It’s the closest thing to a shake-up in the jazz journalism world: Bebop Channel Corporation has acquired Madavor Media, the publisher of JazzTimes magazine, Outdoor Photographer, The Writer, Digital Photo Pro and other periodicals.
JazzTimes, founded in 1970 as the Radio Free Jazz newsletter, is one of three widely circulated US-based jazz periodicals, along with DownBeat and Jazziz.
What this ultimately means for the mag and its web site, in terms of their look, feel and editorial approach, is anybody’s guess, and I don’t have any special insights.
On the bright side, the buyer ISN’T a hedge fund, as is the case with many newspapers and other publications these days, so the goal presumably won’t be to suck the acquisition dry and then sell it again.
Instead, JazzTimes will be published by a company headed and co-founded by former Duke Ellington Orchestra trombonist, composer and jazz educator Gregory Charles Royal and his wife, non-profit exec Sue Veres Royal.
Chuck Royal, interim CEO of Bebop, founded the New York Jazz Film Festival and his musical resume also includes stints with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Slide Hampton’s World of Trombones. Royal has additionally released several albums as a leader and has worked in musical theater and film.
Bebop “has a mission to create an arts hub for artists in the areas of jazz, dance, theatre and film as the first publicly traded company dedicated to such a mission,” according to a Feb. 16 press release on the deal. It will result in increasing the company’s revenue by 1,800% or more than $6 million, per the same release.
The company sees itself as a “disrupter,” with stated plans to upend the public’s views of the arts and help transform patrons into investors likely to see profitable returns, Royal said. Live and streaming video programming and other events tied in with JazzTimes and other Madavor brands are slated to be part of the new equation.
“We want to entertain with programming that goes beyond just documentaries, but with an array of video and scripted television and events to provide readers with a hangout and provide arts advertisers with the value
proposition to reach audiences throughout BeBop’s ecosystem,” Royal said.
The next Carnival season stone classic? Yeah, you right — It could very well be “Uptown on Mardi Gras Day” (Troubadour Jazz), the jazz-rooted, eminently funky third album from trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis‘s Uptown Jazz Orchestra.
Delfeayo, the Marsalis sibling who has stuck more closely to his hometown than have his brothers Branford, Wynton and Jason, is joined by a roomful of top-rank New Orleans singers and instrumentalists for a dozen tracks’ worth of smartly rearranged Mardi Gras favorites and several tasty original compositions.
The latter tunes include stand-out “So New Orleans,” which Marsalis co-wrote with singer-trumpeter Dr. Brice Miller, also heard on the track. It’s one of several pieces featuring the leader’s fine solo work. “I’m so New Orleans,” Miller sings, “We like syncopated beats with uptown grooves/When you hear that big bass drum/Yeah, you can’t help but move.”
Marsalis and Co., with Branford guesting on tenor and soprano sax on four tracks, turn in lively new versions of Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” the Hawketts’ “Mardi Gras Mambo,” Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time,” the Wild Magnolias’ “New Suit” and the Meters’ “They All Ask’d For You,” among other seasonal favorites. Given the highly rhythmic nature of New Orleans music, best not fail to mention the propulsive trap-set work provided by drummers Herlin Riley and Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
Marsalis’s goal with “Uptown On Mardi Gras Day,” as he said in a DownBeat cover story, was to make a feelgood record. “Everybody wants to play fast or in minor keys,” he told writer Allen Morrison. “But I’m like, ‘We’re in New Orleans. It’s a party city. We can party. So let’s do that!’ “
Speaking of New Orleans music, (much) closer to home: My band Acme Jazz Garage is playing a special Mardi Gras-themed show this Tuesday (Fat Tuesday), Feb. 21 at the Fenway Hotel, 453 Edgewater Drive in Dunedin.
It’s our regular lineup — me on bass, guitarist Matt Swenson, saxophonist Rick Runion, pianist Jody Marsh — and our pal and sometime bandmate Jean Bolduc (not pictured) on drums. We play from 6 to 9 pm, and admission is free. Come see us!
(Photo by Jay Nolan)