Jon Hammond — My conversation with Anatoly Kiryushkin Jazz Quad in Minsk Belarus
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This article & interview is now on the shelves in Minsk Belarus in Jazz-Quad Magazine! (in Russian text!) Special thanks to Anatoly Kiryushikin Interview with Jon Hammond Journalists, fellow musicians and jazz fans can ask Jon Hammond any questions. For details, please, read this press conference’s Terms and Conditions 16.08.2005 13:10 asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin You are often traveling to Europe. Do you find any difference performing in European and American jazz clubs? replied by Jon Hammond 16.08.2005 14:17 Thank you for the question Anatoly! The answer is yes there are actually many differences I find when performing in European Jazz Clubs as opposed to American Jazz Clubs. As follows: Firstly the European jazz audience in general is more interested in our music because it came from a far away place and also the educational system in Europe gives a good foundation of harmony and theory so these serious European audiences actually know what you are playing. Also they are more respectful during the show and don’t make a lot of noise like the Americanos often do On the other hand it’s still permitted to smoke in European clubs so as an Asthmatic I appreciate the no-smoke policy. Smoking looks cool but it’s not. Many of the German clubs have industrial strength air cleaners, which clear the air pretty well. One of my favorite clubs to play in Germany is Jazzkeller Frankfurt, the oldest jazz club in Germany where Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Art Blakey Jazz Messengers and many more have played. Jazzkeller has a fantastic air cleaner. One time I was a guest of Hungarian tenor saxophonist Tony Lakatos. His band sounded fantast so I told Eugen the owner of Jazzkeller: "Eugen the musicians are blowing smoke." Eugen misunderstood me and said, "Oh my god…I have to turn up the air cleaner!" and he run away … I told him he misunderstood me but that is an example. In France they don’t even care, so bring your oxygen mask USA has some good clubs too. In the best ones you will likely find Europeans on vacation! 16.08.2005 14:42 asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin Your opinion, about the European jazz audience, reminds me Duke Ellingtonâ€™s tour in Minsk by the beginning of 1970â€™s. After the performance he was asked what he was thinking about his tour in the USSR. He said that it was a great puzzle for him to understand why people listen to his music too seriously, instead of just enjoying it and dancingâ€¦ Do you think that Americans take jazz just as music for fun or consumer goods opposite to Europeans who takes the music rather a subject of an academic study? replied by Jon Hammond 16.08.2005 14:55 That is a remarkable statement!! Actually yes that is a very perceptive assessment of the difference between attitude(s) of the audiences of America and Europe in a Jazz setting. Personally I prefer to have the luxury of a serious analytical audience to a frivolous-drunken-sloppy audience who regards the music/musicians only for their novelty entertainment. However, it is nice sometimes to see people loosen up and dancing to the music. I played for many dance situations including for 2 years I played 7 nights a week as the back-up music for striptease shows in mafia-owned Adult Entertainment clubs in Boston’s Combat Zone. Believe me, when the girls couldn’t dance to your music they would let the band know about it! They would come over and say something like: "I can’t dance to that!" and so consequently I developed a very danceable style based on the natural rhythm of life itself…my music goes right down Broadway and so I know from hard experience that people must be able to snap their fingers and shake their butt to the music or it really doesn’t mean a thing and the anti-rhythm of life music that is too fast…too slow and or too dissonant, this music will actually have a negative effect on the people in the audience. Also I have extensive experience playing my music and standards inside hospitals and nursing homes for the aged and incompetent. I even play concerts in Secure Psychiatric Wards (where most musicians will not play, but unfortunately some have ended up in there!) and also in prisons…in these settings I can really study the effect of various styles of music on people who are almost in a vegetable state in some cases when I come in. By the end of a successful hospital or nursing home concert, the people are normalized for a while…and I am ready for the basket! 17.08.2005 02:18 asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin Do you mean that a right music can wake up a sleeping will to life and patients of the hospitals need not just a medical treatment of their bodies but rather a support to their souls? replied by Jon Hammond 17.08.2005 16:14 Ahh… so in other words, you are referring to "Music Therapy"…I think I can speak on this subject as I have been playing mini-concerts for hospital patients and elderly people or incapacitated persons in nursing homes and "Assisted Living" facilities since the age of 13 years old (I am 52 now). There is no doubt that music can have a profound effect on people who are ill, in pain, with psychiatric problems and even heavily medicated patients with various levels of Alzheimers. Also there is no question about that music can calm down agitated people or on the other hand can also cause negative effects, even violence in certain concert situations we have seen. Having said this, the field of "Music Therapy" is not an exact science. Unfortunately there are those who are so pretentious as to call themselves Music Therapists when in fact sometimes they are amateur (but well-meaning) musicians who are looking for a willing audience (or a gig!) In these cases it is not so nice for the unsuspecting patients who get wheeled in to a room for an hour of being sung to by someone who might even have a message other than music (like religion perhaps)..you see what I’m getting at? To be more specific, in 1996 I attended an event called "World Congress on Music Therapy", it is an annual conference of music therapists of all kinds. Some are actually excellent and professional…and some are absolute Charlatans. I saw and met some people at this Congress who had invented such devices as for instance an electronic harness of wires that plugged in to the headphone output jack of a Sony Walkman and then the "Music Therapist" then applied contacts all over the subjects body which then delivered some little musical vibrations and of course the inventor had such grandiose claims that it helped cure Cancer and so on. Another had a bed that vibrated to the music…this was one expensive bed! (from Switzerland can you imagine?!) Also there were some musiciansâ€¦ some good ones, some not-so-good. I’m not saying that they all were Charlatans. Some had gone to school and studied accredited courses taught by people with clinical experience and so there was everything from A-Z. I can only tell you in my personal experiences that I have seen the Power of Music at work and when you see for the first time someone get out of a wheelchair and start dancing around, then you will know the Power of Music. And I have seen this sort of thing happen many times over a number of years. The more I play these type of mini-concerts I get better and better at it in achieving the desired results. I have been told many times by the nurses who have been at my shows that it seems I connect with the patients better than most of the performers. This comes with experience and it takes a lot of energy on my part to wake these people out of a comatose state. I must say that there have been times I come in to do a show like that and the people are rolled in with their wheelchairs and by the end of one of my shows they are almost like normal. It has to do with transforming them from the hospital environment to another place so they think they’re in a lounge or bar again. I normally play for at least 90 minutes continuously and tell some stories in-between the songs. Sometimes as long as 2 hours. I think that when the people see how much I put out it then lights a fire under their ass! So, it is possible to pass some of your energy to those who have no energy. The flip side of this is that by the time I get home I am ready to collapse. So it’s sort of a reverse osmosis I guess you could say. I pass my energy to them through my musical performance and then at the end of a successful performance I am ready to be rolled away… It’s totally worth the effort and I encourage all musicians who play at some kind of a high level to take their music to those who need it most take it to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. After all, that’s really what being a musician is all about. And speaking for myself personally, I often times would much rather play for such an audience than to play in the most high-class 5 star nightclub or hotel, where the "hoity-toity rich people" (I call them) treat the musicians as if we were just lowly hired help for their amusement and atmosphere while they gorge themselves on 50 dollar Filet Mignon steaks while the musicians must disappear during the break and if they are lucky they are fed some cheese sandwiches, well out of sight of the customers often times in such places the musicians are asked to go sit in the kitchen and not to speak with the guests. I have played places like this also and I’ve seen it in Russia also, so it’s the same all over the world. I say to you, musicians…if you have the musical power, take it to the people! 18.08.2005 01:02 asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin The musical power is too wide meaning, which may include anything between a composer’s talents to performance skills. What do you find more interesting for you personally, to compose your own music or perform well-known standards? replied by Jon Hammond 21.08.2005 11:44 That’s a very interesting question, back in the mid-’70’s I was a member of a very successful Show band called "Easy Living"..we toured all up and down East Coast of USA and Canada and the music was covers of hits plus a show that was very entertaining. Something about it was not satisfying for me personally but at the time I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Some years later after I built up a repertoire of original compositions, I decided to go to Europe to try playing and living in Europe. When I arrived in Europe I made a decision that I didn’t come all the way across the ocean to play other people’s music and I would play my music most definitely. As soon as I made that personal decision & commitment I found that I really enjoyed playing more and at the end of a night on the gig I had a much better feeling. I respect a lot of the old Standards and I play them on some restaurant & hotel gigs but when given a chance to play as bandleader in jazz clubs and festival gigs I always play at least 90% original compositions of mine. Also I feel strongly that a lot of the Standards are over done…once you’ve heard these songs played thousands of times by different people in different ways it gets a bit tedious and so I was thinking sometimes that the world needs NEW Standards and I really believe that some of my very own compositions are and will be the Standards of Tomorrow. Already other people are covering my compositions and the melodies will live on when I am gone. Melody is King! Check out some of my songs like for instance, "Lydia’s Tune", "Late Rent", "Czechoslovakian Salsa Song", "Head Phone", "Get Back In The Groove", "White Onions", "Six Year Itch" etc…every one is a classic..every one is a smash hit! I say this to you, musicians & composers..learn your Standards, they will serve you well, but if you have the talent to compose songs that will stick to the wall, do not fail yourself…follow your dream and follow the melody! asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin 21.08.2005 16:09 Do you think that unlike spectators in hotels and restaurants, those who visit jazz clubs and festivals more willingly listen to "never heard before" music? replied by Jon Hammond 21.08.2005 16:31 Yes that’s a very interesting question Anatoly..historically Jazz Festivals have been the place where audiences have been introduced to bold new talents, i.e. Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival. Unfortunately however, for the most part these days the same acts are booked over and over again, almost like there is either a.) Reluctance by the festival talent buyers to take a risk on an unknown musician/band. b.) There is a kind Jazz-Mafia control over who can play on major festivals. and b.) Just as in radio & tv there exists a kind of "Payola" system. The Payola is often in cold cash with designated names such as help to "defray" "Production Expenses", Advertising, Distrubition, P.R. costs etc. I was recently told by a well-known tv producer that my new record was one of his personal favorite records and so he would like to put me on his Jazz TV Show with "guaranteed broadcasts"…and then came the klinker: My cost: $6,000 for: 6 Minutes. Quite expensive. But for my $6,000 I would be on a nation-wide syndicated tv show and possibly included in associated jazz festivals, in-flight broadcasts, jazz cruises etc. I was thinking..could be a good investment. But I came to the conclusion that for me I would be better to invest the same $6,000 on my own TV & Radio show and buy a new computer plus other equipment needed to make my shows. I say this to you, Independent Artists: "This is the best time in history for Independent Artists. The tools are at your finger tips to do everything for yourself what the labels, distributors & agents promise to do in your behalf for a fee. Put the money in your own pocket and get a fire under your ass to go out and do it for yourselves/ourselves!! Jon Hammond continued: Interview with Jon Hammond Journalists, fellow musicians and jazz fans can ask Jon Hammond any questions. For details, please, read this press conference’s Terms and Conditions continued previous pages :: 01 : asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin 22.08.2005 00:27 Iâ€™m really impressed with charges for a promotional broadcasting! I always thought that unclear understanding of difference between advertising and promotion is a â€œchildren diseaseâ€ of the ex-soviet mass media. Your example shows that the disease is just a result of a mass mediaâ€™s weak immunity regardless their age â€¦ But anyway, do you think that an independent artist can do everything equally successful, – to write and perform music, to escape traps of corrupted media as skillful as PR agencies do, to distribute CDâ€™s as major record labels can arrange it and sell them as much as retail shops can do? replied by Jon Hammond 22.08.2005 01:09 Ah hah..now we are getting in to some very deep Jazz waters here Anatoly! In my experiences I believe I can speak on this topic with authority. As follows: First of all, there are existing now today many routes that are available to anybody who is motivated and just a little bit clever. The dark curtain has been pulled back and now everybody in this business knows that nobody has exclusive ownership of special contacts as every/any piece of information is just a Google Search away. In the old days (not so long ago!) it was easier for "agents", PR representitives and Record Label A&R people to sell the musicians the snake oil by telling them about the big stars they represent and so on. Now the cat is out of the bag! Anybody who can spell and type a decent letter can issue a Press Release for Immediate Release. The internet has many free places where to post the Press Release. Also in USA we have "Public Access TV Stations"…these are free for the public to use for broadcasting tv programs about any and everything. The only rules are: "No Advertising". That does not mean "No Promotion"…yes, there is a fine line between Advertising and Promotion. The line is in favor of the Promoter. As long as you don’t do something completely stupid, you will not cross over the line enough to get kicked off of the TV channels. *Example: Promotion="Next week my new album is going to be released on my own Record Label Ham-Berger-Friz Records, it’s the best record I’ve ever made and I hope you will join us at our Release Party Sept. 16th at Cleopatra’s Needle Jazz Club NYC http://www.cleopatrasneedleny.com , we will have food, live music and give free cd’s to the first 20 people who arrive!" Advertising: "Folks, Next week we will be releasing our new record..the price is $19.95 only! "Operators are standing by for your call right now! Call Now! Call Now!! So you see…it is not so difficult to walk the line between advertising & promotion. In fact the line is very generous and these days it does not take much of a balancing act to do it. I’ve been doing for 22 years on my own Public Access TV show-"The Jon Hammond Show" on Time Warner TV so I can tell you from first-hand experience. Now as to whether an independent artist can do everything "equally successful" (to write & perfom music..escape traps of corrupted media, distribute CD’s as major record labels etc.)..I am living proof that it is not only possible, I can do it BETTER. The reason why is very simple…as follows: If you go to a big high-power PR agent and he says to you, "If you give me $2,000 dollars I can send your information to many newspapers, talent scouts for TV & Radio, and you see I did it for Madonna, Nora Jones and many top names…" So, in reality there are only 24 hours in a day…I know how much time & effort it takes to do effective promotion & distribution, so unless this PR agent has a giant team of busy-workers it is not possible for him/her to spend the necessary time it takes to accomplish what needs to be done for someone who is relatively unknown. When it comes down to the bottom line, if that high-power agent has a client named Madonna or any big name star, who do you think they will spend their precious time to promote? Madonna or the XYZ Jazz Band who just paid $2,000? That $2,000 will most likely turn in to a big dinner for a bunch of hosers who won’t even give you the time of day. Take the same $2,000, buy a computer, pay for electricity and a telephone and get busy! The same goes for Distributors. Distributors (and record shops also) will tell you, "Who is your Distributor? If you do not have one of 5 major Distributors we will not take your record/cd or DVD in to our shop." This is plain Bull ***. I have heard it 1,000 times. I have managed to put my fine cd albums which are my life’s work/masterpieces in to Virgin Megastore, Tower Records, Rasputin Records, Downhome Records and many other major record shops. The same goes for Radio Stations. I personally know some hosers who say for that magic figure of $2,000 they will get your record/cd played on many radio stations. If you are stupid enough to give the money to them, that will only be the beginning of throwing money in to a Giant Black Hole. Independent Artists arise off of your lazy butts…get a fire under your ass and do it for yourself…now is the time! Jon Hammond "The FINGERS…are the SINGERS!" JON HAMMOND International, Inc. Member American Federation of Musicians Union Local 802/Local 6/ASCAP New York, NY USA asked by Anatoly Kiryushkin 23.08.2005 00:59 One day the Billboard quoted your TV show as an alternative to MTV. Can you to describe what is the alternative in your own opinion? replied by Jon Hammond 23.08.2005 01:48 Yes thank you for your question Anatoly. I launched my TV show-The Jon Hammond Show on Feb. 2nd 1984 on MCTV (Manhattan Cable TV) channel "C" as it was called then at 1:30AM in the morning/late-night..it came on just before a popular late-night cable show called Robin Byrd Show. From the very beginning we got a lot of attention because first of all, my show looked extremely professional..it was high quality video even beyond High Quality, and the reason for this was because of my secret weapon (Video by LORI) Lori was my girlfriend at the time and she is/was the best on-line video editor in all of New York! She normally edited for commercial clients such as Buick Cars, Coca Cola, or Clairol Hair Products. The price of a commercial client coming in to the on-line studio to edit a commercial with Lori at the controls was $1,000 per hour. That’s a lot of money and it was even more back in 1984! We made our show on 1" (one inch) video format at the time which was state-of-art equipment. Also using new digital Special Effects equipment such as Ampex ADO and the console was a Grass Valley Triple-Re-Entry Switcher and soon we got the very first Sony 5000 Computer Assisted Video Editing system which Lori helped to design with the R&D Engineers of Sony Broadcast. Because of her close association to Sony Broadcast, I was also able to get the very first prototype BetaCam camera on loan to take in to the field for our show and to test the performance. As I might have mentioned earlier, my motivation for creating The Jon Hammond Show TV show was in response to the Record Industry, we had been submitting very professionally produced original music to the major labels and after 1 1/2 years of dealing with the A&R People of the major labels I became so angry and frustrated..also I was starting to run out of money, so I had to think of a more efficient way to spend my money to get the maximum results. I heard about the possibility to make a Public Access TV show and it sounded real good to me..actually it sounded too good to be true! I had always wanted to be a Radio Man since a very early age, so since I couldn’t get my radio show, I created a TV show that had a Radio "Style" Format. Also we came up with a gimmick that caught a lot of attention…when my theme music (Late Rent) came on to start my show and the announcer would say: "BackBeat Productions presents The Joooon Haaaaamond Show..and now here he is, the star of the show…Joooon Hammond!"..then a black & white overhead shot of me just sitting in a chair with expensive Italian Beatle style boots and leather pants would flip on to the screen in the middle of the higher-than-high-quality custom graphics and Special Effects like nobody had ever seen before! In other words, you didn’t actually see me (my face)..only a tapping foot, crossed legs and my hands..I was the mystery host who was Jon Hammond but every viewer who watched the show would mentally attach a face to the Jon Hammond host as to what they imagined..perhaps African American people might think it was s black man..if you were Chinese it could be a Chinese Jon Hammond..and so on..it was phenomonally successful from day 1 ! Within 2 weeks I got a call from Kim Freeman of Billboard Magazine and she invited me up to the offices in the Minskoff Building near my apartment actually..and we made the interview, it came out 2 days before my birthday and then my phone was ringing off the hook! Do you know who was calling me mostly? People looking for a job! A lot of people even offerred to work for me for free. I wish I could think of something for them to do. The music on our show was very high quality and it sounded clean..no static, 10×5 reception with the Cable TV which was fairly new at the time. Later my Channel "C" became Channel 16 on the cable and when Time Warner took over I went to Channels 56 & 110 on the RCN Network. I also added other networks and was broadcasting in San Francisco, Los Angeles/Hollywood, Boston and other cities as well. I have many stories I could tell you about how close to very big success we have been over the years. There are a lot of Hype Artists out there who get you all psyched up..for instance at one point Robert Stigwood (Bee Gees, Yellow Submarine Movie etc.) of RSO (Robert Stigwood Organisation) was very hot on my show and he would have his NY people messenger tapes of my show to his helicopter who would then fly it to him on his 250 foot long mega-yacht. I had a contract offerred to me by the President of SONY for 7 years exclusive with Sony Software…we had meetings with him (John O’Donnell) on the 48th floor of the 9 W.57th St. Sony Headquarters building in the Board of Directors room, at the time the only people they had on video was David Bowie & Tina Turner and an experimental video. I still have the contract offer on my desk..it’s as thick as a phone book. I can say in 22 years of doing The Jon Hammond Show I never got rich doing this but it has opened many doors for me and also made it possible for me to travel and play my music around the world. My TV show is known world-over. The first time I played a gig in Paris France, the restaurant put a little sign outside saying something like: "Jon Hammond as seen on MCTV’s JON HAMMOND SHOW" and right away people came in who said, "I know your TV show from New York!"..Tapes of my show found their way all over the world because we had some really exclusive footage with people like Jaco Pastorius, Lionel Hampton, Andy Warhol, Sammy Davis Jr., Cab Calloway, John Entwistle and many more, plus our graphics and special effects were way ahead of their time and still look better than a lot of things you see on the major networks. MTV, VH1, they have all tried to imitate The Jon Hammond Show, but we are the originals! The only way to make sure I am not buried in the dirth of product out there now is to make sure I keep my show on the air and so I have successfully kept it running for 22 years now and I’ll still be on 22 years from now with good luck. Jon Hammond of HammondCast now streaming from http://www.MNN.org channel 56 from Manhattan Neighborhood Network – Time Warner NY, NY USA" "by Ben Fong-Torres (formerly Rolling Stone Magazine and well respected Radio Journalist, Historian and Broadcaster: http://www.benfongtorres.com ) the following write-up about HammondCast program on CBS radio station KYOU/KYCY 1550 AM:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/09/PKGU9GIQD81.DTLHEY, YOU: KYOU Radio (legally KYCY at 1550 AM), with its mix of podcasts and financial advice shows, may not have many listeners (the Oakland A’s broadcasts will help), but it’s got its believers — especially radio pros and musicians getting a chance at a regular show. One of them is Jon Hammond, on most weekdays at 3 p.m. "The old-time spirit lives on AM again," says Hammond, an organist, accordionist, composer and radio vet dating back to the late ’50s on KPFA. "Recently I played in Shanghai and I could listen to my show in my hotel room at the Ritz Shanghai, streaming crystal-clear on my Powerbook." In other words, you can get better reception in China than in Chinatown. Ben Fong-Torres is a freelance writer whose column appears every other Sunday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org Page PK – 52 This is tantamount to being blessed by the Radio Pope! Now my program is known on the KYOU/KYCY Program Grid Guide as "Jon Hammond’s Afternoon Slide": Â« Back to Program Grid Jon Hammond’s Afternoon Slide …is a blend of funk, swing and soul featuring music and performances from Jon Hammond, one of the premier B3 players in the world. Join Jon every afternoon as he shares selections from his albums and his amazing archives containing live performances that stretch back over 30 years. A legend on both coasts Jon has a unique one of a kind way of blending his experiences with the music.
Bob Cunningham, Bass, Bernard Purdie, Jon Hammond, Local 802, Musicians Union, NDR Jazz, Late Rent, Mikell’s, Jazz Foundation of America, Elmar Lemes, ASCAP Network, B3 organ, XK-3c, Blues, Funky, Rhonda Hamilton, WBGO
ASCAP Network Behind The Beat with Jon Hammond "LATE RENT"
Elmar Lemes photo of Jon Hammond playing XK-3 organ at Local 802 Monday Night Jazz Session sponsored by Jazz Foundation of America
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