Is the Jazz Jubilee right for me?

FAQs and answers to help with planning the big weekend


When choosing a Memorial Day weekend tradition for yourself and your family and that guy from work who you don’t really know or like but somehow sort of got trapped into hanging out with, it’s important to do yourself the favor of a little preliminary research. It starts with asking the right questions.

For instance, you may be wondering whether the 35th annual Sacramento Jazz Jubilee is right for you, because you saw that headline up there asking whether it is.

The answer: a definite maybe.

For better answers, you’ll need better questions. Instead, here are some silly ones.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for the Jazz Jubilee. Is it safe?

Yes. This is a family-friendly event. It takes place primarily in Old Sacramento. How can it not be safe?

Can I combine it with other medications?

Possibly, but consult your physician first.

Will the Jazz Jubilee make me old?

First, consider that human beings have made music for thousands of years, but jazz only has been around for about a century. How’s that for fresh and youthful? Now, we understand that even saying the word “jubilee” aloud feels like applying for membership in the AARP. And that groups with names like the Catsnjammer Jazz Band, offering a cultural reference only octogenarians would understand, were they not already mired in dementia; or Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners, evoking some sort of discredited science like phrenology; do not give the impression of having one’s whole life ahead of one. But, well, what’s wrong with being old, anyway? It’s just a thing that some people are. You’ll be old yourself, one day—if you’re lucky. Catch the drift, whippersnapper?

OK, but do I have to be a fat white guy with a big red face in order to get in?

No, of course not. If you are, though, you’ll be delighted to find many of your kind already present and enjoying themselves.

So, what is jazz anyway?

We appreciate your honesty; it takes courage and a lack of exposure to public radio to ask such a profoundly ignorant question. Which is probably why Louis Armstrong is said to have responded to that very inquiry with equal courage by saying that if you have to ask, “you ain’t never gonna know.” Now, you have heard of Louis Armstrong, have you not?

Oh, yeah. The astronaut, right?

Nope, ’fraid not. But don’t be embarrassed; it’s a common mistake. You’re thinking of Stretch Armstrong.

Wait, isn’t Stretch Armstrong an action figure from 1976 whose arms and legs were filled with some sort of goo so you could stretch and bend them all over the place and then watch them slowly shrink back to their original shape and then repeat this for hours and hours of mindless fun?

Please, reader, don’t interrupt. It’s very important to understand the history here. For instance, the essential, wide-ranging influence of singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, who was born in New Orleans in—

—Yeah, so, it’ll be pretty much all Dixieland, right?

Oh, cut it out. You don’t even know what you’re talking about. It is true that many groups performing at the Jazz Jubilee do specialize in so-called traditional jazz—a collaborative, improvised, swinging synthesis of ragtime, spirituals and blues. But with more than 100 bands performing, it’s quite reasonable to expect more than one style of music.

Who’s playing, anyway?

Who isn’t?

Can you be a little more specific?

Why don’t you go ahead and have a gander at the program within these very pages, whippersnapper?

That’s the second time you’ve called me that.

Really, my memory’s not so good. Someday you’ll be 35.

Um, OK.

Whippersnapper …


Next question.

Hey, am I too unsophisticated for the Jazz Jubilee if I can’t help but giggle at the name of the bandleader in Dick Johnson’s Mardi Gras Band?

Not at all. Consider the self-described “originator of jazz,” Jelly Roll Morton, whose name was even more sexually suggestive than that, and on purpose.

So, you never explained what jazz is.

There is no better explanation than this weekend at the Jazz Jubilee.

Do you love me?

Yes, reader. Toughly sometimes, but yes.