You’ve all heard the saying “free jazz.” Or maybe you’ve heard some discordant, hard-to-follow music in a seeming flurry of notes, and said, “Is this what they mean by ‘free jazz’?”

shapeofthingsIt is and it isn’t. Free Jazz was a genuine phenomenon in the music, spearheaded by players like Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Albert Alyer and Pharaoh Sanders, exemplified by John Coltrane’s “sheet of sound” technique as well as their own explorations into atonality and other breaks with the European music tradition.

Notably, one of the first “free jazz” breakthroughs consisted of Ornette Coleman on sax, Don Cherry on trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, Billy Higgins on drums. That was the band for “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” Coleman’s 1959 debut album for Atlantic. (Do we have to remind you that both Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins both played at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival?)

Even today, many combos will sometimes still leap into the stratosphere and play outside the shackles of meter, structure, chords and even music out of pure exuberance. But as a “movement,” free jazz didn’t last long, evolving into avant-garde jazz. Part of the reason may be that it demands too much of an audience, limiting its popularity to a small core of aficionados.  

Then there’s the fact that jazz isn’t free. Everything comes with a cost, and for the jazz musician that cost may be years of training, putting material goods aside for the pursuit of musical perfection, reaching for inspiration while worrying about the bills.

Unfortunately, we have the same problem here at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. And we can’t deliver the same high-quality musical experience you’ve become used to without spending money. It’s not for fat salaries or luxury accommodations, either. Here’s a list of some of the expenses that we have to incur every time we put on the Festival, or any of our occasional “jazz masters” concerts or other special events:

Advertising… printing… mailing… design… website… grant writing… airfare and ground transportation… artist fees… venue rentals… sound systems… grand piano rental and movement… backline rental and delivery… signage… insurance… general operating costs… hotel accommodation… stage rental… event supplies… and much more, to say nothing of the education programs that are core to our mission at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

Fact of the matter is, public funding for the arts has plummeted in the past decade, and it was never great to begin with. Which leaves two main directions for an arts organization – corporate sponsorship, or private donations. (Remember, there’s a corporate sponsored festival in nearby Sonoma, so the alternative is closer than you might think.)

If you would like to keep the Healdsburg Jazz Festival our locally-supported celebration of an American art form, featuring living legends, local talents and up-and-coming stars of real jazz, then be part of the solution.

Jazz is not free… but it is tax-deductible. What does this mean for you? If you itemize your deductions for such common expenses as property tax, home mortgage interest, medical payments and the like, donations to our 501-C-3 arts organization can be fully deducted on your Schedule A. That means the more you donate, the less you will pay in taxes. Take a chance, donate enough and you can drop into a lower tax bracket!

If you donate any amount up to $250 per instance, you can just declare it. If you are generous enough to donate more, then the Healdsburg Jazz Festival owes you a receipt with our tax ID number, so you can document your generosity.

December is almost over, which means this is your last chance this year to put your money where you believe it can do good — to support the arts in your community. Please think about what makes life in Healdsburg worth living, and put your New Year’s resolution into effect todaymake a donation to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. It’s not free… but it is fully tax-deductible.

— ChristianKallen

Think you know what jazz is? Leave a comment on our page, “What Is Jazz?”