When Grammy Award-winning jazz artist Charlie Haden and a five-piece ensemble appeared at the Iridium jazz club for a week last October, there was often a line waiting to get in. The group performed songs from Haden’s latest album, “Nocturne,” which in March won the Grammy for best Latin Jazz album.
His original contract with the club included a guaranteed payment or a percentage of the door, whichever was greater. In light of the events of 9/11 and its impact on the music scene in New York, and at the request of the club owner, Haden had agreed to reduce his guarantee while maintaining a percentage of the door if the guarantee was exceeded. Despite the World Trade Center tragedy, the club was nearly full every night – and when the week ended, it was clear that Haden was owed additional money.
The club balked at paying the full amount, despite vigorous objection from Haden’s management. He ended up leaving town short more than $3,000. At that point Haden and his management contacted 802. Local 802 attorney Anita Bryant Napier sought immediate court action to enforce Haden’s contract. A judge found in favor of Haden and the union and scheduled a court date to settle on the amount actually owed.
At that point the club contacted Local 802 and offered to settle the debt. After some discussion a settlement was agreed upon, payment was promised, and the scheduled court date was canceled. However, the promised payment never came.
As a consequence, the union took the issue to the street in front of the club. Local 802 Jazz Representative Natasha Jackson organized staff and supporters of the Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign to pass out leaflets in front of the Iridium, informing the public of what had happened.
The leafleting drew an immediate, agitated response. Management challenged the union’s right to leaflet, and called police to the scene. The leafleters agreed to leave when club management again promised to settle the issue. Payment was promised for the next day – and this time, it was received.
Assistant to the President Bill Dennison told Allegro, “We are pleased that we were able to obtain a small measure of justice for this one jazz artist. While we hope this is an isolated case, our concern is that this kind of treatment goes on and we never become aware of it. Musicians should know that Local 802 is the place to bring these kinds of problems, and that the Justice for Jazz Artist campaign is not going away.”