The spotty availability of jazz broadcasts has long been a sore subject for fans of the genre--radio programs devoted to it are scarce everywhere in the country, television variety shows rarely book a jazz superstar, and the new media are just getting comfortable with music programming.
This cultural gap was noticed by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which yesterday announced $6.7 million in grants to strengthen the presentation of jazz; the foundation's Jazz Initiative aims to be a major source of private funding for the music in the future. Established in 1997 with money from the estate of Duke, heir to a tobacco fortune and a lavish patron of modern dance and jazz, the foundation has more than $1.4 billion in assets.
Among the five grant recipients are National Public Radio, public television's WETA, District Curators Inc. and Americans for the Arts.
Though the money will not eliminate the drought in jazz programming, it will help stabilize some existing projects and bring the form to new audiences. NPR is receiving $2.2 million to create an Internet site that would coordinate information from jazz clubs to university programs. "With this support, we hope to create and go beyond the information available that relates to NPR's own programming on the Web and create a 'super site' which would serve jazz audiences, artists, presenters and critics," said Barbara Taylor, the network's associate director of development for cultural programming. The materials might include a national jazz calendar and the offerings of university jazz departments. The site will go online next year.
The NPR grant will also undergird its five existing jazz offerings. National Public Radio co-produces pianist and educator Billy Taylor's program from the Kennedy Center and produces "Jazz Profiles," a series of weekly documentaries. It also distributes Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz," Branford Marsalis's "Jazz Set" and "Jazz From Lincoln Center." Slightly more than $1 million of the money will become an endowment for jazz programming, which the network will have to match.
The $1 million to WETA nearly completes the fund-raising for Ken Burns's much-anticipated series on jazz. The largest project to date from the filmmaker, "Jazz" will cost $14.1 million. The Duke grant brings the money on hand for it to $13.5 million.
"In this case the money goes for things like final editing and sound mixing and other items like rights clearance for some of the music," said Linwood Lloyd, WETA's executive vice president and chief operating officer. Lloyd said the 18-hour series is scheduled to start in the fall of 2000.
Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit advocacy group of business and local arts interests, is joining with District Curators, a local presenter of live music programs, to create two hour-long television programs called "Performance Portraits." That effort received $250,000 from Duke.
Some of the Duke money will be directed to a television public service campaign Americans for the Arts has begun with Bravo, Time Warner and CBS. "The Duke people were particularly interested in using some of their resources in expanding audiences," said Robert L. Lynch, the president of the arts group.
Murray Horwitz, the vice president of cultural programming at NPR, said he was surprised at how many people are introduced to jazz:
"Classmates of my children have found their way to jazz visually. They ask me to play Monk or Coltrane and I ask them where they were introduced to those artists. The answer more and more is from the Web, from a film score."