While San Diego seems to be weathering the decline in jazz better than most cities, with several venues spotlighting the genre, including Anthology, Croce’s, and Dizzy’s, singer Karin Carson considers the local scene too small for such a large metropolitan area.
In order to help promote jazz in San Diego, she has started the San Diego Jazz Musicians Guild. With Carson as president and executive director, the guild meets monthly and hosts events around town, including a weekly concert series started in April at Tango Del Rey. They have also sponsored “Master Classes with Jazz Legends,” featuring artists such as bassist Christian McBride and drummer Chuck McPherson.
Other guild positions include notable board members Donna Nichols (founder of the Pacific Coast Jazz label), trumpeter Derek Cannon, and vocalist Allison Adams Tucker (a 2009 SDMA nominee for her album Come with Me). Using space donated by building owners, the guild has two offices: in North Park at the Queen Bee Art and Cultural Center and in Alpine at the Enchanted Village. The guild currently has 50 members — musicians and fans.
The inspiration for the organization came, indirectly, from Carson’s grandfather, Peter Sirna, a San Diego trumpeter who taught at Ozzie’s Music Store.
“When I first got into jazz, I started asking him questions and found that San Diego had a rich cultural history presenting jazz artists. My goal was to find out more about it and present the information to others so they could find resources for their art.” In addition to work on the SDJMG, Carson has started production on a documentary highlighting the San Diego jazz scene over the past century.
Though Carson is unsure about what exactly it will take to stem the loss of interest nationwide in jazz, she is hoping the guild will make some sort of difference. “The point is that we do something, or things will remain the same.… Whether in or out of the public circle of popularity, jazz still holds the place as the one true American art form.”