In Lincoln, Nebraska in 1975, there was some interest in jazz but concerts occurred infrequently in the town. There were local musicians who played jazz but they usually could find paying jazz gigs once or twice a year.
Usually one good band would come through a year, sponsored by the
University. I mentioned to one of my friends, Scott Otley, who was the concerts chairman of the Nebraska Student Union that year, that perhaps we could form a Jazz Society for Lincoln's jazz lovers and apply for a grant
with the Nebraska Arts Council to get a subsidy to start a jazz concert
He introduced me to Jack Hart the previous concerts chair, a huge
jazz fan and Dirt Cheap Records employee who had booked the first three jazz
concerts I'd seen in Lincoln. Jack knew the agents for the jazz bands we
wanted to attract and knew how to negotiate with them. Scott and I wrote the
grant proposal and delivered it to the Arts Council a half hour before the submissions deadline for that year.
A few months in later in the summer of
1976 we were awarded our grant, Jack became the president of the Lincoln Jazz Society and in the fall presented our first series with the Modern Jazz Quartet, McCoy Tyner, and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.
summer, Jack moved to New York City and I became the Jazz Society
president. For our second year, we presented Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie,Woody Shaw and Bill Evans. We were in debt a few thousand dollars at the end
of the season but found a local plutocrat who was willing to make us whole.
(He later went to prison for mismanaging a savings and loan association.)
The third year, we booked Joe Pass, Max Roach, Betty Carter and the Toshiko
Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. We again were several thousand dollars in
debt by the time we finished the Betty Carter concert (I personally secured
the loan which paid the band) and had to postpone the appearance by the
Akiyoshi band. We did fund raising for a year and were able to present that
concert a year after it was originally scheduled.
After that, the concert
series was suspended, but our function was taken up by the University who
started booking three or four jazz concerts a year. Because the
gigs we sponsored for local jazz musicians demonstrated that there was a market for jazz in Lincoln, there were two or three venues that would book jazz regularly after we became inactive.