Friday, September 18, 2009

Justice for Jazz Artists

A group called Justice for Jazz Artists is holding a rally 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South at West 4th St., New York City. The group, founded in 2006, is petitioning clubs to help provide retirement benefits for working musicians. According to the group's recent email:

We successfully lobbied for a tax break that would go to jazz musicians' retirement payments, at no cost to the clubs; and yet none of the top NYC jazz clubs will even discuss the issue with us -- these clubs include the Village Vanguard, the Jazz Standard, the Iridium, Birdland, the Blue Note, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, Smoke and (le) Poisson Rouge.

We're holding this rally to put public pressure on the clubs, so that they do the right thing. After the rally, we will march to the clubs and deliver our petition with 1500 signatures of professional musicians, demanding that the clubs direct the forgiven tax dollars to musicians' pension payments -- a tax break that we lobbied for, and the clubs are now enjoying.

The website provides more helpful background on this issue. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to RSVP at and sign a petition available on the site Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments. Call (212) 245-4802 ext. 185 for more information.



  1. I've been hearing more about this, including some strong opinions on both sides, at my site There is some talk of the history of this dispute on the, but I'm guessing there must be more to it.

    Some local jazz players here in NJ feel that club owners should have no responsibility for the welfare of players as they are simply contractors who come in to work like anyone else. Still, it seems like the musicians might have taken some action to support club owners in return for thier support for retirement assistance, which has not been forthcoming. Sounds like a mess, unneeded for either party in these tough economic times.

    There is an impressive list of prominent players supporting the effort. It promises to be an interesting meeting with musicians and instruments.

  2. Andy, I appreciate the nuanced view. I personally feel (and I am a NYC jazz musician) that it's important to point out that the union lobbied for and got the NY State Legislature to pass a tax break that would enable the musicians to get pension payments at NO COST to the clubs.

    At the moment, most clubs won't even discuss the issue... which to me is the most frustrating part. The jazz clubs wouldn't even exist if not for the musicians playing there (obviously), yet they can't even entertain the notion of sitting down to discuss how this might work? When there is no cost to them??

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions of course, but personally, I feel that jazz musicians do deserve more "economic respect" than they are getting now. This initiative only affects the top tier of jazz clubs, but it's the first step in a larger campaign to improve conditions for everyone.