Jazz icons celebrate in City Hall council chamber at passage of historic resolution on rights.
New York City Council has passed a resolution aimed at ensuring that jazz musicians are accorded the same rights and respect as their classical and Broadway counterparts.
Council members joined musicians and supporters of Justice for Jazz Artists on the steps of City Hall after the historic vote recognising the successful campaign, which aims to improve the lives of musicians working in New York’s jazz clubs.
“Today the New York City Council has formally recognized that musicians who have provided us with one of the world’s great art forms have been deprived of a major benefit that musicians working in other fields rely on,” said John O’Connor, Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM Recording Vice President.
Resolution 702 A maintains that jazz is an “esteemed American art form inspiring passionate devotion among generations of fans and recognized by the United States Congress in 1987 as a ‘national treasure’” and acknowledges New York as “an international jazz mecca to which music lovers from around the world travel in order to experience legendary venues such as the Blue Note, Birdland, the Jazz Standard, Iridium and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and the Village Vanguard.”
“Jazz and the musicians who play it,” it goes on in support of the campaign, “have helped create the soundtrack of American history and New York City would not be the cultural mecca it is without the color, texture and flavor that jazz musicians have added to it throughout the years.”
“For too long, jazz musicians who play at some of New York’s most well-known clubs have not had the opportunity to attain workplace protections, including pensions,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “The resolution passed by the City Council today endorses the Jazz for Justice campaign, and will hopefully get jazz club operators to negotiate with musicians that keep their club doors open and their pockets lined. Jazz musicians deserve to retire with dignity, and clubs should work with musicians to give them the protections they deserve.”
Over recent months, the Justice for Jazz Artists movement, which counts among its supporters the likes of Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Owens, Bob Cranshaw, John Pizzarelli and Bill Frisell, has built a significant following calling for New York City’s major jazz clubs to do right by jazz musicians. The campaign has repeatedly pointed out that many leading jazz artists live and work in New York City, yet many older jazz musicians are forced to retire in poverty while even those who work in the most prestigious and profitable jazz clubs are denied basic benefits and pensions. While musicians who play on Broadway and in NY’s symphony orchestras are protected by union contracts, jazz musicians are not. The resolution now calls on the clubs to address pensions, recording rights and other work-related issues.
“Thank you to all the council members who voted to support us,” said Bob Cranshaw, the legendary bass player for Sonny Rollins and the most recorded bass player in Blue Note Records history. “A pension plan for those musicians who are working is essential, for our children and their children. Poverty is a real problem among jazz musicians. The jazz clubs and the musicians need to talk – that’s what we are asking –that the clubs sit down with us. We need to come together as a city and realize it is in the best interest of all of us to support and sustain jazz music and jazz musicians.”
“I know personally of many jazz artists, people who were quite famous, who did not have adequate resources at the end of their lives,” said jazz singer and bandleader Keisha St. Joan. “It’s now up to the major jazz clubs to meet with the musicians and pay into pensions for their workers. If we love the music, we must love the musicians.”