The inaugural Party For Life extravaganza happened last year at BarFly in downtown Minneapolis, a benefit to help the late Jazzy J, founder of Twin Cities Radio finance his fight to stave off cancer. It was my introduction to the guy and, honestly, I’d had no previous idea what it was all about. Wouldn’t’ve known Jazzy J or Twin Cities Radio had either one bit me on the butt. My running buddy, Rasta bard David Daniels, clued me in. Which is how I wound up writing about the evening. This February, Party For Life 2, like the first one, was organized by Jazzy J’s son Morgan, this time for another ailing artist, folk singer-songwriter Michael McElrath, also battling cancer. Jazzy J was on hand, in considerably bright spirits.
Between both events, you had more performers, including musicians and the Bawdy Blue Burlesque Revue, than you could shake a stick at. Seemed like everybody and their brother and sister wanted to pay tribute.
Party For Life 3, honoring Jazzy J’s passing (he succumbed within the first few days of June), should follow suit with, among others, the likes of Inukshuk Pass, MJ Kroll, Lonnie Knight, Michael McElrath, and The Travelin’ Moburys announced as participating. It was scheduled as a night-long birthday party, but, now, of course, the evening will be held in his memory.
Jazzy J is, to say the least, fondly regarded by area indie musicians for unflagging devotion to home-grown Minnesota music. He provided exposure for artists who on mainstream media couldn’t, as the expression goes, get arrested. Twin Cities Radio, Jazzy J told me last year, began humbly and gained traction.
“[When] we started out, I think I had 20 artists I was playing. Now, [there are] 1,400.” Anyone old enough to recall the advent of FM radio, which, in the late 60s, amounted to a minor league upstart, understands what a godsend it was to have a venue airing under-the-radar recordings. Without which, artists who today are household names would not have reached audiences beyond exposure by word-of-mouth. Ever heard of, for instance, the Jimi Hendrix Experience? The Grateful Dead? Twin Cities Radio, now under the banner of internationally plugged-in Internet entity World Class Productions, weighs in to make a difference for underserved artists everywhere.
Performers certainly appreciate what he accomplished. MJ Kroll acknowledges, “He “[believes in] independent artists, year after year. For a lot of us, he’s been the wind at our wings and helped us keep going.” She adds, on a personal note, “I am fortunate to have my life graced by him. One of the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful people I know.” Jazzy J was well-loved, to be sure.