Mervon Mehta: The Inside Story of Concert Hall Jazz
AAJ: Let's close with your wish list.
MM: I wish we can continue with as much jazz as we've been doing. I wish the audience stays with usso far they have. And I hope that the audience will start to throw their allegiances to some of the younger new players, because Brubeck and Sonny and Wayne and Herbie are still playing at the top of their game, but they're not going to be around forever. So people need to come around to see players like Danilo, and David Sanchez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and those folks. If the audience doesn't come, it will spell the death of concert jazz, and we'll go back to clubs, which isn't necessarily bad in itself, but there are not enough clubs out there. The really bad thing is the mediocrity that is competing for those listeners. So when you have a James Carter doing incredibly inventive things selling a fraction of the records that Dave Koz is doing, God bless James that he's still doing it, because I would be very discouraged. It's a difficult time to be a serious musician. And there's all these new players coming up out of school. That's what keeps me up at night, trying to figure out a place for all these new guys.
AAJ: We ought to be nurturing these musicians. Jazz is a truly American art form, and ought to be respected and honored.
MM: Well, there are hundreds of jazz festivals, but so many are blues and rock festivals with a little jazz thrown in. When Buddy Guy or Aretha Franklin perform at a jazz festival, they're great, but it's not a jazz festival. We're selling ourselves short. On the positive side, Penny Tyler at Ravinia books great jazz festivals. George Wien is still going strong. But we have to compromise at times. We've got to fill the hall.
AAJ: I can testify that Kimmel Jazz is the real thing.
MM: Thank you. Keep the faith, keep the faith! Long Live Jazz!
AAJ: It's a tough business, and it's hard to keep up the standards, but you've done it. Thank you for that and also for a great interview.
Victor L. Schermer