Sometimes a theme for an issue emerges suddenly, and that was certainly the case this month when a story I'd been wanting to run for years finally came through. The article, written by Bob Byler, is on Mat Domber, a man I consider to be a major reason classic jazz has survived through some unsteady years when the future looked bleak.
I first met Mat by phone in 1991. He called out of the blue, wanting to advertise his first Arbors recording, a release featuring Rick Fay. I didn't know who Rick was, but Mat was happy to fill me in, and our conversation was the first of many enjoyable ones where Mat familiarized me with musicians he respected but who hadn't been part of my world. I admired Mat's loyalty to these musicians and his tenacity in seeing that they received their due. I felt a kinship in that I've always felt that every musician has a story to tell, and the RAG's mission has been to provide the setting for it. Mat set a similar course for Arbors Records, spotlighting deserving but under-recorded musicians, reviving some lagging careers and ultimately bringing new talent to the table, which he continues to do with invaluable support from his wife, Rachel. In 1994, Mat launched his jazz parties which grew in scope from modest to mind-boggling. If ever a person deserved a title of "The Producer," it is Mat. Bob Byler agreed and started work on a Domber article years ago, but typically Mat wasn't looking for publicity for himself, so the project has been on the back burner ever since. I'm delighted to be able to present his story at long last.
In planning this issue, I had already included Judi K's Jazz Warriors piece on two more producers -- Alan Adams and Hal Smith, two remarkable musicians who are a dynamic management team for America's Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society (AFCDJS) and Festival in San Diego, Calif. They have built AFCDJS into a powerhouse jazz club, presenting an annual festival that is considered the cream of the crop by savvy jazz fans, conducting a top-notch adult jazz camp, publishing an excellent jazz newsletter and showcasing great bands at club concerts. I've known Hal for years, meeting him in St. Louis when he was just a youngster with enthusiasm to burn for the music he loves. It's been a pleasure to watch his career blossom due to his high personal standards and musical versatility. I met Alan Adams through AFCDJS's Len Levine (one of my all-time favorite people), who alerted me to Alan's impressive blend of musical skills and administrative expertise. Both Alan and Hal exemplify the kind of diligence and talent needed to keep a major jazz club functioning at a high level.
As the issue came together, I considered yet another dedicated jazz producer, Phil Carroll of the Atlanta Jazz Party. Autumn has always been the time when Phil and I would connect. The impetus would be the announcement of his next event, but we always spent plenty of quality time talking about jazz and sharing news. This year, when Phil called, I wasn't immediately available, and when I called back, I learned from his wonderful wife, Lee, that Phil had had a recurrence of cancer. Typical of Phil, however, he was still in charge and wanted to proceed with his 20th annual party. Sadly, Phil's time ran out quickly, but his family will carry on with his wishes. I'm certain that the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Party will not only present superb jazz -- it will acknowledge and celebrate the life of a jazz producer of taste and intelligence.
Writing this editorial reminds me of how lucky the traditional jazz and ragtime world has been to have producers such as these who are willing to take on the considerable financial commitment, the stress and the hard work necessary to present quality music year after year, whether it be via live events or recordings. Producers are a special breed of jazz advocate, and I thank them for their unstinting service to our music.