Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nexus of politics and music

“Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.” — Frank Zappa

LAST Sunday, Turner Center Jazz Orchestra, the Big Band that Paul, Richard Early, Andy Classen and I manage, was honored by being presented with a Special Recognition Award from The Community Jazz Center. This accolade is bestowed annually upon "a musician, group of musicians, educator or promoter who is currently making an important contribution to jazz in Des Moines." What's remarkable about being thusly acclaimed is that the band has only existed for five years.

You may remember that Paul was honored as an individual musician last year with an Award of Special Recognition. (Yes, he's the bomb.)

Some TCJO band members were in attendance the night of the CJC award ceremony. 
Left to right: Paul, Clarence Padilla, Steve Charlson, musical director Andy Classen, 
Richard Early, me, Dave Bohl, Scott Davis and John Benoit.

The ever-marvelous Janey Hooper was inducted
into the Hall of Fame the same night.

Dave Rezek, the new director of the Des Moines Big Band, the other
Big Band Paul plays lead trombone in, also received an Award of Special Recognition.

The next TCJO concert will be Thursday, November 19, and it will be a truly unique performance. The band is bringing in famed conductor Ryan Truesdell from New York City to lead the band in this rare offering of the original Gil Evans score of Miles Davis' ground-breaking album, Miles Ahead. This one is bound to sell out, so get your tickets early.

Tonight is the Democratic Party of Iowa's famous Jefferson Jackson (J J) dinner. It happens every year, but because Iowa is the first-in-the-nation caucus state, every four years it's a really, really, really big deal. Paul and I have gone in the past, and would most likely be attending tonight, but Paul's brother and wife are in town, and hours of political speeches didn't appeal to them. 

Before the dinner, Katy Perry will put on a free concert for Hillary Clinton's supporters. Yup, we get a lot of that in Iowa — stars of various ascendency coming here to help drum up support.

We're spoiled, I admit. All the candidates spend an inordinate amount of time here, and if you don't get your picture taken with a least one of them, you're not half trying. Some of my friends enjoy collecting me-with-the-candidate pictures. One of them will end up being president, after all, making these opportunities the only chance any of us mere mortals will probably ever have to get our picture taken with the president of the United States  so I get it. 

Personally, though, I'm not into it. They didn't know who I was before the photo op, and they won't afterwards. I confess that I did get my picture taken with Carole King last year. In retrospect, I'm a little embarrassed.

Do I think Iowa deserves such a place of prominence? I'll be honest, I don't. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of Iowa. It's a great place to live, and our reputation for being chocked full of sincerely nice people is well deserved — and lord knows our first-in-the-nation status brings in buckets of money, but I think it should rotate through all the states. I'm nothing if not inclusive and fair.

Instead, Paul and I are going to take Tom and Sally to hear jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant

Since 2010 when she won the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, she has accumulated these awards:

  • 2015 DownBeat Critics Poll Top Female Vocalist
  • 2014 DownBeat Poll Best Jazz Album
  • 2014 DownBeat Poll Best Female Vocalist
  • 2014 DownBeat Poll Rising Star – Jazz Artist
  • 2014 DownBeat Poll Rising Star – Jazz Album
  • 2014 GRAMMY® Nomination for Best Jazz Album

Below find two articles about J J — the first from The New York Times, and the second from ABC News. The Times got one thing wrong, though: nobody in Iowa refers to the Jefferson Jackson dinner as "the J J." It's just J J.

Democrats’ Iowa Dinner Will Have the Sizzle of a Convention
By Trip Gabriel
October 23, 2015

DES MOINES — Iowa’s annual Democratic fund-raising dinner is just another night on the rubber pork chop circuit, but it has a place in political legend as a pivot point for presidential races.

On Saturday, the Democratic field of candidates will gather here for the fund-raiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, with new clarity: The race is now effectively a two-person contest, after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s decision not to run and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s resurgence after a strong debate performance last week.

The dinner will take place amid the hoopla of a mini-nominating convention. There will be bands, parades and orchestrated cheering sections for Mrs. Clinton and her main rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Bill Clinton, on his first visit to Iowa this year, will appear at a pre-dinner rally for Mrs. Clinton outside the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines that will include a performance by Katy Perry.

As new polls show Mrs. Clinton consolidating a small lead in the state, she is determined not to repeat the mistakes of her 2008 campaign, when the seeds of her upset by Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses were seen at “the J-J” — common shorthand for the event. Back then, there were empty seats in the Clinton bleachers, and Mr. Obama’s speech critical of partisan politicians raised the roof.

“I suspect this year, the Hillary entourage will be compensating, or overcompensating, for 2007,” said Kurt Meyer, a Democratic county leader in Iowa. “Bringing Bill Clinton in, that’s trump high card. That’s your joker. How do you beat that?”

Street rallies are a big part of the day. Mr. Sanders will have alumni of the bands Guster and MC5 performing. The candidate will be introduced as the Steve Earle song “The Revolution Starts Now,” an anthem used by the Occupy Wall Street movement, plays. He will lead a march over the Des Moines River to the event hall.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who is a campaign-trail troubadour, will sing and strum the guitar at his pre-dinner rally. An aide said Mr. O’Malley might be coaxed to play a bit of Taylor Swift, as he did this week on the ABC program “The View.”

The dinner “is always influential in presidential years,” said Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “How you get your people there, how you do the pre-events and how you look like you’re organizing around the state is exemplified by the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.”

The evening promises a microcosm of the Clinton and Sanders strategies in Iowa, the state with the first nominating contest, where both have invested heavily. Mrs. Clinton is banking on superior organizing, with nearly 125 paid staff members, according to Mr. Meyer — a figure that the campaign, without providing an alternative number, said was not correct. Mr. Sanders, who employs 67, is relying on grass-roots enthusiasm.

Most of the nearly 6,000 attendees, including almost every elected Democratic official in Iowa, will have already made up their minds about who to support. The campaigns’ shows of force are intended to inspire activists, rattle the opposition and influence the narrative spun out by a large press corps.

A poll for The Des Moines Register released on Thursday showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Sanders 48 percent to 41 percent in Iowa, with Mr. O’Malley, who had hoped for momentum after the debate in Las Vegas, far behind at 2 percent. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points.

Sifting Iowans’ responses to issues, the survey’s pollster, Ann Selzer, told The Register, “Sanders has a big problem, and it’s guns, not socialism.” Mrs. Clinton seems likely to raise the gun protection issue during her 15-minute speech at the dinner on Saturday, which will follow Mr. Sanders’s speech.

One consequence of Mrs. Clinton’s erosion of support over the summer, when Mr. Sanders nipped at her heels in Iowa polls, is that lowered expectations now work in her favor, Iowa strategists said: If she wins by five to eight percentage points in the state’s caucuses on Feb. 1, it will be seen as a solid victory. Her campaign could brush off a defeat in New Hampshire the next week as inconsequential because Mr. Sanders is almost a native son there.

Both campaigns know that Iowa is won not in polls, but by organizing to draw supporters to the more than 1,600 precinct caucuses. Mr. Sanders must convert the enthusiasm shown at huge rallies into caucus turnout by supporters, many of them political newcomers. It is a goal that Mr. Obama pulled off spectacularly in 2008, but that eluded other grass-roots favorites like Howard Dean in 2004 and Bill Bradley in 2000.

“Will Bernie Sanders succeed like Obama did or fail like the others?” asked Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party. “The thing it’s going to come down to is how they organize.”

The Jefferson-Jackson Dinner is an early test of organizing, as well as of the potency of the candidates’ messages. The 2003 dinner (with Mrs. Clinton, then a senator, as M.C.) was a turning point, Mr. Sterzenbach said. The front-runner, Mr. Dean, had begun to fade, and John Kerry, whose slogan “The Real Deal” appeared on signs at the event, emerged en route to winning the caucuses and the nomination.

Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns bought the maximum number of tickets available for supporters: about 1,950, mostly bleacher seats at $50 each, and table seating for $120 and up. The O’Malley campaign said it, too, would fill almost all its allotted seats, though tickets were bought by supporters, not by the financially struggling campaign.

In the bleachers, the candidates’ supporters will chant and wave signs keyed to themes in their speeches. A theme for Mr. O’Malley will be “action, not words,” according to Kristin Sosanie, the campaign’s deputy Iowa director.

Before the dinner, Mr. Sanders will lead a march across a bridge over the Des Moines River, with supporters waving signs and placards.

The event is “an opportunity to organize,” said Pete D’Alessandro, coordinator of the Sanders campaign in Iowa, including holding television watch parties around the state to attract new volunteers.

“There is not a lot of conversion going on” at the dinner, Mr. D’Alessandro said. “There will be other things to look for. Were you able to get 2,000 people to an event? Were you able to pull off six watch parties in different regions? When you call me on Monday, how many people did we sign up at those events?”

Democrats Turn to Music to Rally Supporters Before Iowa 2016 Dinner
By Josh Haskell 
October 23, 2015

It's a big weekend in Iowa for the Democratic Party, with the candidates for President addressing 6,000 influential Democrats Saturday night at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner -- and the campaigns hope it ends on a high note.

In an effort to rally supporters and energize volunteers for the final 100 days until the caucus, the candidates are turning to musical acts from a pop-music superstar to a former Governor with his guitar.

"Where else do you go and you’re walking down the street and say, oh, I could go and see Katy Perry in concert tonight and Bill Clinton. Let’s go do that," Iowa Democratic strategist Kevin Geiken told ABC News.

Every four years in Iowa, candidates open their Rolodex not just to raise money, but to give back to those who are making calls and canvassing 7-days a week around the state.

"This weekend will be a lot about politics, but we’re hoping to have some fun as well," said Clinton's Iowa Communications Director Lily Adams.

Clinton's rally will take place in a Des Moines parking lot Saturday afternoon and is free and open to the public. It will be the first time Katy Perry or former President Bill Clinton hits the campaign trail this year.

Bernie Sanders, who is trailing Clinton by seven points in the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, is also putting on a concert, but it will take place in Davenport, IA Friday evening and feature a number of musicians dubbed "Bernie's All-Star Band."

The musicians include Ryan Miller, the lead singer of the band Guster, along with eight other musicians for the #RockintheBern concert.

"Our all-star band idea is to have a few events outside of Des Moines so people can still be part of the weekend that wouldn’t have been able to afford it for family reasons or work reasons," Pete D'Alessandro told ABC News, the Iowa Campaign Coordinator for Sanders.

Although D'Alessandro says Sanders is always the draw at their events and is scheduled to speak for 15 minutes, he said this was their way of thanking supporters.

Trailing Clinton and Sanders in the polls, Martin O'Malley is also speaking at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner and happens to be the only Democratic Presidential candidate who is also a musician. He'll serenade supporters outside Hy-Vee Hall reprising his cover of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" which he played on ABC's The View last week.

"Some local folks will join the Governor and play with him," said Kristin Sosanie, Iowa Deputy State Director for the O'Malley campaign. "Iowa isn’t only about big rallies and what celebrities you can bring in, it’s about the big ideas the Governor has put forward."

“It is kind of funny that the three rallies are kind of microcosms of their campaigns," said Geiken.

O'Malley brings his guitar to many of his events and performs so Saturday will be no different. On the Republican side, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee plays bass and has performed at a few campaign events this year. He's also in a band called "Capitol Offense."

Dr. Andy McGuire, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, says the Jefferson Jackson Dinner is their last big event before the caucus. Although it's turned into a weekend celebration for the candidates to motivate their organization in the state, she says it's all about the main event Saturday night.

“If you’re going to win the caucuses and you’re going to win in November, these are the people you really need," said McGuire.

1 comment:

  1. What a night to miss! Sounds as though you replaced it with another great alternative but a dang shame nonetheless. I hope you have a great evening and enjoy your in law's company - family first, right? :D