Monday, October 12, 2009

Justice for Jazz Artists

Justice for Jazz Artists is an organization attempting to get pensions for all jazz artists who work in NY clubs. Thanks to its lobbying the NY State Legislature, two years ago the 8.375% sales tax on admissions to jazz clubs was repealed. This money was to be redirected into pension payments, which would thus cost the clubs nothing but benefit the artists who perform in them. (Please note, however, that Musicians’ Local 802 does have collective bargaining agreements with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Also there are several member-leader agreements already in place that provide pension and health benefits to jazz musicians.)

Justice for Jazz Artists has been attempting to get as many names as possible on a petition encouraging the NY jazz clubs to do the right thing. On September 29, a rally was held at Judson Memorial Church. I had the privilege of being a part of this event. Great music was contributed by artists such as Jimmy Owens, Bob Cranshaw, Benny Powell, Bernard Purdie and Keisha St. Joan. Speeches were also made by some of them, as well as by Amiri Baraka and Councilman Alan J. Gerson. Then all the musicians in attendance who had brought their instruments picked them up, some of those without instruments picked up signs with slogans about our cause and we all marched, New Orleans-style, out into the street. Our destination was the Blue Note, for the purpose of presenting a copy of the petition to a representative of the club. We slowly proceeded there, using a carefully delineated route under the watchful eyes of some of New York City's Finest, the petition was dutifully presented, and we all returned to Judson Memorial to the accompaniment of one of Monk's songs as rendered by our marching band.

Those of us who consider jazz important feel it is a travesty that its practitioners have long been denied the right to a comfortable retirement. If you agree and want more information about Justice for Jazz Artists and its efforts, you can go to its site by clicking here.