Can you have momentum when everything is free?

jazzlogo2  At the end of the summer Mario was convinced that jazz was making a comeback.  He wanted to continue the series.

“So, we have momentum.  We should plan more concerts,” he declared.

I disagreed.

“Momentum is when people pay to attend these concerts. That’s not the case with us,” I replied.

I reminded him that everything in the summer concert series had been free, including the food.  He explained that he would be willing to sponsor an indoor series.  Of course that added numerous complications.  In order to attract an audience I  felt that we would need to schedule concerts on Saturday nights. We would also have to find a venue, pay the musicians at least union wages for a weekend gig and charge admission to cover our costs.  Mario promised to make up any deficit if the concerts failed to break even.  He would also continue to provide free refreshments.  I agreed to run the operation and to continue to volunteer my time and effort.

Mario had his lawyer draw up  papers to register Highland Jazz, inc. as a 501-c3 non-profit organization. According to the articles of incorporation Mario would be President and Treasurer and I would serve as Clerk.  The mission statement outlined our goal of exposing the audience to a variety of jazz styles including Dixieland, Bebop, Latin and Swing. The American songbook would be an integral part of our programming. Jazz is, after all, America’s original music.

Makoto Ozone Sept. 1983

Makoto Ozone Sept. 1983

I wanted to make a big impact with the first indoor concert. At the time there was a lot of buzz about a 21-year-old Japanese pianist, Makoto Ozone. He and trombonist Phil Wilson, a Berklee faculty member, had recently released an album entitled Phil Wilson and Makoto Ozone Live! At the Berklee Performance Center.

Phil Wilson Sept.1983

Phil Wilson Sept.1983

I called Phil and he agreed to do the  concert. Because the venue, the Women’s Club in Newton Highlands, had limited seating we decided on two shows and a modest admission price of $5.

Both shows sold out with standing ovations at the end. Maybe Mario was right and we really did have momentum.

standing ovation

standing ovation

Where are they now?

After finishing Berklee Makoto Ozone moved back to Japan. I saw him perform with Gary Burton in Cambridge many years later and he fondly remembered the Highland Jazz concert.

Phil Wilson is still a faculty member of the Berklee College of Music. He recently performed at a Highland Jazz event  as leader of the Rainbow/Dues Band.

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