Hey! It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and anybody who grew up in Sacramento knows that can mean only one thing: the sound of rink-a-tink-a-tink, and couples swarming the streets of Old Sacramento wearing matching hats and vests. Ahhhh yes, that fine Sacramento tradition: The 275th Annual Jazz Jubilee.
(Insert needle dragging across the record sound effect here).
Actually, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee; er, the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Festival; er, the Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee (keeping up?) is no more. Now with minimal fanfare, we introduce the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival.
Claiming to be in its 39th year, which if you believe in reincarnation is perhaps accurate; this annual Sacramento ritual has a new name and completely new lineup. The problem is, looking at that lineup, it also appears to be suffering from an identity crisis.
Ok, I am the first to admit, along with many of my generation, that the sound of Dixieland Jazz wore thin right around when I stopped riding the gyrating pony at Straw Hat Pizza. I spent my childhood hoping nobody would offer to take me anywhere near Old Sacramento this time of year. But at least you knew what it was come Memorial Day Weekend.
According to the new festival’s website, this year’s festival will feature a “full range of great music while still honoring our great jazz tradition:
- BLUES, ROCK, JAZZ, DANCE BANDS
- Soulful blues and rockin’ blues
- Swing and Western swing
- Cajun and zydeco
- Country, rockabilly and bluegrass
- Latin and Mariachi music
- New Orleans 2nd-line & street beat
- Straight-ahead & mainstream jazz
- Ragtime and early jazz
- Big bands / Orchestras
- Marching bands
- Youth bands
- Banjo performances at the
CA State Railroad Museum and
on excursion trains
- all in addition to Traditional jazz,
also known as Dixieland or
classic jazz, inspired by the great Louis Armstrong”.
That sound you just heard was Satchmo buying an Amtrak ticket to Chicago.
Monterey has its Jazz Festival, Austin has South X Southwest and City Limits, Tennessee has Bonnaroo, hell even Woodstock has made valiant attempts to keep 1969 alive. Music festivals are a lot of fun and great for local economies. But it seems to me that you have to know your audience and market to that audience. By trying to be all things to all people, I fear this festival runs the risk of being nothing to anybody.
The original festival had its day in the (hot) sun. It was a real Sacramento tradition and brought a lot of attention, and money, to our City. But, it was the right thing to do to recognize that the traditional Dixieland Jazz theme had run its course as a standalone Sacramento music festival.
That is not to say that we cannot start something new here that could be, dare I say it, world class. As a lover of music and someone who thinks that this city boasts musicians that can stand up against musicians in any town, I think the timing is right. I just question if this latest incarnation is the answer.