Ton Trio II (with Scott Brown & Alex Vittum) returned to the Layover on Monday night as part of the series that has been going on since January, put on by the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society – run by Fernando & Tracy from VAMP music & art. We hadn’t played since recording at Tiny Telephone during Memorial Day weekend, so I was looking forward to dusting off the charts and seeing what we could do to freshen things up. We played three sets and I really liked how we stretched out – Alex sounded great on the drums, and Scott had some particularly nice bass solos. By the time our third set wrapped up we had a nice audience, and there was generally a good feel in the bar that night. Unfortunately at the end of the show, after I had plugged next week’s show by Vijay Anderson, I was told that series had been discontinued! Turns out that Layover wasn’t making enough money to justify having the series (they were contributing from the bar). The free jazz/improvised music doesn’t bring out the hard core drinkers, especially on a Monday night, and that’s where the bar has to make their money.
This is part of the whole thing. Any bar or restaurant or venue that chooses to book this kind of music needs to actually have a vested interest in it. It’s not a money maker. It doesn’t get people dancing (which leads them to drink). It’s music mainly for listening. I like to perform in casual environments like the Layover, because I think that what we’re doing with TT2 can attract a wider audience of people who aren’t familiar with free jazz, so you might get some new ears. I see rock shows all the time that have elements that challenge the listeners. I think jazz music should do the same thing – introduce new sounds to the audience, and I think the audience should be willing to accept that. It’s strange that audiences can embrace experimentalism in rock, but not so much in jazz.
I was hopeful with a place like the Layover taking a chance on this kind of music. Right now in Oakland there are lots of new bars & restaurants, without the huge amount of customers, so it seems like the perfect time for these places to take a chance on doing something new & interesting, rather than having yet another ipod DJ night. A weekly series is a valuable commodity, and over time (years sometimes) an audience will grow and word will get out that there’s this kind of music on this night that is interesting & unique. I imagine that in the months to come I’ll talk to people and they’ll ask about the series at the Layover, and I’ll have to tell them it’s over. Hopefully by then we’ll find a new home for the series.