Hearsay: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Let’s Do It for Johnny, Man!

So Fort Worth’s first semi-official jazz festival, Jazz by the Boulevard (which took place last weekend), could be colored a success — there was a shitload of people there, the music came through crisply and clearly, and the beer was relatively cold (even though there wasn’t any Shiner Bock available, to the great dismay of Weekly writer-at-large Ken Shimamoto). Another plus: there weren’t any scuffles. (Not that you’d expect any from a crowd that’s all atwitter for the sleeping pills that actually play instruments and call themselves Spyro Gyra.) The main “problem” with the festival, if anything, was the fact that Fort Worth’s jazz king, pianist Johnny Case, not only didn’t have a prime-time slot, he didn’t play. One local jazzbo said, “How can they have a Fort Worth jazz festival and not have Johnny Case on the bill?”

But here’s how HearSay sees the situation: The Jazz by the Boulevard folks, when lining up headliners and openers, must have been — as all festival organizers are — concerned with generating solid attendance figures. That’s why you saw Poncho Sanchez and Havana NRG! Orchestra and (yawn!) Spyro Gyra. And that’s why you didn’t see Johnny Case. (It also could have been because Johnny’s non-union and most festivals are union gigs, but still.) The type of music lovers who show out for mainstream bands like Spyro Gyra have no time or patience or ears for the private, intimate musings of a master like Case. These folks want what essentially amounts to instrumental rock. So the Jazz by the Boulevard folks had a point. Should they have at least given Johnny a cushy spot out of respect, even though they might not have really wanted him to play, especially during prime time? That, in HearSay’s opinion, would have been more insulting than simply conveniently “forgetting” to beg him to assume a primo slot. It’s one thing to ignore a guy; it’s a whole ’nother thing to tell him you’re gonna ignore him.

One last thing, unrelated to the case with Case: For about half the amount of dough that was coughed up to secure Spyro Gyra, festival organizers could have had Fort Worthian Ronald Shannon Jackson, probably the biggest, baddest, most influential contemporary jazzbo in town. Just food for thought for next year.


Sometimes HearSay doesn’t know what the hell people are doing — or, more importantly, listening to — when some bands play. Case in point: Last weekend’s Action show at the Aardvark. The performance was more than solid — the band’s radio-rock sound was rich and thick, the songs retained their studio integrity, and frontman Joe Rose was, as he always is, a sight to see (and hear). A couple days after the show, while your columnist was hanging out at (where else?) the bar, catching up with folks, the word was that the Action show really wasn’t that good. “The sound was bad,” “The crowd was small,” “The songs were half-developed,” etc. What were these naysayers doing while the band was actually on stage, playing?!? Well, HearSay was there, sober as a Protestant on Sunday, and wants to state for the record that radio-rock doesn’t get much better than when the Action’s pumping it out live. Period.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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