The recent transformation of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission will likely shift into a higher gear in the coming months. After a rocky and largely ineffectual first several years of existence, the commission essentially hit the "reset" button after the resignation last fall of its first and only president and CEO, Elvis cohort Jerry Schilling.
Under the guidance of new chairperson Phil Trenary, the commission has partnered with local business group Memphis Tomorrow (which is providing funding and some guidance) and The University of Memphis (which is crunching the data) to do something that likely should have been done from day one: conduct an economic-impact survey and needs assessment for the local music scene.
"People know how much money the Grizzlies are pumping into the economy, but no one knows about the impact of our music scene," says interim director Joann Self, a freelance grant writer and consultant who worked under Schilling at one time and was lured back, reluctantly at first, to help direct the commission's rebirth. Self says the study will not only demonstrate the impact of music-related activity on the local economy but set a benchmark by which the commission's future successes (or failures) can be gauged. Along with the economic impact study, the commission and Memphis Tomorrow have been holding focus groups with different segments of the music community.
Dubbed Get Loud!, the initiative is in the latter stages of gathering facts and opinions. The deadline for individuals to participate in the online, anonymous "economic and opinion" survey is June 15th. (The survey can be found on the commission's Web site at Memphismusic.org). According to Self, the University of Memphis is likely to issue the findings of the study in late June or in July. This could coincide with another announcement -- the hiring of a new president and CEO for the commission, a decision that is expected sometime in June.
The Jazz Foundation's World-Class Jazz Series, sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission, returns this week with a show at a new location, CafÇ Soul, the recently opened jazz bar in the South Main Arts District. The featured attraction will be Calvin Newborn, jazz guitarist extraordinaire and scion of one of Memphis' most notable music families. Newborn will lead Calvin Newborn's Jazz Guitar Allstars -- which also includes Charlton Johnson, Gerard Harris, and Ed Finney -- through two sets on Saturday, May 31st. The first set will be at 7:30 and the second set is scheduled for 10 p.m.
Advance tickets are available at Davis-Kidd Booksellers and the Memphis Drum Shop or through the World-Class Jazz Series (725-1528). Table or bar seating is $15, or $10 for students. Newborn will also conduct a free clinic at the venue in the afternoon. Those interested in the clinic are encouraged to call the WCJS at the aforementioned number for more information.
The Blues Foundation-sponsored W.C. Handy Blues Awards were conducted last Thursday, May 22nd, at The Orpheum and with fairly familiar results. Perennial winner B.B. King upset comeback kid Solomon Burke for the big prize, Entertainer of the Year, though Burke did take home two Handys. Other multiple winners were blues-scene superstar Shemekia Copeland, who won in three categories, and onetime Memphian Charlie Musselwhite, who brought home two trophies. The complete list of winners follows:
Entertainer of the Year --B.B. King; Band of the Year --Magic Slim & the Teardrops; Album of the Year -- Talking to Strangers (Shemekia Copeland); Song of the Year -- "Let It Rain" (W.C. Clark, Bobby Boyd, and John Gray Gregson); Best New Artist Debut --Live at the Wetlands (Robert Randolph); Contemporary Male Artist --Charlie Musselwhite; Contemporary Female Artist --Shemekia Copeland; Contemporary Album --Talking to Strangers (Shemekia Copeland); Soul Male Artist -- Solomon Burke; Soul Female Artist --Etta James; Soul Album --Don't Give Up on Me (Solomon Burke); Traditional Male Artist -- R.L. Burnside; Traditional Female Artist -- Koko Taylor; Traditional Album --35th Anniversary Jam (James Cotton); Acoustic Artist --John Hammond; Acoustic Album -- The Memphis Barbecue Sessions (Big Jack Johnson); Comeback Album -- Return of a Legend (Jody Williams); Historical Album --Born Under a Bad Sign (Albert King); Guitar -- Duke Robillard; Keyboards -- Pinetop Perkins; Harmonica -- Charlie Musselwhite; Bass -- Willie Kent; Drums --Willie "Big Eyes" Smith; Horns --Roomful of Blues; Other --Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (violin).
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