Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jazz at Lincoln Center goes global

This just in from JALC:
New York, NY (November 16, 2011)  -  St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: HOT), and Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) announce today an unprecedented global partnership, bringing two New York icons together to concept and create a series of jazz clubs around the world in St. Regis hotels. With a shared ambition to open five jazz clubs in the next five years, St. Regis and JALC will open the first jazz club at The St. Regis Doha in April 2012.
The press release goes on and on. Actually, it's one of the most boring press releases I've ever read, probably because it was a joint effort between JALC (which usually does a pretty good job at these things) and St. Regis, "the unrivaled icon of five-star luxury," according to its own brochure. There's something about how the St. Regis in NYC has hosted a lot of jazz musicians over the years, about jazz being "an innate part of the St. Regis legacy," about "beyond expectation guest experiences," and about how "the opening of Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha and The St. Regis Doha further solidify Qatar as an emerging center of culture, commerce and leisure in the Middle East." (That seems a bit hyperbolic for a city whose Museum of Islamic Art was designed by I.M. Pei.)

Writing for the New York Times, James C. McKinley Jr. notes that the new club will be modeled on Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in Manhattan, and that the deal carries little risk for JALC, whose executive director, Adrian Ellis, says that the revenue from the Doha club will help support the organizations' educational programs. Wynton Marsalis considers this an opportunity to spread American culture and to introduce new audiences to jazz. Ellis further says that "if we are careful not to bite off more than we can chew, it could transform our business model." No kidding.

I haven't yet ventured into the blogosphere to read what's being said about this, but I suspect there's a lot of carping going on. Speaking only for myself, I don't have a problem with JALC establishing a presence in Qatar. In our own current political/cultural climate, where politicians curry votes by vowing to end the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and where more and more jazz clubs are "broadening" their offerings to include pop and nostalgia simply to keep their doors open, why not go where the money is? The musicians of JALC (I'm thinking specifically of Marsalis and the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) have long served as cultural ambassadors and are good at it. And who knows what might happen when Qatar gets a taste of real American jazz? American jazz musicians moving to Israel (Arnie Lawrence; Walter Blanding, who later joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) helped to create a vibrant jazz scene there which brought many fine musicians to the States (check out the 3 Cohens, if you haven't already). Will we someday see Qatari jazz musicians?

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