Ruth Price: LA's Jazz Jewel Keeping the Jazz Bakery Alive
RP: Well, these days most young people are not interested in coming into a jazz concert and listening to the music, but there are kids who get it. We always did a student discount at the Bakery. A lot of those kids came as part of a class assignment from one of the local jazz or music programs. And a lot of them would try and pay their money and then leave. But I had to sign to make it legit so they would get class credit. And I wouldnt sign their ticket or give them their money back unless they stayed. And eventually, over a period of time, because they had to stay, they'd hear the music and as they left they would come by and tell me they really liked the music. So that was really gratifying.
AAJ: Of course, one of the most stunning announcements you've made regarding the new Bakery had to do with Frank Gehry. How did his association come about?
RP: Frank Gehry's wife, Berta, used to come to the Jazz Bakery a lot by herself or with Frank, Sydney Pollock and Herbie Hancock. When we lost our lease in 2009, Frank read about us and thought, "I should do something for them." However, we never had any contact with him until years later, when suddenly everything remarkably fell into place.
AAJ: How about your recent collaboration with Angel City?
RP: Well, two years ago they asked me to present the last event of their series. All it really meant was that I advertised them and they mentioned us. There was no formal agreement, no money involved. But last year, the Board decided that we needed an executive director to do the kind of stuff I'm not good at nor want to do. We're dealing with a bigger project here with the new building, so we had to hire someone to take on this new role. We hired an executive head hunter and looked at a few people but, from the beginning, I really liked Jeff Gauthier. He had done a similar thing with the Angel City Jazz Festival, and he runs a successful record company, Cryptogramophone. So he knows the music business and, on top of that, I really like him and respect him as a person and a player. So Jeff agreed to come on board as a full time member of the Jazz Bakery.
AAJ: Last year you presented several of the Angel City Jazz Festival concerts. I remember that at the Ford Theater event, you announced another one of the surprises, or "bolts of lightning" that have struck during your Herculean effort to rebuild the Bakery. You told everyone that Wynton Marsalis had called to come aboard and lend his experience with creating the Lincoln Center jazz space to help you guys avoid some of the problems he encountered. And this year you're closely involved with the Angel City Jazz Festival again, as I've seen on the Jazz Bakery web site and Face Book page.
RP: The Jazz Bakery will be presenting concerts by the Robert Glasper Experiment downtown at Zipper Hall on October 12 and the Dafnis Prieto Sextet at REDCAT in Disney Hall the following night.
AAJ: I'm looking forward to the event, and we are all awaiting with unrestrained joy, the construction of the new world class jazz space coming to Culver City in the next couple of years. Thanks Ruth!
In addition to the Bakery's upcoming collaboration on the Angel City Jazz Festival, Price has kept the Jazz Bakery brand alive these past four years by presenting concerts called Movable Feasts. During that time, artists like Charles Lloyd, Nicholas Payton, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brian Blade and many others have performed at several different venues in Los Angeles like the Kirk Douglas Theater (the new Jazz Bakery will rise next door), the Musician's Institute, and the Broad Theater in Santa Monica, among other locales. After the Angel City Jazz Festival, Price's next Movable Feast will be a performance by the SFJAZZ Collective on Oct. 19, at Zipper Hall in downtown LA.
Meanwhile, the momentum keeps moving forward. Recently, at an event held for private financial supporters, Frank Gehry, the world renowned architect and jazz lover who is donating his services "pro bono," unveiled a model of the the new Jazz Bakery. Here's a hint: it turns Gehry's Disney Hall creation "inside out." And Price has begun a fund raising campaign to finance the construction of the Jazz Bakery's new home on land donated by Culver City. Anyone able and willing to contribute to the construction of this jaw dropping space should contact Ruth Price.
As traumatic as the sudden shuttering of the Jazz Bakery in May 2009 may have been, it truly appears that it was all for the best. For more than fifteen years, Price managed to keep the non-profit jazz space open, against all odds, on a wing and a prayer. With a little more luck, sometime in the winter of 2015, a truly world class, non- profit jazz facility will open in Los Angeles, rivaling venues like Lincoln Center Jazz and the new SFJazz Center.