come to fruition. If that’s the case, then you’re probably
    thinking “Got to get naked so I can taste those car horns”), that Jazz
    Professor is against downloading because it takes money out of the pockets
    of poor, old Jazz musicians (who, if you want to be a strict
    traditionalist, really should only be paid in booze and hookers). No, Jazz
    Professor is frothing into his spit valve because, in his learned opinion,
    downloading individual songs removes them from their historical context
    (Maybe the Manson Family was successful after all).

    Allow me to explain – and then weep openly. Jazz Professor (and remember
    that this man has a Ph.D.) is convinced that to actually grasp the
    complexity of any Jazz tune, one must listen to the entire album that it is
    part of. In other words, if you download an individual Jazz song, you just
    won’t “get it” because the song has been removed from original context.
    I’ll give you a few minutes to eat an entire bottle of Tylenol before we

    First, I should point out that I have no real problem with a person being a
    “Professor of Jazz”. Personally, I think that the field should be expanded
    to include “Professor of Goth”, “Professor of 80’s Hair Metal”, and
    “Professor of Polka”. It’s always been a dream of mine to attend an
    Academic banquet where a Professor of Country and a Professor of Country
    And Western come to blows over which one of them is really the
    father of Raylene’s baby.

    That said, what I do have a problem with is Academics who are convinced
    that they’re preserving an art form. Just as Quantum Physics tells us that
    we can’t observe an event without changing it, Common Sense should tell us
    that the minute you bring just about any art-form into the classroom –
    you’ve killed it. If you think I’m wrong, then I triple-dog-dare you to
    attend a pottery class.

    A perfect example of this is Appalachian Clog Dancing. Back before 1973
    (Officially know as “The Year Everything Started To Suck”), Appalachian
    Clog Dancers were exclusively inbred hillbillies whose extraordinary
    clogging ability could be chalked up (or “coaled up” as the case may be) to
    their extra toes. They had great names like Clem and …um…Clem Jr. They
    worked in mines, or gas stations, or – better yet – didn’t work at all and
    received a “Gubberment” check.

    Then, one day, Academics, deluded by the ideal of the “Noble Savage” and
    intent on preserving Appalachian culture, descended on the valleys and
    “hollers” like locust. Those who weren’t raped and then set ablaze returned
    to their Universities as Professors of Appalachian Clog Dancing. And an
    industry was born!

    Nowadays, if you encounter an Appalachian Clog Dancer, you can rest assured
    that that was also their Major. Today’s Cloggers have names like Thurston
    and Darwin. Oh, sure they still receive checks from the Government, but
    these are in the form of Federal Grants. The only place that you’ll see
    Appalachian Clog Dancing today is in some college’s Sociology department.
    Meanwhile, back in Appalachian, everybody listens to Hip-hop. Someday, in
    the distant future, Academics will feel the need to preserve Appalachian
    Hip-hop culture. And so it goes.

    Shit, Luther, I also have it on good authority that drawing a turkey by
    tracing your hand was once a respected art-form before teachers started
    making their students do it.

    So you see, Jazz lost its context years ago. And that’s not necessarily a
    bad thing. After all, Classical music lost its context over a century and a
    half ago and people enjoy it without having to wear powdered wigs. Hell,
    Punk lost its context the when Green Day’s CD went to Number One, but I
    fail to remember civilization coming to a screeching halt.

    So, why then, do Jazz purists throw a hissy fit whenever some Rap artist
    samples one of Thelonious Gillespie’s horn notes without including a 90
    volume History of Jazz with the purchase of their CD so that
    listeners may place the note in its proper musical context? Well, and you
    may be shocked to learn this, there are a lot of Jazz experts out there who
    don’t actually like Jazz. We can blame society for this.

    Around the same time when those College Professors descended on Appalachia,
    society started telling people that they needed to appreciate Jazz.
    Historians are still divided as to rather this was a by-product of Liberal
    White-Guilt or an insidious plot by the KKK to stomp out Black music by
    taking the fun out of it. Either way, Jazz became something that you’re
    supposed to like. Which is probably why I hate it.

    There, I said it. I hate Jazz. For a musician to admit to hating Jazz is
    tantamount to a Baptist minister admitting that he likes to sneak off every
    now and then to a Cradle of Filth concert…with his Gay buddies.

    Please keep in mind it’s not so much the actual music that I hate, and it’s
    certainly not the musicians (Except for Kenny G. because he sucks and Miles
    Davis because he was an asshole). No, the reason I hate jazz is because the
    people who tried to preserve it changed its context from something that was
    to be enjoyed to something that was to be appreciated.

    Music, like art, literature and the Aqua Teen Hunger Force are meant to be
    enjoyed. Not studied until they’re no longer fun. And that’s why, if I ever
    meet a Professor of Ramonesology, I’ll slap him so hard that he’ll get
    picked up for speeding in Trenton.

  38. There are people who study drugs and sex, but that doesn’t mean other people don’t still enjoy doing them. Some people will appreciate wine and others will drink it to get drunk. What’s the problem?

  39. Bob L. on said:

    Jazz was born from the sweat and toil of black AND white Americans. From the pain and suffering along with the joy of many Americans.
    It was not born in an ivy league setting analyzed to death.
    And over time it has grown to incorporate many different forms. Some of the forms were envelope pushing as BrYanH puts it.

    But a line has to be drawn somewhere.

    Standing up on stage playing a bunch of out of tune BS and having a professor of JAZZ call it JAZZ just so he can meet his quota for the year and keep his job, ain’t gonna cut it.

    However, if it works for you, who am I to judge. I just know I’m not dishing out all that money so my kid can end up in the poor house with a career that really isn’t a career. “Do you want fries with that?”

    Barry Manilow makes good money at what he does. If he needed to support a family, he could do that. Can any of you??? Will any of you ever be able to do that??? I’ve heard Barry Manilow play some excellent JAZZ piano. He chose to make a living for himself instead.

    The game has been exposed, gentlemen. Like it or not.

    And I guess that’s why I only got one response to my first posting. And that response really didn’t make sense. If you didn’t understand what I was saying, you could have asked me, and I would have clarified anything that gave you trouble.

    In one post someone mentions Taylor Barnett and Rex Richardson. How many jazz festivals are they headlining? How many records have they made? If you truly feel that those musicians are better than what appeared at the RJF, then it only shows what a small circle you run with.

    And as far as JO II Is concerned. I read the interview with Mr. Hooten. I disagree with his assessment that only the “Big 3” should be the focus. If I were running that band, we would plays charts by Lawrence Welk, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Basie, Artie Shaw, and MAYBE Thad Jones.

    It is wrong to expose students to only one kind of jazz – the jazz that YOU like – and only the jazz that YOU like.

    A musician friend of mine from Chicago suggested that those 3 are focused upon because the arrangements are not very taxing on the musicians and they are easier to perform than many of the arrangements I would utilize.

    Enough said. I think you get the point.

  40. Lawrence Welk?! Do tell.

    This is the list of arrangers that you feel are relevant to teaching and thinking about section playing in the 21st C. ?

    I’m interested.

  41. Bob L. on said:

    I feel that those bands have something to teach. I didn’t say the others were wrong. I would not however, focus simply on those that were mentioned in Mr. Hooten’s interview. They reflect personal taste only and nothing more.

    Have you actually listened to Welk’s band of the 1950’s where he uses 3 trumpets and 2 trombones and has each trumpeter doubling on trombone? In some arrangements there are 5 trombones playing at once. And the 2nd trumpeter is doubling on melophone occasionally.

    It’s called tonal color my friend. I doubt there is one jazz student or professor at VCU that is even remotely qualified to make an assessment on Lawrence Welk’s band and what it does or does not teach. Watching him once on a Saturday night 10 years ago does not qualify you. Or, in what I believe to be the case here, word of mouth (someone else telling you what they thought of Welk) does not qualify you either.

    Further more, I’d like to know why each member of the JO II saxophone section is not required to play at least clarinet. When I attended their performance last year, there was only one clarinet on stage. Boring, Boring, Boring. Saying that the arrangements don’t call for each member of the section to play clarinet is exactly why I would choose to play Welk, Goodman, Lombardo, Shaw, and others. Even Kenton had clarinets for God’s sake.

    That is not giving anyone a well rounded education to have only one clarinet. There was a time when, in order to perform in the jazz band, you had to be proficient on both saxophone and clarinet AND both were used on a regular basis. Perhaps this was never the case at VCU, but that just proves my point even more.

    To some, it’s all about how loud and raucous, and dissonant the band can get, unfortunately.

    And when every other jazz band is doing the same things, where is the originality in that?

    Just as there are well over 200 bands up and down the East coast that are just like No BS Brass. The only difference is the names of the musicians and the names of the tunes. Where is the originality or creativity in that? And there are many bands in the RVA area that are doing nearly the same thing as No BS. So we can bring the point home if you will.

    Let me pose a question to you, Pyramid Dot Guy (or girl).

    What makes Basie, Ellington and Thad Jones better at teaching section playing than say Lawrence Welk’s arranger, Bob Ballard? Can you name one Bob Ballard arrangement that does not teach section playing? Can you name a Bob Ballard arrangement period?

    It’s very easy to play your horn without changing mutes all evening. It’s also very boring.

    And let’s go one step further…What is your idea of section playing?

    It’s funny how jazz educators only put the black arrangers on pedestals. You’re going to bring up Neal Hefti and others. But you don’t consider them one of the “big 3”.

    Let us not forget that Paul Whiteman (who was one of the first well known BIG BANDS) was the “King of jazz” and he was white. During his biggest popularity (the late 20’s and early 30’s), what he was playing was considered jazz.

  42. “Standing up on stage playing a bunch of out of tune BS and having a professor of JAZZ call it JAZZ just so he can meet his quota for the year and keep his job, ain’t gonna cut it.”

    What quota? Where did you see this happen?

    I support myself exclusively by playing and teaching music as do many of my musician friends, some of whom have families.

    Please read my interview again. As far as focusing ONLY on the big three, I said the following things:

    “…I don’t think there’s any music literature out there that’s going to make you a worse player if you play it really well.”

    “…the idea of JO II is designed to lay the foundation of exposing the band to Basie, Ellington, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, that kind of stuff.”

    “You’re not going to make a living playing Basie, Ellington, or Thad Jones. You have to understand rock and roll, funk, salsa, pop, classical, all of that stuff. I think the challenge of any music program is trying to be comprehensive in that way: preparing the student so they can step into any of those situations and play well, know their surroundings, know what’s required in each genre of music.”

    Ellington, Basie and Jones are NOT easy to play WELL. In addition, those arrangements have plenty of mute changes and reed doubles.

    There’s no way to know which arrangements we’ll be able to do until auditions are finished and we know the instrumentation. If I have the right number of players, I’m sure we’ll do some Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, etc…

    Clarification: When I mention the Basie Library, that includes Neal Hefti and Sammy Nestico (both white) and others.

    JO II meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30-6:20 at VCU. You are welcome to stop by and assess the level of instruction any time you want.

  43. Emily Y on said:

    While I have agreed and disagreed with many points in this article and comments, I have really enjoyed reading the discussion. However, there really aren’t well over 200 bands along the east coast that are just like NO BS :-(

  44. Dillard on said:

    Ok, I think it’s time I get involved just a little bit. First kudos to Dean and everyone else who has generated such a lengthly discussion to something we all love: MUSIC, especially Jazz and all related genres, even if they are hard to put a finger on exactly what defines each of them.

    So often we hear political candidates, pundits, and other news related people on television and the radio and the newspaper and ….. make statements that seem to have no support behind them. I would like to challenge Bob L to support his argument a little bit. List 5 of the 200 bands that No BS is supposedly copying. Please do NOT include Rebirth, Young Blood, or Dirty Dozen on your list. Also, please list 2 of the “many bands in the RVA area that are doing nearly the same thing as No BS.”


  45. Bob L. on said:

    Sure there are. There are at least 5-10 bands right here in RVA that sound just like NO BS. And many of these bands feature some of the same performers as the others.

    Take Chicago (which isn’t on the East Coast) for instance. I have been told (and from what I have seen and heard), there are many bands there that are doing the Fight The Big BU….er…..NO BS Brass thing. Hey. That’s fine. Whatever floats your boat.

    Look at all the heavy metal rock bands out there. There isn’t a shred of difference between them. If it’s OK for that genre, I guess it’s OK for Jazz.

    I don’t want to name specific ensembles (is it OK to call a jazz group an ensemble or is that not raucous and dissonant enough), but some of the bands coming out of the jazz program here are really not even music. But….they’re being called music and it seems to be OK with the jazz elite at VCU.

    I’m all for creativity and improvisation, but at some point you have to step back and say “You know, this really has crossed the line and is no longer music.”

    Unless of course the security of your job depends on how many people you recruit into your program each year. And those folks do have to graduate for it to count.

    Let me explain about the mutes. Since Welk was the topic earlier, let’s re examine the band. In one arrangement, the brass might switch mutes 3-4 times going from cup to straight to solotone to harmon. Lots of color there.

    The reeds double on instruments such as bassoon, bass clarinet, flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, and so on. Now that’s section work. Being able to play those doubles where you might have to make a switch 2-3 times during a piece of music (and with only a measure or half a measure to do it!).

    I have nothing against Basie or Ellington for that matter. Those are very fine bands for what they do. My personal opinion however, is that the range of music performed should be broadened to include the music I mentioned. It won’t be, but it should be.

    It’s not a question of what one likes or doesn’t like. I’m not fond of Brahms. But if I were teaching a course on Classical music, he would be mentioned just as much as any of the others.

    In your equation you can add the teaching music. But in the equation of those who are only getting a jazz performance degree (with dreams of grandeur attached to it), what do they have to fall back on??? Oh yeah. The cot in that hole in the wall apartment they are living in.

    The lawnmower reference above was quite funny. But didn’t the gentleman already know about VCU’s resident lawnmower musician? Guess not.

    Let me ask you something BrYanH: Would you play in a polka band if you were called to do so? Would you know how to play your instrument in the exact style required to play in such a band? Just showing up and reading the music doesn’t cut it.

  46. lindsey on said:

    these comments are getting too long for me to read, so i actually have no idea what is being discussed anymore, but i just wanted to say that whatever is going on about putting black composers on a pedestal? i mean, c’mon! i make a little joke EVERY YEAR about tony garcia choosing like 8 sammy nestico tunes per semester. SO MUCH NESTICO!!! we’re all in agreement that he’s white, right?

    and i’m sure he said this in his comment (but like i said, these are super long and my eyes hurt when i read the computer haha) but bryan is a great example of a guy who supports himself just fine as a musician. i could rattle off a bunch of other names as well, but i don’t think that is really necessary.

    “your kid” whoever that may be, bob l., needs to learn not just how to play saxophones and clarinets, he or she also needs to learn how to market him or herself, how to teach lessons, and as much theory and history as humanly possible if he or she wants to support him/herself playing music. it’d be awesome if four year degrees included enough time to focus on a secondary instrument too, but musicians have a ton of stuff to learn already! i don’t think clarinets are really what we are arguing about here anyway, but i just thought i’d point that out.

    i think the most important thing to remember is that your kid is learning all of those great jazz foundations and they also need a place to learn to play “loud and raucous, and dissonant” music too in order to be, as you wish him or her to be, well-rounded and to help him/her be able to create new relevant music that expands whatever it is that we are calling “jazz” in the future.

    and now my comment is long too! oh well.

  47. lindsey on said:

    also, you don’t get to decide what is and is not music.

    music is the organization of sounds and silences in time. if there are sounds and silences in a frame of time, it is music. whether or not everyone loves it and wants to listen to it all the time.

  48. That you consider no bs! and fight the big bull to be playing the same music puts your entire viewpoint into perspective.

    I wonder which Chicago musicians you heard about that are doing the same thing?

    I personally like a lot of the albums coming out of Chicago these days. I must have totally overlooked an entire group of bands!

    You seem to have a chip on your shoulder, and it may be justified, but this whole Welk thing has got to be a put-on.

    I don’t get it, especially when you have to personally insult local musicians in the process.

  49. irishjazz on said:

    The problem with Welk wasn’t that his musicians weren’t very good players, or that his mainstream arrangements weren’t professionally done, it was that he was completely clueless when it came to appealing to most people out of a pre-War demographic. Although his hilarious cover of “One Toke Over the Line” is a classic.

    In the dark everyone looks alike, and Bob L is in the dark when it comest to improvised music. The only problem I have with his point of view is that he seems furiously unaware of the fact.

    My stepfather used to tell me that there were great minstrel bands in the late 30s. I believe him, but no one is going to put on blackface and start doing that stuff now- at least not seriously. Talking about how great and overlooked the white arrangers were has the danger of making you sound racist, but bringing up the cheerily vapid Welk just makes you sound like a relic yelling at the kids to get off your yard.

    But maybe Bryan will pick up the challenge, and present a VCU Salute to Lawrence Welk with JO II. If he does, I challenge Bob L. to provide the indispensable ingredient not within the music department’s current inventory- the champaign bubble machine.

  50. Reggie Pace on said:

    Bob L. !!!!!!!!!hahahahaha What?!!!!! hahahahahahaha Have you read what you wrote??! “I Hate Jazz.” Why are you reading jazz blogs and hating? You hate jazz and you love Lawrence Welk! ….and NO BS! and Fight the Big Bull are the same ….and you go to JO II concerts and hate on the literature being used to teach them things…music without clarinets= boring boring boring……Some weird passive-aggressive race thing you’re trying to get across….COME ON MAN! Lets just hug it out. I wanna give you a big hug……Its ok …it’s ok………..Lets just hug all the pain away….******BIG HUG******

  51. Bob L. on said:

    Why is it wrong to insult local musicians and not so wrong to insult the big guys like Manilow??? And Mangione???

    I happen to like a wide variety of MUSIC. Welk is a mere pebble in that variety.

    It all goes back to my point that if you don’t like it, you won’t present it.

    There are many bands like NO BS that never make records (that’s why you don’t hear about them). There were many very fine big bands that never made records or recorded only one 45 or 78 record. It doesn’t mean they weren’t or aren’t good bands it simply means that they are overlooked because no one gets a chance to hear them if they are not “on the scene” when the music is being performed.

    The younger generation (of which I am a part of) is learning to appreciate music like Welk, Goodman, and Shaw all over again.

    Do you have a hard time believing that a Jazz musician could actually enjoy Welk’s music? Shame on you, if so!!!

    Stan Kenton was an arranger for the Gus Arnheim Orchestra long before he had a jazz big band. He was also the pianist in that band. In an interview I once heard, he said those days were some of his most memorable and enjoyable times and he loved writing those types of arrangements.

    With a 25 year television show under his belt, I would say Welk was very appealing.

    Call it commercial or call it giving the public what they want. Irving Berlin however, said it best when he said “It’s called playing the music the way I wrote it, not playing the music the way you wished I had written it.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of improvisation. But as I stated earlier, there is a line between music and non music. I’m not in the dark about anything. I just refuse to drink the kool aide. I’m not going to say something is musical when it’s not.

    I’m not asking for anyone to present an entire program of Welk or any other band. I’m saying MUSIC from each should be included.

    And as far as NO BS and Fight the Big Bull are concerned, I am not the only one who feels that way. I’m just the one who had the balls to write about it on this blog. Some very serious and veteran musicians of the RVA Jazz scene have expressed the same opinion. Maybe they will get on here and write about it.

    Have fun kids. I’m done here.

  52. I think it comes down to who books the shows and who creates the curriculum. No one’s stopping you from teaching a class on Welk Bob L.

    Also who are you? These opinions don’t mean much when you can’t put a face to a name.

  53. For the record, both of my degrees are in Jazz Performance. People who plan to “fall back” on something usually do. It’s not practical or smart to be mediocre at anything.

    If I got called to play in a polka band I’d take the gig and listen to plenty of polka music live and recorded beforehand, in addition to seeking out some of the authentic cats and hanging with them. That’s what I did when I got called to play with Bio Ritmo when I first moved to town. That’s what any decent musician would do.

    I know what cuts it. I wouldn’t be performing all over the country and teaching in three Richmond schools if I didn’t.

    Say whatever you want about No BS! and Fight the Big Bull, we’re proud of the music we make and like you said…

    “It’s called playing the music the way I wrote it, not playing the music the way you wished I had written it.”

  54. andy on said:

    Sorry this interrupt this raw, adventurous and unsettling discourse, but did anyone on this page go to the Smooth Jazz Fest this weekend? I heard they had about 7 – 8,000 in attendance on Saturday and 3,000 on Sunday. My friend told me that Rick Braun cooked and he heard a great salsa band as well as an excellent jazz violinest perfor there. I understand there are plans to do it again next year. In short, he said that he would have saved 5 bucks if he bought his ticket on-line, but he said the show was well worth the $30 admission.

  55. Mrs. Hudson on said:

    Bob L. is an old fart. There aren’t any gigs anymore like what he’s talking about kids being “trained’ for. I could see it if someone wanted to play shows in NYC and other places but how much of that is still around (IOW, not replaced with electronics)?

  56. andy on said:

    Sorry. No pun intended with the use of the words “cooked” and “salsa” in the same sentence.

  57. BOPST on said:

    I like good music.

  58. DHood on said:

    Guys, I’m Bob L. and I just got all of you!!

  59. @andy I went to the Richmond Jazz Festival on both days. I wanted to see what it would be like so I went and took some photos as well as did a bit of tweeting ( The turnout was impressive, and some of the music was good. Big Sam’s Funky Nation was really intense, especially right in front of the subwoofers. They were my favorite of the groups I saw. The soul singers I saw were decent-to-great vocalists with tight bands. All of the cover songs that you expected to hear were played in heavy rotation.

    Let’s face it, $30 is a bargain to see that many artists perform in a day. That is, only if those artists interest you, but I would hope that you would do your research before buying a ticket.

    This type of music is certainly a money-maker, and as I said before, any music that is so popular intrigues me to wonder why. Is it considered “fluff” and “elevator music” by respected members of the music community all over the world? Yes. But that doesn’t mean the 10,000 people who went to the festival this weekend are wrong to enjoy it.

  60. Scott Clark on said:


  61. Davezac on said:

    Wow, the trolling is just…astonishing. Saying FTBB and No BS sound the same is staggering…perhaps Bob L. didn’t notice the clarinet doubling in FTBB? Saying they’re doing “the same thing” is like saying that all the composers in the 1800s were doing “that Romantic era thing.” What, is every musician supposed to invent an entire genre unto themselves in order to not sound the same as someone else? Part of the point with this younger generation of musicians that Bob’s so ready to deride is that forming a musical identity takes time. Parker and Gillespie learned the tradition first, then put their own stamp on it and carried jazz into its next evolution–and many critics thought THEY were just making noise too!

    It’s also highly amusing seeing:

    “There were many very fine big bands that never made records or recorded only one 45 or 78 record. It doesn’t mean they weren’t or aren’t good bands it simply means that they are overlooked because no one gets a chance to hear them if they are not “on the scene” when the music is being performed.”

    coming from the same person that’s saying that the jazz degree that so many Richmond musicians earn hasn’t prepared them for making a career out of it. The fact is that those same musicians are the ones that ARE making careers out of it–and that’s why he’s even seen them enough to assess and then dismiss their music! In reference to that same quote…my point about Rex and Taylor exactly. Certainly they’ve recorded more than a single 45 or 78 (because they’re actually making a living out of their music-making instead of being weekend jazz warriors) but couldn’t it be that they’re being overlooked? Or could it be that Rex’s continual trans-global gigging is a sign that more than the “small circle I run with” recognizes that he’s got skill and talent? Skill and talent are, by the way, a completely different qualifier than “who can sell enough tickets to headline a music festival?” As, say…mainstream radio pop can demonstrate with thousands of examples.

    All that said, if you believe that the Richmond jazz scene is headed in the wrong direction–do something to change it! Stop voting with your wallet to go see No BS and FTBB yet another time so you can gripe about how they’re so similar and go catch a different show, fund a band that demonstrates the qualities you’re looking for, or start a podcast/web radio show with music styles you feel are under-represented and get the word out about the show.

  62. I think the richmond jazz fest did attempt to cater towards straight ahead tastes when they put terence blanchard on the bill but it seems that he backed out. I think that the richmond jazz scene felt slightly alienated because the jazz fest did a bad job of catering to different tastes in “Jazz.” I think they just wanted to have a successful first year and now that they have gotten what the promoters and investors wanted maybe next year they will have room to move into the not so well known areas of “jazz”. Maybe a Local Artist Stage would be beneficial for many people’s exposure and would very well indeed appease the many grievances that the local scene has with the festival this year. Just some thoughts.

  63. DHood on said:

    @Davezac If Bob L. were real I would venture to guess that, based on his/my writings, he has not voted with his wallet in some time; if ever. He has voted with his crotchety, fictional, opinions though. Or maybe my character is actually deaf and can only see music and that’s why he thinks so many different things are the same!?! I haven’t made up my mind yet….plot twist!

  64. Brian Mahne on said:

    Do I need to put more rules up?!!?!
    Rule #1: Stop arguing and go practice

  65. DHood on said:

    My character is a trumpet player from St. Louis who had a hard time in school and that’s why he has such disdain for academia. In his next adventure, he will have a change of luck by winning the DCI World-Championship with his ground breaking Lawrence Welk super show. Clarinets will fast become a mainstay of the DCI. In other news, did anyone see that zebra printed sax that Richard Elliot has? Can we talk about how dealin’ that guy is??

  66. S Frock on said:

    As to people who feel that Richmond talent is sub-par….I emplore you to go out, see this city’s music, and learn about the players and their collective resume. You will find that it is your personal knowledge which is lacking, with all due respect. As for the “Jazz” label, it just doesn’t matter.

  67. First of all, I don’t know which I liked more, your article Dean, or the comments that followed! But I guess I’ll chime in and say that the only problem I had with the Richmond Jazz Festival was it’s lack of balance. And no, I didn’t go. Although, Norman Brown was one of the first “jazz” guitarists I checked out in High School and it did help me bridge my upbringing of popular music to the realm of Jazz. So there’s that. Would I pay $30 to see him now, no. I’m just not interested in that stuff anymore. Would I check it out if I was already there seeing Dave Holland or Kurt Rosenwinkle or Chick Corea or whoever else that would make the festival worth it for me? Hell yeah! A good festival is all about how the acts are balanced. The scales were tipped a bit too much to the so-called smooth jazz realm (which I really consider to be R&B, yes I said it, its not Jazz, but like we all have said, just words right). Yes, Terence Blanchard would’ve helped but they would’ve still needed a few more diverse acts to get a good balance.

  68. lindsey on said:

    @dhood the part i don’t get is that he has such a snazzy saxophone but is not a snazzy dresser! do you think he thinks “if i wear a black shirt then i won’t look silly up here with my zebra print sax”? because i think he should just go hard and wear really sassy suits and fedoras if he’s gonna go there. this is not about music at all. just like these comments aren’t really about this article!

  69. Anthony on said:

    First, it’s not just words. These “words” are used to market recording and performance, and in the process squeeze actual jazz musicians right out of a job. They also misinform the part of the audience that aren’t musicians and have to take someone’s word on what a style of music is.
    Secondly, I think Mr. Welk had a “clue”, Irishjazz. Otherwise he wouldn’t have stayed on the air for three decades. Try and put acoustic swing music on a network every Saturday night these days. Go ahead smart guy.
    If this “smazz” has nothing to be ashamed of, then perhaps the Bland Music powers that be should come up with their own term.
    I think the Richmond Jazz Society should be ashamed for marketing this music as jazz. If you notice, the RJS only figured out how to run a jazz society in the past two years. Why? Because as I was told by a staff member of the Carpenter Center, the RJS was told to get their act together or they would not be included in anything to do with the “jazz” room at the new PAC. Voila, a few grants and endowments later, we have a jazz society, and it only took them 28 years. That’s about how long it took the Hampton Jazz Festival to turn to a “non-Jazz” festival. RJS just this festival started that way. Sad. Apologies to the late Joe Kennedy, Ella Fitzgerald, Don Pullen and other great Virginia jazz musicians who spent their whole lives keeping Duke’s sentiment alive: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Maybe next year we can say “Swing Is Here”, but I bet not.

  70. Lillahamer on said:

    Lawrence Welk !

  71. Davezac on said:

    @DHood @lindsey I spent a couple seconds staring at that picture trying to figure out what exactly he was playing until I figured out it was the most perfect saxophone for a smooth jazz musician ever.

    …Is it bad that I now want Bob L. to be the impetus for a viral Richmond jazz meme? Like…bands start wearing Bob L. inspired t-shirts, a Bob L. festival or show is put on, bands play a minute-long clip of a Lawrence Welk arrangement and dedicate it to “our old friend Bob,” etc.

  72. for trey pollard, music fans, and trombonists who want to hear a lap steel sound like a trombonist with a plunge.

    the lawrence welk orchestra was a good backdrop for some good/great photographs. it stayed out of the way for a very long time. i mean, come on.

    surely someone more inclined than me can explain duke ellington 42-43, or 46-47 vs. the entire lifetime of the lawrence welk show.

  73. andy on said:

    Dot Pyramid Guy (or gal) wrote: “surely someone more inclined than me can explain duke ellington 42-43, or 46-47 vs. the entire lifetime of the lawrence welk show.”

    Duke started his band in 1924 and Welk started his a year later in 1925. They were contemporaries but not in competition. Each big band of that era had its own signature sound and style. To compare the two bands is like trying to compare apples and oranges. Both bands were successful commercially and enjoyed longevity. THE BIG BANDS by George T. Simon is a good reference for the genre.

  74. i’m going with apples and pureéd apples.

  75. andy on said:

    I like that. Something with some “bite” to it and something that’s smooth. Both taste good and are nourishing, if your willing to try it.

  76. Bob L. on said:

    First of all Mr. Hood, I hope you took a bath before impersonating me. And I hope when you did impersonate me that you did not play your saxophone like a rusted brass pipe. I cannot stand that! I think you have immense talent. Please use it.

    Second, every one of you assumes that I am a male person. Do you know that for sure?

    Third, you assume that because I LIKE Lawrence Welk that I must be white. Well, isn’t that racist? You don’t know whether I am black or white. Does it matter?

    You also assume that I’m old. I love the stereotypes you nuts throw out there.

    I might just be one of your inner circle. If I were you, I’d start questioning the people I “hang” with. I’m probably one of the people that also responds to these posts in anger. You’ll never know.

    And Pyramid Dot Guy (or girl). Lawrence Welk had more class in his pinky finger than you have in your entire body. I really am starting to think you are as dumb as your posts make you out to be.

    If you’re going to show a Welk clip why not show something like Begin The Beguine or Josephine? Something that shows the band in one or two of it’s best moments. I mean, that clip you posted really does show your ignorance about that band. I suspect you’re ignorant about more than just Welk.

    Believe it or not Mrs. Hudson, there are Big Bands out there today that require the doubles that Welk was using in the 50’s. It’s not just in a Broadway Pit Orchestra that such instruments are required. Your limited knowledge on the subject is not very becoming.

    Duke Ellington had some very fine musicians in his band. Jimmy Hamilton was one, and he was probably the greatest clarinet player on the face of this Earth.

    Every one of you jazz elitists at VCU wants me (and the little sheep that follow you around) to think that you missed the points in my posts. You didn’t miss anything. And that’s what has got you so pissed off. I hear it has even traveled over to FB.

    No one, especially myself, ever said that Taylor Barnett or Rex Richardson were not good musicians. But how dare any of you throw them up to musicians like Mangione (who has worked a long time to get where he is) and say they are better than that. They have not worked nearly as hard and have not been through nearly as much. I know they are your friends. But just because you smoke a little weed with them on Saturday nights and hang for hours at a time, does not make them better than the guys who have busted their asses for years on the jazz circuit to get where they are. Come on. Be realistic.

    And lastly no one here ever answered my initial questions about naming a Bob Ballard arrangement that teaches section work or what your idea of section work is. Were they too hard for you?

    The only reason I didn’t respond sooner than this is that I have spent the last several days rolling around on the floor laughing at everything you have written. I wish I could see the FB stuff because I’m sure that would keep me laughing for a couple more days.

  77. …uh ….oh….

  78. DWise on said:

    what’s up y’all……man this is funny. Unfortunately for the humor, though, Bob L (who looks like Lucas Fritz) makes the occasional good point, although it’s often buried amongst mediocre insults and random rantings. I disagree with 90% of it, but all I’m sayin is……anyone who brings up Aqua Teen Hunger Force in a positive context can’t be all bad.

    ……..and I’m out

  79. Sam F. on said:

    The moment I saw the line-up for this festival, I knew people were going to roll their eyes and mutter expletives. There is a lot of avante garde/experimental music in Richmond, and a lot of good music has come from this movement. I like some of it, and I hate some of it. But if I can respect the artist, I will respect his/her music.

    I think it is pointless to argue over what is and isn’t jazz. We’ve all had different experiences with jazz, and that makes for varying opinions. Does your opinion count more if you teach jazz at VCU? It might to you. Will it change the fact that I like artists whom you consider smooth jazz? Not at all.

    Who has the right to say what is and isn’t jazz? It is such an evolving style of music. Find your style and make music out of it. Try to show everyone how great it is! Jazz is already unpopular on the grand spectrum of music. So we need to come together and embrace it all.

  80. Jason S on said:

    Im guessing your name is Bob Luther. I could be wrong. My name is Jason Scott.

    I enjoyed your very first post. You had some very insightful comments and I could agree with you on some points.

    Each post following degraded into complete utter nonsense. Your statements have been conflicted and your opinions are clearly based on opinions you have formed without viable research. As a friend suggested, “Its like you were getting progressively more and more drunk.”

    I’m not going to name a Bob Ballard arrangment for your amusement because I dont care Bob Ballard.

    Thad Jones has more to offer musically than Lawerence Welk could ever dream of. There are many reasons why Welk remained on TV for so long and most of them have nothing to do with his musicianship.

    Don’t use TV as a credible source of quality.

    We musicians are well aware of music and bands that require doubling. The use of doubling does not determine the quality of music or difficulty in a composition.

    You should review the original article and the initial replies. If you are as observant as you claim to be, you will realize that your rants are without merit. In a way, your argument had changed into perfect example of that which you had initially complained about.

  81. Anthony on said:

    Concerning Welk: Musicianship includes playing the shit right every time, with the right accent, the right style. And these guys did it for years. They were basically great LA studio players. It’s not just about blowing, it’s about getting it right. There was a post WWII audience that bought Geritol and kept them on the air. No big mystery. At least it was quality players, with good arrangements that made a lot of money for a lot of people, and kept the “Greatest Generation” happy, so we could go out and get in trouble.

  82. DHood on said:

    Oh Bob L. that didn’t even make any sense. How could I impersonate you when I am you?? I knew that’s what I was going to say you said!

    And a bath? Who takes baths anymore? The new thing is showers. I just took one of those. And for the record, and I think he would be ok with me saying this, Taylor does not smoke weed on Saturdays; or any day of the week. He’s an avid non-toker. He is known to hang out at hours at a time though; usually with his daughter and sometimes also, when he’s lucky, his wife.

    And how many Saturdays out of the year is Rex even in Richmond? I don’t think people could smoke weed/hang out with him for a few hours on Saturdays if they wanted to.

    @lindsey (#68.) That last sentence you wrote ~ the definition of my posts 58, 63 & 65 in relation to their context. Comments that embody what this exchange had become.

    Also I love fried chicken. And ribs (today I ate at Ronnie’s Ribs on Main St. in the bottom, passed The Market Grocery. Seriously, best ribs you will ever eat under $10. Maybe best ribs you’ll ever eat.)

    I don’t know where this everyone hates Chuck Mangione idea came from. Land of Make Believe, that stuff is pure magic and I’m not even joking about that.

    You are right about one thing Bob L., this is really funny. When you get a chance you should go over to Facebook and check out what you have inspired. If you think this is funny…you should just get back on the floor now and start clearing away expensive objects.

    P.S. What’d you think of the Jazz* Fest Bob L.?

  83. Pyramid Dot Guy (or girl) here. So much animosity.

    I posted that LW clip because I think the lap steel playing is exceptional. Truly. As a matter of fact, I sent this exactly clip to friends about 4 months ago upon discovering it.

    Here’s another… I hope you don’t hate rusty guitar.

  84. BOPST on said:

    that’s pretty good, but this is awesome:

  85. Bob L. on said:
  86. andy on said:

    Stranger than Fiction:

    Q: Who led the Lawrence Welk Band after his death?

    A: Lin Biviano, former lead trumpet with Buddy Rich, Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson; who is also an associate professor at the Berklee College of Music.

  87. Bob L. on said:

    More section work!

    Try to play like these guys!

  88. this is true section work…..ain’t no one dealin’

  89. andy on said:
  90. andy on said:

    Excellent!! You know that was the most fun they ever had.

  91. Not Lawrence Welk, but David Sanborn…

    Section playing

  92. Savage on said:

    Oh man, I couldn’t read all these comments. If there are 2 horn players and someone is wearing a cool hat then it’s jazz, or not.

  93. Anthony on said:

    Earlier this evening I was corrected in assuming the RJS had anything much to do with this festival. He says they kept their distance. Sorry for that unneeded scolding. .. but maybe they could have had something that swings had they been involved. I’m curious who’s choice that was, RJS or the promoter.

  94. Stephanie Thompson on said:

    Welk HA!

    This is more my style

    Bob L – easy for you to critize behind a computer screen…..

    And for the record No BS rocks and so does FTBB.

  95. @Anthony And sorry I didn’t point that out to you sooner, but alas, that was two days and 30 comments ago. The only role Richmond Jazz Society played was as a beneficiary. That seems to be the way the festival’s organizers are honoring jazz and jazz in Richmond, even though they could have also done that by including it in the festival. Clearly, it’s a moot point.

    As Ab pointed out (comment #62), Terence Blanchard on the bill as originally intended MIGHT have assuaged this whole “no real jazz” argument, although have you heard what he’s been doing live lately? The Dr. Cornel West samples over the music doesn’t thrill a lot of people, myself included. But as Ab also suggested, maybe next year the festival’s promoters will make some changes in favor of jazz. But I will believe it when I see it.

  96. Bob L's brother Tom L on said:

    Just to throw in my two cents….

    Dean, I love what you have done I think it is great that you have given a platform for a lot of great music around the scene. That being said, I think your idea of jazz is a bit one sided (or at least what you cover) much like the Richmond Jazz fest…. You constantly cover acts that are more in the free jazz realm but over look the rest….. You covered both days of Glows in the Dark gigs but did not even make it to the Jason Arce gig…. Who had not had a gig in RVA in a year…. I did not catch anything on the Savage gig, a Marcus Tenney gig, or anything that falls more under the straight ahead umbrella…. There is virtually no coverage of some of the bands that have plenty of Jazz influence but perhaps fall closer to the R&B side of things like Whirly Bird, Dj WIlliams Project, and Beast Wellington…. I think I caught a little snip it about the New Belgians once….. But God knows if its FTTBB, anything Brian Jones, anything Bryan Hooten, or No BS Brass Band Dean will cover it….. I love all of those groups and have nothing but respect for their personnel and what they do musically. I just think some love needs to be spread around on this page in general….. Then again maybe I just missed some articles….. All is well. The one thing I know is that I love music, and I do not need a genre label to approve it….. Good music- The stuff that comes from the heart- Much love all of you.

  97. Tom L,

    Thanks for the comment. I really do appreciate the feedback. Of the criticism that I’ve received, I’ve never been told that I don’t cover straight-ahead enough. The jazz section is mostly a one man operation, and I can’t be everywhere. I do have contributors that help out with articles from time to time, though. It’s something I’m working on (not the omnipresence, the covering more stuff). In the meantime, having editorial control is a great thing, and the site’s goal (to educate people about great jazz in Richmond, whether it’s through articles or the calendar) never changes.

    Did you miss the thing about Jason Scott playing the music of Lennie Tristano (, review of Kip Williams’s album (, or the review of Rene Marie’s gig in Richmond ( Those were all just in the past few months.

    Again, I appreciate your feedback. I do my best to cover good music. If I don’t get to it, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. Fight the Big Bull, Glows in the Dark, and No BS happen to be extremely active bands, so there’s generally more to cover with them. That doesn’t mean I’m not keeping my ear to the ground and *listening when people send me suggestions* (it doesn’t happen much, but I’d like it to).

  98. lindsey on said:

    hey remember my first comment?! that is exactly what i was tying to get at tom l. i agree whole-heartedly! i think it’s crucial that a site like this stay well-rounded, and i think you said what i wanted to say in a way that didn’t sound confrontational (as my arguments tend to always come off, even though i don’t intend them that way!) i’m always excited to see reviews of big names coming to town (regarding the rene marie review) but i really prefer reviews of things about richmond jazz from this site since that is kind of the whole point of coming here. i think there are a lot of neat things on the rvajazz calendar that don’t get full coverage. whereas (sensibly) the things dean likes to go to most do get those articles because, duh, dean has a life outside of rvajazz and probably wants to go to shows he will like! that being said, looking at the calendar for this week for example, i wonder how that roger carroll gig will be, or who the heck chris vasi is, or maybe some info on that thing to build a well in sudan…that sounds neat!

  99. I would LOVE to cover absolutely everything. And that’s the ultimate goal. Shouldn’t it be? All I can say is — as impossible as that goal is — that I will be making some changes (improvements) in order to broaden the scope of what you read here. Thanks, everyone, for your input.

  100. Bob L's brother Tom L on said:

    Dean, I appreciate your response…. My suggestion would be to start with Whirly Bird, DJ William’s Project, Beast Wellington, and The New Belgians… All four of those bands are a far cry from straight ahead jazz, but no more a far cry than NO BS Brass. Those four groups are also equally as active as NO BS or FTBB , and each have their own weekly slot in town.

    I also understand that may not be your cup of tea…. Some cats like electric Miles, some do not…. Perhaps another writer on board could be a good idea.

    As for the straight ahead stuff, I think the Jason Scott article is great, but I have to agree with Lindsay….. There is more great local stuff that could use a little light shined on it.

    Regardless Dean, I appreciate RVA Jazz and the work I am sure you put in to it. I also love all of the bands I spoke of earlier like FTBB, NO BS, and Glows In The Dark…. I just think there is some other great stuff out there that is getting left in the dark.

    And just to get into the meat and potatoes of it real quick…. I played a gig earlier this year and the restaurant was playing smooth jazz in between sets. I am really not a huge fan of smooth, and I was clowning on it a bit. One of the guys in the band (who shared my opinion on the subject) told me how the older generation in his family considered smooth jazz to be “jazz”. When I thought about it I realized; who am I to say what is jazz and what is not. These folks who are my elders consider this to be jazz who am I to say it is not? There is no denying the way jazz drifted more electric through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s while there was certainly still some more straight ahead stuff happening, Miles was not playing it…. Herbie Hancock’s headhunters is still the best selling “jazz” album of all time…

    My point is not as to who was right and who was wrong, but that perhaps this website could take a cue from your original article. To truly represent what is everything jazz in RVA and not just what one cat is into.

  101. BOPST on said:
  102. BOPST on said:

    sorry about that. the direct link doesn’t work.

    go here:

    and check out, “Jazz” by Paul F. Tompkins

  103. I think you’re doing great Dean. There will always be critics but you can’t let it get to you. You’re doing all of us in RVA a great service and I thank you!

  104. Lucas on said:

    Wow what a read and a way to spend my early evening on a Saturday. It made me chuckle that David Wise thought I was Bob L. There is no way I could write/take that much time to do it.

    My grandpa is a pretty big Lawrence Welk fan along with Herb Alpert, Harry James, and the white side of jazz. He would constantly mail me tapes and then CD’s of polkas and other things he had recently gotten and enjoyed. Does this account for my interest in jazz and music? Who knows, but I have listened to my share of polkas and Harry James vibrato. Did it make me better? Worse? It just adds to my bag, as does smooth jazz whether you like it or not.

    All kidding aside, this was quite an enjoyable read. I agree with whoever wrote it early on talking about the need for a discussion about being a successful musician or whatever. That could get interesting.

    Now let me put on my No BS cd…..or is it FTBB? I can’t even tell…

  105. Jess on said:

    I have really enjoyed reading this conversation/blog. Great input!

    I did not go to the RVA Jazz Festival, mostly because I felt that giving it the title of “jazz” was misleading. I am disappinted that the Richmond Jazz Society— “who …is dedicated to community outreach, education, and preservation of jazz —” did not do more to balance out this event. Teaching about and perserving jazz with Chaka Khan as a medium!? No wonder the Jazz festival must be predominately R&B in order to make money… we are being educated that smooth jazz and R&B are jazz! I think that if traditional jazz artisits were mixed with more popular artists within the genre, people would come out and the event could still be profitable. Consider Esperanza Spalding, Brad Mehldau, and Pat Metheny, who are at least closer to the tradiational jazz genre. (I’ll give kudos for Stanley Clarke as an example).

    I like Dean’s statement that, “arguing about what the festival should be called would take the immortal ability to answer the question, “What is jazz today?” Only, this is art and not politics. Good luck answering that one.” However, I disagree with you, Sam F, that no one has the right to say what is and isn’t jazz. The purpose of a genre is to characterize music so that when we communicate with one another, we have an idea of what is being conveyed. In order to do so, we must discriminate between music styles–though that doesn’t mean saying one is better than the other. Ledisi is R&B; Freddie Hubbard is jazz.
    Bryan H, I like how you describe the history of jazz as being “dominated by musicians who found beauty in being adventurous, raw, and at times unsettling. I doubt that the lineup for this festival strives for the same things. ” I would suggest that those involved in organizing Jazz events do the same–be adventurous and raw.
    I also agree with irishjazz on the point of smooth jazz: “There is nothing wrong with Smooth Jazz that isn’t also wrong with Big Macs, Fox News, Budweiser, or any other product commercially crafted to reach a large mainstream demographic.”

  106. Brian Taylor on said:

    Wishes Doug was still running the jazz program. This is why I joined the program many years ago now.

  107. Last night at The Camel:

    Trio of Justice: Trombone, Sousaphone and Drums with pixie and plunger mutes. All original compositions.

    Scott Clark Quartet: Trumpet (pocket trumpet and solo-tone mute), Tenor (doubled on clarinet and alto) Bass and Drums. All original compositions, including two 12-tone based pieces. Swing.

    Where were you Bob L?

  108. Bob L. on said:

    Dancing to a Big Band in Norfolk! That was kind enough to play Lawrence Welk music when I asked for it!

  109. I would love to hear a recording of the Scott Clark Q from last night.

    Not only am I a big fan of improvisation, I am a big fan of piano-less quartets, along with doubling musicians in many cases. Horn accessories are fine I suppose. Scott Clark is such a precise drummer. It would be a real treat to hear him play freely with the, is the proper term “ensemble”?

  110. Bob L. on said:

    So did those groups at the Camel perform like this???

    I don’t think so!

    And it’s a Duke song too!

  111. andy on said:

    Regarding BobL’s link: The LW arrangement is very similar to Duke Ellington’s original recording of Caravan

  112. What are you insinuating Andy? Don’t you dare. LW et al were some of the most original, vibrant, and contemporary artists of their audience’s awareness. You cannot take that away from anyone. Ever. Justin Beiber just cited LW as a major influence in an interview with Wire magazine. These are heady times.

  113. Just thought I should point out that it is a Juan Tizol song, but I’m sure you just meant that it was written for Duke. Wouldn’t. Revisionist history is all too rampant these days. LW as a major jazz performer notwithstanding.

  114. James Leger on said:

    This is so SIMPLE…sheesh…

    This WAS a JAZZ fest…but it had a mixture smooth jazz, latin jazz, blues, R&B, Neo Soul and more…whoever said Ledisi is R&B you don’t even know much! she is Neo Soul…

    There are so many different influences now that it’s NOT like back in the day where all Jazz sounded the same!

    Also…don’t hate because let’s be HONEST! If the line up was STRAIGHT AHEAD jazz…You would NOT have 8 THOUSAND people there!

    The promoter’s mission is simple: 1) BRING people to Richmond, 2) Make money 3) Good entertainment.

    They did just that. Now if you wanna hate…GO DO YOUR OWN STRAIGHT AHEAD JAZZ FEST! oh wait a minute…you can’t cuz you’ll be BROKE after because you’ll have 350 people show up, and you spent THOUSANDS on putting on the show!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead