Talk About The Jazz Police…

Posted by: Dave Douglas on December 11, 2009 @ 10:21 am
Filed under: Culture, Music

From The Guardian UK:

Spanish fan calls police over saxophone band who were just not jazzy enough

Jazzman Larry Ochs has seen many things during 40 years playing his saxophone around the world but, until this week, nobody had ever called the police on him.

That changed on Monday night however, when’s Spain’s pistol-carrying Civil Guard police force descended on the Sigüenza Jazz festival to investigate allegations that Ochs’s music was not, well, jazz.

Police decided to investigate after an angry jazz buff complained that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core group was on the wrong side of a line dividing jazz from contemporary music.

The jazz purist claimed his doctor had warned it was “psychologically inadvisable” for him to listen to anything that could be mistaken for mere contemporary music.

According to a report in El País newspaper yesterday, the khaki-clad police officers listened to the saxophone-playing and drumming coming from the festival stage before agreeing that the purist might, indeed, have a case.

His complaint against the organisers, who refused to return his money, was duly registered and will be passed on to a judge.

“The gentleman said this was not jazz and that he wanted his money back,” said the festival director, Ricardo Checa.

“He didn’t get his money. After all, he knew exactly what group he was going to see, as their names were on the festival programme.

He added: “The question of what constitutes jazz and what does not is obviously a subjective one, but not everything is New Orleans funeral music.

“Larry Ochs plays contemporary, creative jazz. He is a fine musician and very well-renowned.”

“I thought I had seen it all,” Ochs, who reportedly suffered a momentary identity crisis, told El País. “I was obviously mistaken.”

“After this I will at least have a story to tell my grandchildren,” the California-based saxophonist added.

Best wishes, Larry! And let it not be said that you can’t get arrested playing this music.


  1. […] 1 votes vote Talk About The Jazz Police… From The Guardian UK: Spanish fan calls police over saxophone band who were just not jazzy […]

    Pingback by Talk About The Jazz Police… — December 11, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  2. Haha! Unbelievable.

    Comment by Jim Tuerk — December 11, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  3. I’m speechless. Crap. I want to meet this “doctor” that advised him not to listen to anything contemporary. This really is unbelievable. I can just hear the call to 911 now…

    Sir, calm down.
    Yes, I understand you’re upset.
    But, there’s more to jazz sir than just a swing feel.
    I understand.
    Yes sir.
    Yes sir.
    But you’re wrong.
    Jazz has moved on from 1959.
    Just stay tight, I’ll send the cops your way…

    OMG. This is great. Thanks Dave.

    Comment by Redheadjazzwriterchick — December 12, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

  4. Well done, Redheadjazzwriterchick, and welcome to Greenleaf!

    This story has been picked up by the Times now, and it seems to touch a nerve on all sides of the issue. 2009… incredible.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — December 13, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  5. Remindes me of Ornette’s Double Quartet visit to South America and people wanting to get in for free for the Free Jazz concert. I just recently saw Larry Ochs at Firehouse 12 in New Haven. A little abstract, a little funky and a little swinging. In a “Modern Way”, of course.

    Comment by Mike Rogers — December 13, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  6. Man,like the jazzmasters of old said,”…it ya hafta ask,you’ll
    never know.”
    Actually the whole episode evokes an odd abstract on life itself.
    I mean,let’s face it. This whole world is one big fat jazzmasterpiece:
    Fierce,cool and without any explanation!

    Comment by SittingMooseShaman — December 14, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  7. Larry Ochs is an amazing artist! Believe me, Larry is not the problem here….

    There might be a discussion about what kind of music belongs at a jazz festival. Do you let it all in? If not, what do you leave out? Everyone’s got their own definition of what would belong and where to draw the line. So who decides? The loudest people? The most renowned “specialists”? The musicians? The police?

    There’s no answer. It’s one for the ages.

    But calling the Guardia Civil is a little extreme. It Could Happen To You.

    Police report:
    It’s got a beat.
    But it’s hard to tap your feet.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — December 14, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  8. Chema García Martínez miente en su comentario publicado en El País.
    En ningún momento el concierto de Ochs “a punto estuvo de ser cancelado manu militari por la autoridad competente”.
    Hay que aclarar que ni los músicos ni el público de Sigüenza se enteraron de la reclamación durante el show.
    Lo de ese espectador puede ser curioso, pero lo de Garía Martínez es lamentable.

    Comment by Colom — December 15, 2009 @ 4:49 am

  9. That is a good question, do you let it all in? I mean look at the New Orleans Jazz Festival 2010. It has Pearl Jam, Lionel Richie, My Morning Jacket, Darius Rucker, Black Crowes, etc. I mean, call out the khaki clad civil guard!

    Comment by Tom King — December 15, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  10. I speak Spanish, but went to Google translator to make sure I understood exactly what Colom was saying:

    “Chema Garcia Martinez lies in his commentary published in El Pais.
    At no time Ochs’ concert ‘was about to be canceled militarily by the competent authority.’
    It should be clarified that neither the musicians nor the public of Sigüenza learned of the complaint during the show.
    The story of that spectator may be curious, but that of Garia Martinez is regrettable.”

    Comment by Dave Douglas — December 16, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  11. Spain is different.. XD

    Comment by Toni — December 17, 2009 @ 3:39 am

  12. In regards to letting it all in, I believe that this will always be up to the discretion of the festival coordinator and what they think will sell the tickets. And as we all know, this doesn’t necessarily translate into what those of us submerged in the jazz world today would call “acceptable jazz.” But. We have to keep in mind though that even if say someone like Kanye West, Dave Matthews,or Alicia Keys is billed at a jazz festival, it’s okay. Their names will hopefully bring in folks to the festival that wouldn’t have gone otherwise and widen our fan base for the genre. They’ll be exposed to live jazz regardless of what we classify as acceptable or not and this ALWAYS makes it a good thing.

    Comment by Redheadjazzwriterchick — December 17, 2009 @ 5:02 am

  13. R.H.J.W.C.: So maybe the answer is that said angry patron check the festival roster with his doctor before attending? 😉

    Toni – Welcome – Do you have any additional first hand knowledge of the event? Would be great to have your take.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — December 17, 2009 @ 5:57 am

  14. Agreed. Hey, that could open up at least two dozen jobs in the jazz community. Doctor’s Note Checker Person. Qualifications: Must be able to read doctor’s handwriting and discern potential angry, bull-headed listeners from real fans who have possible heart, lung, kidney and or chronic pre-1959 swing disease also known as C.S.D. I think you’re on to something Dave.

    Comment by Redheadjazzwriterchick — December 17, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

  15. Hey: The Story here is not the event but the aftermath. It’s safe to say that of all the press people who wrote about it, and of the radio interviews (2 on BBC, 1 on As It Happens on CBC, which is like All Things Considered for Canada), that only one person had ever heard the music I play. So something in the story really resonated with people. …True: the complaint was made. True: we learned of it only after the concert ended (in a standing ovation.) True: we did hear a commotion in the audience during the concert, but it was a “so what else is new?” kind of commotion. 4 days earlier in Vienna I had felt compelled to tell some people in the back of the room to take “the debate they are having upstairs” so the rest of us can enjoy the silences in the music. I felt no need to do that in Siguenza.

    False: this band is way out. I have no real perspective on “in” and “out,” but this band plays all kinds of jazz-influenced music. However the first piece of that evening was not a jazz piece, for sure, and I figure he was gone before it ended. I’m very curious as to exactly when the Jazz police returned to make their judgement-call on the music though. Because the next three pieces totaling around 35 minutes were all jazz or blues influenced in clear ways. But if they didn’t arrive until the last “soundscape” dedicated to David Cronenberg, then we would have been declared guilty as charged.

    False: we were arrested. Didn’t happen.

    But the story was a 2 minute item on two national tv network news broadcasts from Madrid in the prime time news shows the next night. And those broadcasts, with the band playing on national tv as the reporters spoke, led to the Siguenza city council holding a special “extraordinary meeting” on Wednesday. They declared on Thursday that despite the complaint their Jazz fetsival would continue in 2010 and into the foreseeable future. Considering that they had dragged their heels all through 2009 and only approved the budget for the festival in September – that’s very, very late – it is in fact a happy ending that resulted in the show now being confirmed a year in advance.

    Finally: false: Sax & Drumming Core was a stretch for the festival. The other shows included a set by a drum duo — 2 drummers only; and the Digital Primitives led by Cooper Moore and including the uncompromising sax player Assif Tsahar. And this was year 5, all curated by the same promoter out of Barcelona, who loves the outside jazz scene, so it wasn’t anything new there…

    So yeah: they just need a big sign outside warning “capital J” Jazz fans that this is not the right festival for them.

    stay tuned,


    Comment by Ochs — December 18, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  16. […] following this story about the anonymous Siguenza Festival attendee who complained because Larry Ochs’ music wasn’t jazzy enough will be interested to hear […]

    Pingback by Ochs Detractor Remains Anonymous — December 21, 2009 @ 7:54 am

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