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February 20, 2008

Learnin' the Blues -- Jazz Players Living Without Health insurance

This doesn't really surprise me, but it's still stunning to realize how many good people are surviving on a wing and a prayer:

Not quite a month ago the alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo had a major seizure while driving his elderly landlady to a store in Brooklyn. “I was convulsing all over the place,” he later wrote on his blog, “grabbing onto the steering wheel violently, biting my tongue and basically acting crazy.”

Fortunately, the driver behind him recognized what was happening, and after quite a bit more drama — in the ambulance, Mr. D’Angelo apparently tore through the straps of his gurney and tried to strangle an emergency medical technician — he underwent testing that revealed a large tumor on his brain.

Within days he was scheduled for surgery and had started writing about the experience at andrewdangelo.com. He was clear about the fact that he had no health insurance.

The health of jazz, as a topic of conversation, has long inspired a lot of hand wringing among sympathetic parties. When the focus turns toward the health of jazz musicians, the discussion assumes a different, less abstract character: solicitous and supportive. Most people who play jazz for a living are accustomed to self-reliance. When that system fails, they lean on one another.

It's ridiculously hard for even the best jazz players to eke out a decent living. When a health crisis like cancer or kidney disease hits, it wipes out the current bank account and puts players and their families squarely in the grip of endless debt. Thankfully, musicians like Joe Lovano, John Scofield and Wynton Marsalis -- as well as many other greats -- are making it easier for their fellow players who are in dire straits because of serious illness. The benefit concerts they're giving will help, but what about next month, and next year? Go check out Sco's and Lovano's webpages. They each have a nice post (with photos) about the upcoming benefit at Lincoln Center.

Americans living without health insurance and health care is just a crime. Too bad the presidential candidates are only willing to go just so far. They still think that letting insurance companies have a hand in writing the legislation is a viable option. It isn't.

So, for jazz players at least, and for the near future, getting by with a little help from their friends will have to suffice.

Posted by shoephone on February 20, 2008 at 11:58 PM in Miscellany | Permalink


It's sad that we value art so little in America. I know, it's superfluous, but it makes life worthwhile. Damn few people who do it make a good living, even if they're really good at what they do. I've seen a lot of good actors over the year doing community theatre - I have yet to meet one who got rich being an actor.

The other thought that occurs to me about this is that it's we self-employed types who have the hardest time. I don't see how mandates will make it any easier. We still have to shop around for ourselves, looking at all sorts of confusing options, and in the end we may be told we don't qualify anyway.

To me, putting our future in the hands of the insurance companies is insane, but I guess that's not news, is it?

Posted by: Cujo359 | Feb 21, 2008 10:24:45 PM

and how many cooks and waitrons and buspeople

ya know - THOSE peope who work while our Dem managerial / professional class is out to dinner sipping chardonnay telling educated each other why they can't womp fascists -

how many of them have shitty health 'insurance' which ...

ooops! when you get hurt and can't work, you don't get paid or you get paid peanuts, and if you're not getting paid how are you paying that high deductible low benefit 'insurance' premium ...?

the ONLY justification for this bullshit is we fool peee-ons keep re-electing sell outs like murray and cantwell and the rest of hte DC parasite class.


Posted by: seabos84 | Feb 22, 2008 9:46:21 AM

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