So, the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society announced last week that they were changing the name of the Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee (formerly the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee) to the “Sacramento Music Festival.” My initial reaction is that this is weak and pathetic. But then I thought about it, and realized that it’s cowardly and pathetic.
When I started going to the Jubilee as a tyke, it spread all over town like a giant squid, its tentacles reaching into every crevice in Sacramento. Now it’s shrunk down to fill only Old Sacramento — which is fine as admittedly the crowd has shrunk over the decades due to the unremitting scythe of death — but in the process of shrinking, it’s losing its soul. Instead of concentrating the essence of the Jubilee, which was old-time music mixed with fried food and libations, it instead is trying to find that perfect mix of party music that will bring out the crowds and keep the whole thing afloat. And even that’s not being done convincingly. Throwing a Steely Dan cover band into the mix isn’t exactly going to bring out the masses.
But here’s the other thing that really makes it cowardly: odds are that nothing at all about the festival will change other than the name. I doubt that there will be chamber music and hip-hop at next year’s event. I assume there will be about 30-40 swing and dixieland bands, a dozen or so blues and zydeco bands, and a handful of novelty acts to entertain the kids. This is not a departure from the last 5 or so years of the festival. Why then the name change? So as not to scare off the citizens who would never come out to a jazz festival in their lives, of course. And you know what? They probably won’t come out for a “music” festival either.