THANK YOU, NANCY AND KATHY!

You might not think it from the picture, but two of these women have done the music we love an irreplaceable service, and not just once.

From the left, they are Kathleen Hancock, Abbey Griffith, and Nancy Hancock Griffith: grandmother, granddaughter, and mother.

What have they got to do with JAZZ LIVES, and with jazz?  Joe Boughton, hallowed and irascible, began a series of weekend jazz parties in the Eighties, which I encountered late in their existence, in 2004, as “Jazz at Chautauqua.” I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about these yearly ecstasies of music, friendship, coffee, Scotch, and music.  When Joe’s health began to fail, Nancy gently offered her assistance, both musical and practical — and she was quickly expert and invaluable in all things, from settling disputes about seating or who wouldn’t play with whom, and Chautuqua went on — even improved — after Joe died in 2010.

When the Allegheny Jazz Society moved itself to new quarters in Cleveland, Nancy and her mother, Kathy, took over the running of the Party.  Beautifully, without complaining about the year’s worth of labor such a weekend required.

I won’t go into the economics and logistics of running such a weekend, but even from my semi-outsider’s perspective, the work required had been massive.  And then there’s the financial balancing act.  Thus I was saddened but not entirely startled to read this letter from Nancy and Kathy on the 14th:

Cleveland Classic Jazz Party
All Good Things…

As they say,

— Go out on a high note.

So, after four years trying to make a go of the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, we find we must take this advice. The 2017 Jazz Party was the best one yet, but unfortunately we find we cannot continue. We gave it our best shot.

This was a very hard decision for us, as we both dearly love this genre of music. We had hoped that we would be able to garner much more support in Cleveland for the Jazz Party, but we were never able to get to the break- even point — even with your generous donations. The costs involved in putting together the first-class productions we all appreciate are too high for us to absorb.

We are still trying to think of a way to continue to support traditional jazz in a small way, but for now, we find we need to disband the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. We will always remember the wonderful friends we made, and the good times (and some of the challenges) we had along the way.

Many thanks to all of your for your support over the years. We hope to see you often at other jazz events and venues.

Warmest regards,

Nancy Griffith and Kathy Hancock

I could write many things here, but what needs to be said can best be said in music — in a performance from the 2015 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, THANKS A MILLION, dedicated to Jon-Erik Kellso, by Duke Heitger, Rossano Sportiello, Scott Robinson, Nicki Parrott, and Ricky Malichi:

Nancy and Kathy gave time, energy, patience, good humor, and money — for years — to make these enterprises flourish.  Without them, my life would have been less gratifying.  Bless them! I send deep gratitude, and I know I am not alone.

May your happiness increase!

10 responses to “THANK YOU, NANCY AND KATHY!

  1. jazzfoodreader

    Oh, darn! I’d hoped to be able to finally attend this great event. I was always working around Detroit Jazz Festival or fall pledge drive prep so that I couldn’t make this event. Pete Siers raved about it. Shucks….

  2. Don"Zoot" Conner

    Thanks to Jimmy Rushing who made this tune semi-famous. I join all those who made this festival so esthetically successful through the years. It’s always sad to see still another jazz venue “bite the dust.”

  3. Michael, I would like to supplement the comments you made with some about Joe Boughton.

    This is the end of a tradition that dates back to the early 1980s, when Joe produced the first of several annual Conneaut Lake Jazz weekends at Conneaut Lake Park, which was about six miles west of Meadville, PA, where Joe lived. Joe staged the annual jazzfests in the summer at Conneaut Lake for several years. That was a very enjoyable place for the musicians to work, and for the audiences to listen to the music and interact with the musicians. When the park closed, Joe moved the event to Chautauqua, NY, where it was held for several years, until Joe passed away, and then it was moved to Cleveland.

    What to me were equally enjoyable were the jazz weekends Joe staged throughout the winter in Meadville in a small performance space on the second floor of the Meadville Market House. I think it was called the Gardner Theater. This venue was one of the most intimate places I have ever enjoyed music. There was a small bar in the back of this performance space, and a small art gallery in an adjacent room, where Joe would have a lovely buffet set up so that we could enjoy some light snacks with the performers between sets. I have many fond memories of those weekends, and met and spoke with many musicians.

    On one occasion for reasons I can’t recall, Joe scheduled one of these weekends in an ancient inn lying northeast of Meadville. It was cold and snowing outside, and in the middle of the Friday evening performance, all electric service to the inn was interrupted. I can’t recall who the musicians were who were performing, but without missing a beat, they segued from whatever they were playing into “Dancing in the Dark,” while the staff for the inn brought candles to the tables where the audience was sitting.

    I was able to get to know Joe quite well in the 20+ years I attended various of the events he produced. His house was absolutely packed with every kind of recording, books, magazines, etc. pertaining to the music he loved, which was traditional jazz. On one occasion, a musician counted off and began playing “Satin Doll” at one of those intimate Meadville jazz weekends in the Gardner Theater. Joe almost had a stroke!

    Joe always fortified himself before each set with a beer mug filled 2/3 with beer, and 1/3 with Scotch, made a few remarks from the stage before each set, and then went to his seat at stage left. He was a man who was passionate about the music, and who continued producing jazz events when his health was failing. His remarks before each set were informative,and often, especially before the second set, quite funny. He insisted that members of the audiences respect the performers by keeping quiet while music was being made.

    I am grateful that Joe lived so near to me (about 120 miles), and the he was who he was, and did what he did. He provided me with many opportunities to enrich my life with wonderful music.

  4. After 30 years of putting in several hours a day to make each year a success, I can plainly understand your sadness. I’m convinced that
    having several strong sponsors over the years has done the trick at Elkhart.
    The two of you worked overtime on this year’s festival and it was a terrific success…musically….but I do understand the other part: funding for the next year…and it goes back to a good source of sponsors…I’ve already told
    you how much I enjoyed the fest this year and I’ve told the world how I feel about it…..Again, ladies……God bless you and I do hope to see you both again…..Van Young

  5. This festival always conflicted with other events on my calendar. I’m sorry I never made it there, and that it will not be an option for me in the future. We must all do a better job of making it to live jazz performances, wherever they may be.

  6. Thank you Michael for this lovely tribute to Nancy & Kathy, two true PATRONS of the arts. This is sad news indeed! Understandable of course, but just too bad. Thanks to Nancy & Kathy for their tireless efforts and uncompromising spirit!

  7. We would like to echo others sentiments about the wonderful weekends we spent reveling in the opportunity to hear the music we love at its best and make new friendships , hear musicians who never visit our city.
    At JPEC ,(www.jazz.centre.ca ) we understand the work involved to keep jazz alive and thriving and sanddened to hear of the Cleveland party’s demise. Thanks for wonderful memories to all concerned.
    Rochelle and Ray Koskie Toronto Canada

  8. Those of us who have tried our best and done our damndest to mount and present a quality jazz festival know how challenging it can be… the people who attend the events always praise them and would love to support them if… that is if, the support doesn’t cost them anything either in sponsorships or attendance or spreading the word. The difficulty is not that they don’t really want to support the event but it can be affected by so many factors… including age and income and illnesses and just plain apathy, thinking someone else will carry the weight. I know the heartbreak. The plain truth is that Classic American jazz- the only music truly American, is looked on as naive and passe…we know the truth. Thanks to these wonderful, caring women. I give them a big round of applause a jazzy hug and a musical bandaid for their broken hearts.

  9. Pingback: MARTY GROSZ’S “BIXIANA”: “I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER” (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2011) | JAZZ LIVES

  10. Pingback: “WE CALL IT MUSIC” (PART ONE): DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, EHUD ASHERIE, JOEL FORBES, PETE SIERS (Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, September 14, 2017) | JAZZ LIVES

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