Agents and Managers
Most artists have agents and mangers. Rarely does a presenter contact the artist directly.
Artists are usually signed to a to a booking agency. The most well-known agencies are William Morris Endeavor (WME), Creative Artist Agency (CAA), Agency for the Performing Arts...
The jazz police — you know who you are! — hate smooth jazz. What exactly is smooth jazz and is it jazz?
Smooth jazz is a genre of music that grew out of jazz fusion, and is influenced by R&B, funk, rock, and pop music styles, separately or in combination....
It’s an easy listening form of music that satisfied an audience that might have found bebop, swing, hard bob a little too hard on their ears. The melodies and rhythms associated with smooth jazz are easier to listen to — it’s just plan smoother.
New Audiences presented many so-called smooth jazz concerts, and fortunately they sold very well. It was helpful to have had a full-time smooth jazz radio station in New York, CD101.9, and a late night format called “The Quiet Storm” on the urban station WBLS in the 80s and early 90s.
Many artists that fall into the smooth jazz genre were around before the term became popular and incorporated into that specific radio format; and New Audiences produced concerts with artists such Grover Washington Jr. Spyro Gyra, Bob James, Larry Carlton, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Dave Valentin, Angie Bofill and so many others. After the advent of smooth jazz as a radio format these artists were added to the play list. Even Miles Davis was featured. His version of “Time after Time” was played on CD101.9.
Then there were artists such as Kenny G, Boney James, the Rippingtons, Sade, Peter White and Dave Koz who never played “straight ahead,” and became the main stays of the smooth play list.
If one calls this music jazz or not, it had a strong following which eventually faded as the radio format began to change. There was an industry joke about smooth jazz. If you can’t find a station that plays it, listen to the weather channel.
Before the term “world music” was coined, New Audiences was presenting concerts with artists from countries around the world: Brazil, Spain, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Portugal and Argentina.
One of the first LPs I owned was "Jazz Samba," the album that introduced the new trend — Bossa Nova — to the United States. Charlie Byrd had toured Brazil and had become enamored with the new genre. Upon returning to the US, he enlisted Stan Getz to record with ...him. "Jazz Samba" includes the hits “Desifinado,” “The Girl from Ipanema” and “One Note Samba.” These tunes, and other Brazilian songs, were added to the jazz repertoire. Dizzy, Sarah, Ella and Sinatra started to record these and other Brazilian hits. Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66 became pop stars as result of their recordings of these songs.
Antonio Carlos Jobim was arguably Brazil’s greatest composer, and a national hero in Brazil. We were honored to present “Tom” Jobim at Carnegie Hall on March 28, 1985.
One of my favorite concerts was uniting Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd and Joao Gilberto at Carnegie. We co-produced the show with George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival. It sold out immediately.
We also reunited Wayne Shorter and Milton Nascimento, who had recorded the acclaimed album, Native Dancer.
Other word music artists we presented were Paco de Lucia, Ruben Blades, Madredeus, the Afro Cuban All-Stars, Lady Smith Black Mambazo, Astor Piazzolla, Gal Costa, Astrid Gilberto and Lalo Schifrin, the composer of the “Mission Impossible” theme.
Special thanks of our Brazilian “cousin,” Carlos Alberto Sion, who enabled our connections with Nascimento, Gilberto and the great Tom Jobim.
This concert was recorded live by Joel Dorn for Atlantic Records. Rather than using an opening act, Charles chose to invite some of his favorite musican pals to play with him.
Charles Mingus - bass
Jon Faddis - trumpet
Charles McPherson - alto saxophone
John Handy - tenor saxophone, alto saxophone...
George Adams - tenor saxophone
Rahsaan Roland Kirk - tenor saxophone, stritch
Hamiet Bluiett - baritone saxophone
Don Pullen - piano
Dannie Richmond - drums
This is a photo of the poster that hung in front of Carnegie Hall for this memorable Sonny Rollins concert.
Sonny called his band Nucleus. His nickname was Nuke. It was given to him in his younger days because of his resemblance to Brooklyn Dodger pitcher, Hall of Famer, Don Newcombe.
This was the poster the hung in front of Carnegie Hall.
About a year earlier, RTF opened for Herbie's Headhunters. That show was so good and the audience response was so great, we immediately offered RTF their own show.
Having presented Mingus, Miles, Sonny, and so many others, the missing jazz great was Monk. He was reclusive and very hard to locate. We tried through Paul Jeffries, Monk's tenor player. He referred us to the Baroness Nica Koenigswarter. Monk was staying with her in NJ. She was a famous jazz patron. Bird died in her apartment. Nica, not versed in the business, contacted George Wein and we wound up partnering one of Monk's last concerts.
My Friend Bob Belden
I met Bob Belden when I took the Woody Herman Band to Europe in 1979. Bob, like many young big band musicians, was a graduate of North Texas State. The tour producer was George Wein and I was the tour manager. My job was to get the band to the dates booked, and to be sure the local promoter lived up to his contractual agreement. Probably the most important part of my job was making sure the band got paid! Often we got paid in cash in US dollars. The...re were times when I was carrying as much as $10,000 in cash. We played the most important jazz festivals: Montreux, Nice, the North Sea Festival in Holland, the Umbria Festival and quite a few others.
Bob and I took to each other immediately. He was fun to hang out with on buses and airplanes. He had an an unquenchable thirst for information about my end of the music business. Like many musicians, he knew very little about the music industry he was so much a part of.
Bob was a saxophonist, arranger, record producer, band leader, recording artist and jazz historian. He won Grammys for the re-releases of recordings by Gil Evans and Miles Davis. He recorded a number of albums under his own name, including Treasure Island (1990). Other critically acclaimed albums were Black Dahlia and Miles From India.
Bob led his band, Animation, in the the first American tour of Iran in February 2015. The tour was very well received and sold out.
We remained friends until his untimely death in 2015 at the age of 58. Few musicians were as revered and respected.
In November 2015 a group of his music industry friends produced an evening of music and remembrances as a tribute to Bob. The organizing committee included Michael Cuscuna, Tim Hagans, Ashley Khan, Tom Evert and Bob’s sister Beth. Dan Melnick and I produced the event at Le Poisson Rouge in the Village. The musicians, who all donated their time, included Tim Hagans (trumpet and music director), Tim Reis, Scott Kinsey, Scott Robinson, Conrad Herwig, Kevin Hayes, Jay Anderson, Billy Kilson and many others.
Bret Primack (jazzvideoguy.com) created a video presentation about Bob’s life which was shown that night. Included in the video were tributes from Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and many other of his musician friends.
Who Gets the Free Tickets and Who Gets Backstage
There were plenty of people who wanted free tickets, and seemingly just as many who tried to get backstage. We tried to use the management of the performing group as much as possible to let us know who was Kosher and who wasn’t. We’d always ask, “Who do you want backstage during and after the concert?” It was their call.
People would call me at the office and say, “I’m Peabo Bryson’s cousin and I grew up with him. Can I get ...
Why Does the Sound Suck?
The reality is, you don’t have a lot of control over many things, including the sound in the hall. When we started, the cost of bringing in your own sound systems and engineer was prohibitive, because of the union regulations. A lot of the time, the hall’s equipment and personnel simply weren’t up to the job.
We presented the Firesign Theatre at Carnegie Hall on May 1, 1974. It was all spoken word, no music. (By the way, this is a good example of ...the kind of act we would do, because no rock and roll promoter would touch them. That’s how we kept New Audiences going, finding acts that we liked personally that the big promoters didn’t know anything about.)
Carnegie Hall had a small in-house sound system for lectures; we thought that would work because there was no music. But with the Firesign Theatre, it was total mud. Nobody could hear anything from the stage. It didn’t matter because the place was sold out with all these stoned out kids who loved Firesign Theatre and knew the words to every bit — out loud! The guys on stage were mouthing the words since no one could hear anything from the stage anyhow. That was a funny experience. Today, people are much more particular about sound.
One time we were presenting a concert with Count Basie and Basie never liked his piano miked. The stagehands at Carnegie took me aside and said, “We know him, he’s been here before, just so you know, we snuck a microphone under the piano. He doesn’t know about it, but now we can hear the piano.”
It’s very very difficult in concert halls that were meant for acoustic music to get really good sound. Carnegie was built for acoustic music. The more you amplify, the more the acoustics changes.
Adding to the expense of producing a concert in New York is the unions, most notably Local 1 IATSE, the stagehands union. They work for the hall, and the contracts are with the halls. An outside producer has no choice but to honor those contracts.
When most people think about producing a concert in New York, they seem to think that the hall rental is the only expense. They don’t think about the stagehands, who also control the lights, the sound and setting up t...he stage.
I did shows at Carnegie Hall with acts who really wanted to play Carnegie Hall — but with their own lighting and sound people. I would tell them, “Well you can’t bring in your own lights and sound.” What? The thing is that acts can bring in their own, but they still have the pay the stagehands. If you bring in three sound people, you also have to hire three stagehands, who are essentially doing nothing.
Things have changed; they’re more agreeable now but it used to be very tough in the old days. You walked on tiptoes around the stagehands because you didn’t want to create any kind of issues.
In our early years, Broadway was very soft. There were a lot of empty houses. Today, that is no longer the case. Broadway is booming. But forty years ago, a number of Broadway theaters were dark.
We thought about doing a concert in a Broadway house but the business agent for the union told us we couldn’t. “You have to rent the theater for a week.” I said, “Well the theater is empty. We could do a show for one or two nights and we can pay you for that, the rent for the theatre, and the stagehands fees.” He said, “You’re going to have to pay us for a week.” “In other words,” I told him, “You’d rather have no business than some for your union members?” He said, “That’s right.” It wasn’t logical. They didn’t want to change their deal with the theater, so the house would remain empty for a week instead of having something going on for a few nights.
So there were always issues in the halls. In fact, that’s why the most successful concert promoters in the country are the ones who own their own venues. If you own your own venue, you can negotiate your own deals — some are even non-union. When Carnegie Hall produces their own events, they don’t pay the same fees that an outside renter pays.
Outside of New York we did shows in Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and Staten Island. We used to spread it out a little bit.
Of all the venues we utilized, I found Town Hall, even though it’s the smallest, to be the easiest to work. The people there are willing to work with you, there’s some give and take in terms of the cost. It’s become a very popular venue again. They also produce their own events. Definitely the easiest-going place. But you can’t make as much because the capacity is less than 1500.
Working for George Wein
We worked with George Wein on his first New York City festival around 1972. In 1975, George asked me to do some stage managing.
We were producing concerts for New Audiences, but our summers were really slow. In those days it was hard to do indoor concerts during the summer. George and I had a nice working relationship, and he asked me if I wanted to go to Nice in the south of France and stage manage some concerts....
“You’re going to send me to France, put me up in a nice hotel, and pay me? Of course!” That opened my eyes to a lot of older jazz. George’s concept at the time was to hire a whole bunch of musicians, mostly older, and then mix and match them, putting together different groups, and he would sell this to different festivals in Europe. There were quite a few jazz festivals all over Europe at the time.
It was quite interesting because not all of the guys had worked together before, but they all knew each other. Doc Cheatham, Gerry Mulligan, Dick Hyman, guys like that, working it out and playing together; it was fascinating. There was a common language there in the music. I’d presented John Lewis and Percy Heath of the Modern Jazz Quartet in concert, but here they were working with other musicians. Just great.