Friday, March 6, 2009

Jazz+ or +Jazz?

In spite of not being a jazz expert like others, I too noticed the lack of jazz names on the upcoming and past Sonoma Jazz+ venues.

Talked this morning with Ed Delaney, sax and flute player with jazz group EZ Kewl, and he also said they should change the name from Sonoma Jazz+ to Sonoma +Jazz or even something totally different that TRULY describes the type of music being advertised.

True jazz aficionados will be sadly disappointed for sure!

Sonoma Jazz+: So where's the jazz?

Published: Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:51 a.m.

In this age of instant branding, Sonoma Jazz+ is a marketing maven's nightmare.

Don't get me wrong. It may be a little soft and boomer-centric, but I'm usually a big fan of the talent at the annual Memorial Day festival in Sonoma.

Just look at last year's lineup: I loved Al Green. Herbie Hancock on the keytar rocked the house. Kool and the Gang made me laugh. And Bonnie Raitt was the perfect closer.

Maybe it was something she said: "Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have been able to even put my toe into a jazz festival."

Now take a look at this year's stellar lineup (going on sale Saturday for Sonoma residents and Monday for the rest of us at Joe Cocker, Lyle Lovett, Ziggy Marley, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (mounting a tribute to Cab Calloway), Chris Isaak, Shelby Lynne and Keb' Mo'.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's noticed the branding dilemma here. My buddy Gabe Meline over at The Bohemian was much more to the point: "Count the jazz acts."

So last week, I'm trading emails with veteran Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally, chatting about a band turning Dead songs into hip-hop anthems when I make the mistake of casually mentioning the jazzless jazz lineup.

He forwards the email to Sonoma Jazz+ publicist Michael Coats who passes it on to Sonoma Jazz+ director Jim Horowitz who emails me to call him if I'd "care to have a dialogue."

I call him up, we chat. It's totally civil. Like we're old buds. He makes a very good point: I can't fill the 3,500-seat tent every night with jazz acts, he says. Do the math.

I totally agree with him. Yoshi's in San Francisco recently announced they were broadening their lineup beyond jazz just to stay in business.

My advice: Don't use the word "jazz" in the festival moniker (five years ago, when the festival dreamed up its name, live jazz wasn't selling any better).

Or maybe (cue the big bold branding concept) all you need to do is move the "+" -- Welcome to the 2009 Sonoma +Jazz festival.

There's a lil' country, pop, reggae, folk, swing, blues "plus jazz" (*not actually on the mainstage, but tucked away for your listening pleasure in an intimate 30-seat café off the square somewhere).

John Beck, a staff writer, can be reached at 521-5300 or at

1 comment:

  1. I am disappointed that there are no jazz headliners in the tent. I have been hearing a lot of negative comments from our members. I guess we can hope for next year!

    Janice King
    Sonoma Valley Jazz Society


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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.