Will Jazz Musicians Have a Future?
SEPTEMBER 29, NEW YORK CITY — Members of Local 802 — including some of the world’s greatest jazz artists — are asking New York City club owners to adhere to the spirit of a 2007 law and contribute an amount equal to sales tax on tickets to the Union’s retirement fund. Otherwise, say Local 802 members, many artists will be left without pensions.
The history of jazz is replete with stories of great artists who wind up their careers broke and destitute. Says tenor sax player Sean Lyons, who is one of the musicians leading the union’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, “I don’t think to be a jazz musician you should have to swear an oath of poverty.”
Others coming out to the kickoff event at Judson memorial church yesterday included jazz trumpeter Jimmy Owens, who played with Count Basie, Hank Crawford, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, and Herbie Mann, among others. Also on hand in the crowd of several hundred 100 musicians was longtime bassist for Sonny Rollins Bob Cranshaw, who has also played on Sesame Street for 38 years. Both say that it’s up to club owners to do the right thing and use extra income from a sales tax rebate to help musicians.
Two thousand musicians have signed the Union’s petition to club owners. One Manhattan club, Smoke, at 106th street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is in talks with the Union, but others — including the famed Blue Note, and Bottom Line, have yet to follow suit.
Back in 2006, Local 802, in partnership with club owners, got a State law passed which forgave sales tax on tickets, with the intent that this money would go to musicians’ retirements. But once they had the extra money in their pockets, club owners turned a deaf ear to the Union and their members.
802 doesn’t want to start a war with the jazz clubs, recognizing that they provide a venue for members and a vital source of tourist income to New York City. But fair is fair.
Two dozens elected officials, together with the music departments of some schools, have climbed aboard the campaign. Mayoral Candidate Bill Thompson is a supporter, but Mayor Bloomberg has not yet weighed in.
Watch Local 802’s video about the campaign here.