The Jazz Is Dead concert series is, for Los Angeles-area music heads, one of the most special things about this sprawling, glorious metropolis. Co-founded by Andrew Lojero, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Tribe Called Quest) and Adam Block, the widely interpreted “jazz” shows the collective promotes primarily at Highland Park’s 500-cap Lodge Room feature a cornucopia of wondrous sounds including: soul-jazz legends like Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers; NextGen’ers like Shabaka Hutchings, Makaya McCraven and Nubya Garcia and global superstars like Milton Nascimento, Os Mutantes and Bebel Gilberto, among many others. Pollstar caught up with Lojero to find out how the heck Jazz Is Dead does it, its growing national success and how they’re going far beyond promoting shows.
Pollstar: The Jazz is Dead shows you’ve promoted at The Lodge Room are some of my all-time favorites – Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers, Makaya McCraven and Shabaka Hutchings. It’s really awesome what you do. Can you talk about how you’ve approached programming this year?
Andrew Lojero: This whole year’s programming is something courageous and way out there that I’m particularly proud of. There’s very few examples of all this coming out of a small little club like the Lodge Room. By the end of the year, we’ll have moved more tickets than a festival. Like the Cortex concert, it’s only 500-cap, but we have two sets a night for three nights and it’s almost completely sold out – that’s 3,000 tickets for this obscure French act. We’ll do 2,000 tickets for Ebo Taylor, and he’s never been to the U.S. before; 2,000 tickets for Marcos Valle.
How did Jazz Is Dead start?
It started with myself, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adam Block banging our heads about how we were going to sell jazz tickets and how we were going to reach a younger audience. The more we said it, the more it resonated, and we realized kids want to relate to something that doesn’t feel like their grandparents’ or parents’ music feels like, they want something they’re directly connected to. So, we just wanted to take a fun, rebellious poke at the greatest genre that has ever existed, specifically with the intention that younger people would want to get on board and they have.
What was your first show?
We did Keyon Harrold with Georgia Anne Muldrow in December 2017 at the Lodge Room and then we just kept doing concerts.
How did it go in the beginning with producing live events?
Relatively easy. We have a decent sized staff, the little killers, each one of them. And everybody wears multiple hats. And we don’t just produce events, we multi-track record them, film them with three RED cameras. We have an entire operation after each event; we try to interview people and create long lasting pieces of content.
What happens on the back end with that content?
It’s so that these concerts don’t turn into the speck of dust. Early on, I realized when you’re doing concerts, it’s like you gave birth to something and then that something is gone. Filming them for posterity and archiving it is very rare. You get recordings that sound as good as you remember the live concert. The recordings don’t lie. So from there we realized we needed to record original music with these people.
Do you think the jazz market is getting hotter and having something of a resurgence?
In general, right now, catalog music is really having an explosion in a special way. Jazz music from late ’60s through late ’70 is some of the most innovative, beautiful music ever made. I think there’s wider support for it. You’re gonna see the same happen with classic soul music and a lot of the different genres of yesteryears we all grew up on. The nostalgia waves happen over time, but streaming has completely thrown that off by allowing people the access to it, but it also invigorated it.
Do you think you’ll start playing larger venues? Six shows, 3,000 people, you could go to one of those big, beautiful L.A. theaters.
We have two shows coming up from Milton Nascimento, his farewell tour. Those are at the Mayan Theater, which is at 1,300-cap.
Is demand for live shows back, as far as Jazz is Dead is concerned? Do you feel it’s as good as 2019 or even better?
This is the best it’s ever been for us. At the end of the year, we will have programmed I think more in one year than I did in the five years leading into the pandemic. This year has been a programming onslaught.
Please note that the Los Angeles-based concert series is not affiliated with the instrumental ensemble Jazz Is Dead, which is known for its interpretations of classic Grateful Dead songs with jazz influences.