Category Archives: Film

Notes on the Girls Rock Jacksonville Volunteer Showcase (CoRK, 12/15) and “The Punk Singer” (Sun-Ray Cinema, 12/23)

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Girls Rock Jax benefit show—CoRK, December 15

“The Punk Singer”—Sun Ray Cinema, December 23

(One of my favorite concert flyers this year…)

The expansion of the Girls Rock Camp’s global brand into Jacksonville two years ago has been, without question, one of the most important local cultural development of the past decade—the proverbial “gift that keeps on giving”, if you’re a music fan. As Girls Rock Jacksonville prepares to enter its third year, with its third camp coming in summer 2014, the process of preparation has begun, and that includes two events scheduled for mid-December at CoRK (12/15) and Sun-Ray Cinema (12/23).

The first is a Girls Rock Jax fundraising event slated for Friday, Dec. 15 at CoRK, which has been on a heckuva run this year. (A number of their resident artists will be just returning from a triumphant group effort at Art Basel Miami Beach, dubbed the ‘#baselinvasion”; a number of Northeast Florida’s top talents were represented there, at the country’s biggest art festival.) The GRJ funder will feature five bands comprised of GRJ volunteers and volunteers, as well as a silent auction with gimmicks and swag provided by local creative talents like Christina Abercrombie, Alicia Canessa, Cherri Czajkowski, Crystal Floyd, Sarah Humphreys and Karen Kurycki, as well as affiliated local businesses, including: Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Burro Bags, The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Dead Tank Records / Distribution, Deep Search Records, Dig Foods, Hawthorn Salon, Intuition Ale Works, M.A.D. Nails, Original Fuzz, Orion | Allen Photography, Sun-Ray Cinema, Sweet Theory Baking Co. and That Poor Girl.

Swag for the auction, provided by Dead Tank…

The first Girls Rock camps started in the Pacific Northwest, and have from the start been largely inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement that began in that region a quarter-century ago. Riot Grrrl, to an even larger extent than the alternative rock scene of the era, in general, marked the first time that girls were positioned front-and-center in multiple bands, in a truly egalitarian way, speaking directly to matters of relevance in their demographic—and they were good, too.

Of course, a central figure in that movement has been Kathleen Hanna—writer, activist, wife of King Ad-Rock and lead singer of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and the Julie Ruin—one of the most influential women of the 21st century. You can see that all over American culture, to this day, and in ways that are not just latent or nostalgia-based, but active, kinetic and compelling in the present. The network of Girls Rock camps around the world is just the most obvious example.

Hanna with Jabberjaw, circa 1993 or ’94…

A new documentary called “The Punk Singer” tells Hanna’s story in greater detail than ever before, largely in her own words, Jacksonville will be one of the select cities hosting a screening of it at Sun-Ray Cinema, in historic Five Points, on Sunday afternoon, December 23. I’ll proudly note that I was first to call attention to its availability when I saw a posting about it on Facebook, but Tim Massett is the man for connecting with the filmmakers and putting in the legwork to make it happen.

(Kathleen Hanna with the author, Burrito Gallery, November 2011)

Although Hanna herself will not be on hand for the film screening, she’ll be there in spirit. Her affinity for the River City is already a matter of record. I was honored to sit with her, Adee Roberson, Andrew Coulon, Duncan Fristoe and the delightful Mark Creegan for a panel discussion on zines (“The Personal Is Political”) at the Jacksonville Public Library in November 2011. That was followed by a presentation by Hanna herself, and a Q&A session with an audience largely comprised of the city up-and-coming young ladies; after that, everyone adjourned to Burrito Gallery for lunch. Many of those girls ended up being involved in the launch of Girls Rock Jacksonville the following July.

(Flyer for the NYC screenings…)

“The Punk Singer” was released theatrically by IFC Films on November 29, with some 19 screenings in ten states; the screening at Sun-Ray will be the very first one in the state of Florida. (The film will also be showing at the Hippodrome in Gainesville on January 24, 2014.)      As a bonus, the screening will be preceded by a performance of songs associated with the film’s subject, as rendered by a group of girls drawn together specifically for the occasion from the ranks of GRJ volunteers. Drummer Summer Wood is probably best-known for her work with Rice, and now with Four Families. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Alex E. Michael has led some of the city’s most dynamic bands of the past few years, including Wild Life Society and Ritual Union, in addition to her own solo work. She and singer Bethany Buckner were once half of the legendary Fruit Machine, which during its too-short run was, quite simply, one of the best all-girls bands ever, anywhere.

According to the official “Girls Rock Camp Alliance” website, GRJ is just one of 44 Girls Rock camps in eight different countries, with more forthcoming. The volunteers who’ve organized and run the past two GRJ camps include some of the most talented artists and musicians working the region today, women whose own individual achievements are already a matter of public record. Together, they have created something even greater than the sum of its already-valuable parts. They have nurtured, empowered and mentored these young ladies like they were their own sisters, daughters and friends—which they often are, in many cases.

            Girls Rock, as a concept, was born at Portland State University in 2001, and quickly spread to cities around the world. The girlsrockcamp.org website offers a glimpse at Portland’s organization ten years on, fully-formed and self-actualized, with ample merchandise to ensure a steady influx of capital. What began, like ours, as a weekly summer camp has expanded into a full-time Girls Rock Institute, with a camp for women, its own Rock Camp Studio, and hundreds of pupils per year; they have received nearly a quarter-million dollars in sponsorship, including a $40,000 donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Instructors’ educational experiences have been codified into a book, and an excellent documentary feature was filmed at the 2005 camp. The Portlandians even formed 16 Records to market and distribute music related to the project from talent like Dolly Ranchers, Jack Queen, The Haggard and Pom Pom Meltdown. (Note especially the splendid singer Marisa Anderson, who doubles on keyboards and lap-steel guitar.) No doubt, interest in this material will only increase as these ladies further establish themselves in the industry; the earliest campers are now in their mid-20s, so that process is already well-underway.

For the uninitiated, the GRJ camp is a one-week camp for girls aged 9-16, usually running from late July into early August. Attendees are provided hands-on instruction in a wide range of artistic disciplines—singing, instruments, DJing, arts and crafts, flyer- and zine-making—related to the skills needed for success as a professional musician. Having the lessons administered to girls by girls, by actual working musicians and longtime vets of the scene. The inaugural camp, in 2012, drew 29 campers and 40 volunteers. Camp sessions are run at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and each year’s camp ends with the girls forming their own bands to play a showcase concert at the historic Florida Theatre on Saturday afternoon. (Hopefully, future concerts will be recorded and marketed for fans, parents, etc.)

A cursory glance at the concert listings in Northeast Florida on any given week is a testament to the skills being brought to bear for the GRJ project—and that’s just the volunteers. At this rate, it will be just a few couple more years before GRJ attendees are themselves sharing space with their teachers—on the stage, on the page, online and in the firmament of what is already known as one of the most dynamic, emerging music scenes in the world today. And you can help!

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com

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Gang War (1940) [a.k.a. Crime Street]

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Really grimy, even by Harlem 1940 standards. Not sure why this film isn’t a classic; it hits the marks like Brody in Japan. Star Ralph Cooper went on to become the long-time host of “Amateur Night” at the Apollo…

“Cast (IMDB): Ralph Cooper as Bob ‘Killer’ Meade; Gladys Snyder as Maizie ‘Sugar’ Walford; Reginald Fenderson as Danny (Meade’s chief henchman) (as Reggie Fenderson); Laurence Criner as Lew Baron (as Lawrence Criner); Monte Hawley as Bill (Baron’s henchman); Jess Lee Brooks as Lt. Holmes (as Jesse Brooks); Johnny Thomas as Phil (Meade’s driver); Maceo Bruce Sheffield as Bull Brown (as Maceo Sheffield); Charles Hawkins as Tip (Brown henchman); Bobby Johnson as Waxy (Baron henchman); Henry Roberts as Slim (Meade henchman); Harold Garrison as Slicum (Meade’s publicity man); Marie Bryant as Dance Specialty (uncredited); Willie Covan as Dance Specialty (uncredited); Louise Franklin as Phil’s Girl (uncredited); Halley Harding as Baron Henchman (uncredited); Ray Martin as Man in Bar (uncredited); Ernest Morrison as Gang Member (uncredited); Edward Thompson as Man in Courtroom (uncredited).”  

Notes on Gene Krupa: “Dial M For Music”, 1967

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May 11, 1937: Krupa sweats through his suit as the Benny Goodman band challenges Chick Webb at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Some estimates suggest that between 4,000 and 20,000 people went in, through and around the venue that night…

Multi-instrumentalist Eddie Shu did epic work with Gene Krupa in the mid-’50s, following up from Charlie Ventura in the ’40s. Parts of this were in the old DCI VHS on Krupa (which, like the whole series, never went digital); so was the session with Sid Catlett on “Boy, What A Girl!” For some reason, after 20 years, the full videos of both find their way online, entirely unrelated–in this case, thanks to Shu’s children. Here Krupa, a devout Catholic, lays it down for some teenagers in Chicago, and basically does a shoot interview; truly essential stuff. He’s 58 here. If Krupa were a wrestler, he’d be Lou Thesz

DVD Review: John Cage: Journeys In Sound

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 John Cage: Journeys In Sound (Accentus Music)

The late composer John Cage (1912-1992) is one of those artists whose legacy is almost impossible to overstate. There was a world before Cage came along, and that world remains long after he’s gone, but those worlds are very different, and Cage’s seminal sound-craft is a decisive factor. He didn’t just change the music business; he changed music itself, in the process recalibrating the way humans make music, how we listen to music and how we think about music at the most basic and fundamental levels, from orchestrations and collaborations with other artists to manipulations of instruments and recording techniques. As a composer, I see him really as the heir to Arnold Schoenberg, but that could be debated.

A new DVD from Accentus Music, John Cage: Journeys In Sound, was released last October in celebration of Cage’s 100th birthday. It takes a look at the world he left behind, demonstrating in several different ways how the man’s influence persists even now, 20 years after his death. Cage is one of the very few modern composers to have a serious presence in the larger pop-culture, known even to people who’ve never heard his music—and there is a lot to be heard. This release results from the collective efforts of two critically-acclaimed documentary filmmakers, Allan Miller and Paul Smaczny, who together led a production crew numbering some three dozen different people and companies. Miller, a two-time Oscar winner, was a longtime friend and colleague of Cage’s, and he comes armed with archival footage dating back to the 1960s, which he and Smaczny augmented with material drawn from a wide variety of sources around the world. The result is not so much a unified whole, but a series of sketches that all revolve around a central theme: “John Cage”.

The film begins as an old-school 1950s TV set opens up from its place in a sunlit field; the footage shows a young Cage employing various household items to create sounds for an audience whose nervous laughter gives away their general confusion—a common reaction. It then cuts to an older Cage, making meticulous edits to a film project he was constructing out of his famous “Chance Operations”. A scene in Times Square captures a cross-section of people talking about Cage on the street; the point seems to be that, while Cage may be obscure, he is hardly as obscure as one might expect, at least in that setting. The sights and sounds of the city, among other locales, acts as

22 different artists are featured in the film, besides Cage himself. Most of these people would be virtually unknown to the casual observer, with some few notable, indeed crucial exceptions. Topping that list are John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who actually appears in two different incarnations, in her youth alongside Lennon and Cage (bearded, Bob Ross-like), then later in life, after she’d long since become a sort of godmother to the New York avant-garde performance-art circles in which she and Cage both operated for years. Now, it’s not like John Cage needs John Lennon, or anyone else, to lend credibility to his work (which was often controversial to the point of being divisive, like an Albert Ayler or a Lou Reed, circa Metal Machine Music), but his very presence in the film, like some kind of omniscient, omnipresent ghost, elevates the whole affair beyond the quotidian; Lennon, as always, flirts with the sublime.

Journeys In Sound is a documentary about a musician, and not an actual music video, although we are treated to interpretations of Cage’s work in multiple contexts and configurations. Those who may find that there’s not enough actual music on the DVD to suit their tastes will be assuaged somewhat by the bonus material, which begins with a performance of Cage’s infamous exercise in ambient noise, “4’33”, conducted by the great David Tudor. The Schlagquatett Koln applies their percussive skills to Cage’s “Second Construction”, while pianist Steffen Schleiermacher performs a piece from Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano”, followed by his “Water Music”; the latter two pieces really touch on those aspects of Cage’s artistry that has resonated the most contemporaneously. The set is rounded out by interviews with Cage, his longtime companion Merce Cunningham—a former dancer for Martha Graham who later emerged as arguably the leading choreographer of modern dance—and artist Robert Rauschenberg, all of whom were giants in their respected fields but who together pioneered a whole new concept of multidisciplinary art. The DVD booklet also includes a five-page interview with Miller, which helps put the film in context.

John Cage: Journeys In Sound will not add too much to the knowledge-base of serious Cage fans, but it offers a very nice introduction to a man whose work often defies explanation, in part because so many skilled musicians themselves made the effort to put Cage’s influence in their own words. If Cage himself were alive, or could be sent a copy of the DVD in whatever dimension he presently occupies, he would probably enjoy it very much. Of course, if one can construct a documentary whose very subject could watch it and learn something, that is the mark of success—a mark that Messrs. Miller and Smaczny have certainly earned.

sheltonhull@gmail.com

Review: “The Journals of Spalding Gray”

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The Journals of Spalding Gray, by Spalding Gray, edited by Nell Casey. New York: AA Knopf/Random House. 326 pp., illustrated.

“I know that there’s a part of me so in love with death that I feel like I have already died and am looking at the living.”—Spalding Gray, 1976

It took some time for the dire circumstances surrounding Spalding Gray’s premature death to enter the public record, but time finally filled-out the final chapter of a brilliant life, lined with tragedy. Gray was last seen alive aboard the Staten Island Ferry, of which he apparently jumped. His fans were mostly shocked and confused. For many, Gray was the epitome of cultured, cultivated calm, the kind of person one might have assumed would be always graceful and resilient under any kind of pressure. But the truth fell well-short of that impossible standard.

The Journals of Spalding Gray document Gray’s graveyard spiral in painful, intimate detail, but there’s much more to it than that. Few public figures of his era were as open and honest about their history, their secrets, their feelings. Where other celebrities existed in a sealed bubble of hype and hagiography, armored-up inside characters created by their press agents, Spalding Gray walked the Earth virtually nude, intellectually and emotionally. It’s that quality that made him the greatest monologist of our time. He breathed life into a tired, stale format by bringing the audience directly into his mind, and his heart.

His Journals were published in 2011, presumably to coincide with what would have been Gray’s 70th birthday. Editor Nell Casey sorted through boxes of material containing over 5,000 pages of text, hours of audio tapes and countless other related documents, then supplemented that by interviewing some two dozen of Gray’s friends, relatives, colleagues and collaborators. The book, which spans the years 1967-2004, is more than just a collection of journal entries; the editor has duly rendered the closest thing to a memoir there will ever be.

Its pages are laced with pathos and tragedy from almost the very start. He was never really, truly, totally happy with himself. The brilliant and beloved public figure we all admired from afar was, at his best, deeply neurotic and reckless, even by the standards on post-war New York City. At worst, he was a full-on sociopath whose exit was foretold by the man himself from very early on, as this book documents. Few people could even pretend to be comfortable with the level of intimacy Gray displayed throughout his career, and the journals take it even further. While he was apparently writing with the intent of future publication, one presumes he had no intention of ever living to see that day. (It’s kind of like the Nixon Tapes, in that sense.) Any future scholarship on him must take these “journals” as primary-source material.

Not unlike its author, the book is at their best in the 1970s. The early entries burst with fresh-eyed optimism, sometimes in spite of himself; one instantly hears that voice, a voice like none other. The early entries are breezy and pretentious, as one might expect. He writes like a poet in love for the first time—which, in a sense, he was. These were heady times. He spent a few days in a Vegas jail, and even appeared in two old-school porno flicks, “Little Orphan Dusty” and “The Farmer’s Daughter”, where he helped invent a now-common group-sex position known in porn as “the split-roast”. (He also cried on the set.)

Yet, the dualism is set early. On a trip to Mexico, he writes: “I think now that I want very much to live.” He was only 26. Upon returning home, his father told him a) that his mother had killed herself; and b) to go collect her ashes at the post office, allegedly. It’s impossible to conceive of the cataclysmic shock this moment must have been to him; his journals don’t even contain full, complete sentences for nearly a month afterwards—just fragments.

It’s fun reading the first-hand, real-time experiences of someone who played such an important role in the 1970s theatre scene in New York. The trope has been exhausted, but it’s still true: In this book, the city exists almost like a character in and of itself. For Gray, the city was where he escaped from a tumultuous youth; it was the place where he created the persona we now associate with him, and where he found the first in a series of women who served as muses, lovers and victims of his own self-destructive behaviors.

Elizabeth LeCompte was a writer, director and occasional actor in the same Wooster Group Gray helped found; she oversaw the development of his first monologues. Their love, slightly fictionalized, forms much of the plot of Gray’s only novel, the underrated Impossible Vacation, whose laborious composition is the subject of one of his best monologues, Monster In A Box. His years of peak professional success were also the years in which he did the least amount of journal-writing. Maybe the success helped satisfy something in him, making the ol’ existential hand-wringing less necessary in that period, or maybe he was just too busy. Either way, even in 1985, when his life was outwardly perfect, he was writing: “If I continue being who I am now, I see disaster written on the walls.”

Noted names float throughout the text: Laurie Anderson, Eric Bogosian, Annie Liebowitz, Craig T. Nelson, Steven Soderberg, Sam Watterston. For years, he shared an apartment with LeCompte, his first great love and herself a pivotal figure in that scene; they continued to share it even after splitting. She had a child with Willem DaFoe, who moved in, and Gray moved on to Renee Shafransky, who exists in a sort of parallel world as a character in his best-known works; she is the only one of his great loves who did not participate in this book, for reasons pretty easily guessed after reading it.

Kathie Russo (who was exceptionally brave to have permitted this portrayal of her, which is not often that complimentary) would become his widow, the mother of his children, the driver of the car in which they almost died, through no fault of her own. She tamed Spalding Gray, got him domesticated and primed for what should have been the next 30 years of their lives together. Instead, they only got a decade.

They were in Ireland on late-June, 2001, on a vacation he was reluctant to take (in part because their host had died a month earlier), in the back-seat of a rental-car without his seat-belt. “Gray fractured his hip, which would leave him with a drop foot, a limp on his right side, and permanently in need of a leg brace in order to walk,” Casey writes; “he also suffered an orbital fracture … Later, in surgery, hundreds of shards of bone were found lodged in his brain. Russo, meanwhile, got fifteen stitches in the back of her head where Gray had hit her with his own head as he flew forward in the accident.” Everyone else walked away.

And then 9/11 happened, and the city where he had the greatest moments of happiness in his life was deluged with negative energy. A man who’d spent his entire life trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) not to think too much about death had, within just three months, had the subject forced into the forefront of every aspect of his personal and professional life. Gray was physically broken and in constant pain, mentally distressed and traumatized, and struggling to cope with the impact of an ill-advised move into a new community and a home that was a money-pit, all while his output was slipping. As the dust-clouds floated up and away from Ground Zero, the shadows rolled in on his soul.

In the last 19 months of Gray’s life, he spent parts of at least six of them in mental-health facilities. He was given prescriptions for drugs including Aventyl, Celexa, Lamictal, Neurontin and Zyprexa. He also received approximately 21 electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) “treatments”, despite concerns over giving such treatments to a man with a metal plate covering his brain. The ECT treatments occurred in 2002: Gray had committed himself, but he, his family and friends (and at least one trained neuropath) had begun requesting his release after six weeks. The hospital refused, keeping him for three more months, during which time the ECT happened. By the time he was released, he had less than a year to live.

In November 2001, two years before he died, he wrote: “I’m a dead man. A ghost.” It’s remarkable to read the moments of lucidity and focus in his journals in the final years and recall that, no matter what, he kept working. Despite a six-hour operation to insert a titanium plate into his forehead, Gray was back on-stage within ten weeks of the accident; his last performance, at PS 122, was about a month before his death, which was apparently incited in part by watching the movie “Big Fish”. The journals document how hard he tried just to maintain, but much like his mother a quarter-century earlier, the conclusion was foregone. It was an act of will.

As a fan, someone who once sought out VHS copies of “Swimming To Cambodia” and “Monster In a Box” as was entranced by the man’s abilities, the experience of reading Gray’s own account of his last days was just heart-breaking. Casey’s additions are indispensable at this point; reconstructing the circumstances of the car accident, the awful extent of his injuries and his final descent into total madness, dissolution and death was, as with the book in general, an impressive display of journalistic skill. The whole situation never made sense to me until I read this book, and got the story from Spalding Gray himself.

His confessional style may have evolved as it so often does, in response to his repressed conservative upbringing, in particular by seeing how his mother suffered and eventually perished under those conditions. Many of the unique and now-legendary personalities to coalesce in New York’s performance-art scene of his era wrestled with similar issues, and slipped those surly old bonds. But he never quite slipped them fully, no matter how far he went.

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com; February 28, 2012

Top Billin’: Sonny Rollins booked for 2012 Jacksonville Jazz Festival.

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Mayor Alvin Brown was the star at a press conference held Thursday morning, Feb. 9, to formally announce the 2012 Jacksonville Jazz Festival, which will be held downtown May 24-27. The big news coming out can be summed-up in just two words: “Sonny Rollins”. Jazz fans will need no further embellishment, but for the uninitiated (and becoming a hard-core jazz fan is kind of like an initiation): With the sole exception of Dave Brubeck, Rollins is the world’s greatest living jazz musician, a man whose influence permeates almost the totality of the music in the 60+ years since he first made his name in post-bop New York.

One must note, also, the presence of two other masters among a lineup that is still being finalized: Chick Corea and Terence Blanchard. But the booking of Rollins, who at age 82 does not play concerts that often anymore, and rarely outside the areas more epicentric to the music, is a major coup of historic proportions. He is probably the most important musician to work our festival since those peak years when Dizzy Gillespie headlined multiple festivals toward the end of his life. But that was the ‘80s—a whole different world. The idea of Sonny Rollins appearing in Jacksonville, Florida in 2012 will, for some, be interpreted as a sign of imminent apocalypse; a heavy cynic might wonder if the world is destined to end the day before.

By attaching his name to the festival, Brown does it a service by basically making the festival brand symbiotic with his own. This is a great move, for his own interests, and it also puts a bit of pressure on him to make sure the festival’s long-term momentum is maintained. There were deep initial concerns about its very future coming into this year. Funding for Office of Special Events (which also oversees things like the World of Nations festival and Veterans Day parade) had been in some jeopardy during the last few years of budget battles; while truly significant cuts were not made, the specter of such cuts—and their disastrous effect on the city’s cultural identity—was often invoked by the Peyton administration in its later years.

Those fears, stoked by Peyton, caught fire soon after Brown succeeded him. Those now-infamous staff cuts last year hit the OSE hard, resulting in the elimination of its two top people. Theresa O’Donnell-Price and Christina Langston-Hughes were two of the unsung heroes of city government in the first decade of this century, skillfully implementing the mayor’s mandate to restore the vitality of a festival that had seen better days. Last year’s festival turned out to be their last at the OSE and, headlined by Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers, one of the best ever. But Brown, at that point less than a month in as Mayor-Elect, was on vacation at the time, so he missed seeing what they could actually do—and within a few months, they were shown the door as unceremoniously as everyone else.

Losing them both, simultaneously, was the biggest blow to the festival as an institution since the scandalous staff cuts at WJCT that led directly to the collapse of the festival under its direction in the late-‘90s. It was a dark day for local jazz fans, that’s for sure, and anxiety about the future has only built-up since. Initial buzz on the 2012 festival has already gone a long way toward assuaging many of these concerns, but more can be done. In a nutshell, there should be a heavy representation of local artists at the festival, the businesses of the Urban Core need to be better-integrated into the overall experience, and the City should take the lead in establishing an even stronger presence for the festival in media, both in terms of social media, as well as trying to strengthen relationships with local and national media.

After WJCT basically washed their hands of the logistics, and the country caught its first taste of the post-9/11 economic instability, it was a gamble to invest public money in the Jazz Festival. (Bear in mind, there are people who oppose its public funding even now, despite the overwhelming evidence of disproportionate upside, in terms of economic impact. If all public monies could generate such direct and visceral return on investment, the whole world would be different right now.) But Peyton did it anyway, in early signs that he was far more moderate than he ever got credit for, and I think we can all agree that the gamble paid off.

It’s entirely likely that, had anyone else become mayor in 2003, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival would have never survived into the 21st century—the third century of jazz music, which was born in Storyville, New Orleans, in the late 1800s. For this, Peyton will surely someday join Jake Godbold among former mayors enshrined in the festival’s Hall of Fame. At this rate, Brown may end up there, too. He’s got a real gift for the kind of retail politics that work so well in the south, and initiatives like this put those skills out-front.

Having written more about the festival’s modern incarnation than any other reporter (if not all of them, combined), I can say that he’s done the two things I’ve always recommended the political leadership do: 1) Take advantage of the festival’s ability to bridge gaps among citizens, and 2) Bring Sonny Rollins to town. It will be curious to see if the national jazz media gives the festival a bit more hype now; we’ll see about that.