Hard times for jazz ... are there more ahead?

Festival director Frank Malfitano reflects on the current crises

If sponsors step forward, the Syracuse Jazz Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2012. Late last year, its artistic director, Frank Malfitano, signed a four-year contract extension with the festival board.

"If I'm asking the county, corporations and the community to all make a commitment to the festival, I have to make a commitment too," Malfitano said.

The former director of the Detroit International Jazz Festival, Malfitano, 63, now works as a booking consultant to Utica's Stanley Theatre and to the Arts Across Campus program at OCC, where the festival has been staged since 2001.

He recently shared his thoughts on problems now plaguing the jazz industry.

Q: JazzTimes, a 38-year-old glossy magazine with a 100,000 circulation, suspended publication on June 8. What does this mean for the jazz industry?

A: First it was the dissolution last year of the International Association for Jazz Education, then the cancellation of the Newport and JVC Jazz Festivals and now the suspension, and arguably the permanent ceasing of publication for one of the longest-running jazz publications in the world, which is following on the heels of the recent elimination of Wire, Coda and many other major jazz magazines, coupled with the ongoing systematic removal of NPR jazz programming and many Clear Channel smooth jazz radio formats, not to mention the cutbacks and near-elimination of Leo Rayhill's long-running jazz radio program on WCNY-FM.

Is anyone seeing a trend here? Is anyone really all that surprised?

Q: Who's responsible?

A: The purists and jazz police, not the economy, have damn near killed this art form because of their stubbornness and their failure to grow and evolve, primarily because of their collective inability as an industry to develop a protective trade organization umbrella akin to that of the 1/4ber-successful CMA, which has been a safe haven for classic country, bluegrass and several other disciplines that have fallen under the umbrella of country music.

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