Friday, December 22, 2006

Small Concession in Jazziz

New Orleans is never too far from the minds of jazz lovers now and rightly so. Larry Blumenthal reports on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in his “Blu Notes” column in the December issue of Jazziz. The general theme asks whether the Federal government, particularly President Bush will only give lip service to rebuilding efforts, or come through for New Orleans. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

He does make one interesting concession late in the column:

“It’s worth noting too, that, through an expanded National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters program, the Bush administration has presided over a period when federal funding for worthy jazz musicians may have actually increased.”

I don’t think there’s any question it has. Under Dana Gioia’s chairmanship the fellowship award to Jazz Masters has been increased to a meaningful $25,000. The NEA has orchestrated 50 state tours of the Jazz Masters bringing legendary jazz artists to Americans who probably would rarely have had the opportunity to hear them, and launched major publicity campaigns on behalf of the Jazz Masters program and the award winners.

It might be counter-intuitive to most jazz fans, but Republican administrations have been better for jazz. Under the Clinton administration, jazz was decidedly not a priority at the NEA. Now jazz is one of the agency’s showcase programs. As recently pointed out, every jazz musician awarded the Medal of Freedom received it from a Republican president. The decision in the James Newton-Beastie Boys case, the most troubling ruling for jazz artists, was handed down by a Clinton appointee.

Katrina was a tragedy compounded by bi-partisan incompetence. Looking at the full record, jazz should vote Republican, but I’m not holding my breath.