This Year's Arizona Jazz Festival Is Canceled, and a Lot of People Are Pissed (UPDATED)

The music of world-renowned R&B, soul, and jazz artists was supposed to fill the air at Rawhide in Chandler this weekend, courtesy of Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Keith Sweat, Erykah Badu, and other superstars who were scheduled to perform during this year’s Arizona Jazz Festival.

Unfortunately, all there will be is silence as the festival’s promoter unceremoniously canceled the three-day event a week before it was scheduled to occur. And a lot of people of upset about it, not to mention a little perplexed.

Glendale-based promoter BTW Concerts, which has put on the Arizona Jazz Festival for several years, announced on Friday, October 16, on its website that this year’s event was cancelled due to unspecified reasons.

It came as a major disappointment to those who were planning to attend the festival, which was scheduled to take place from Friday, October 23, to Sunday, October 25, and feature performances by a star-studded lineup of R&B, soul, and hip-hop artists, including Edmonds, Badu, and Sweat, as well as The Roots, Jodeci, Blackstreet, Maxwell, Ledisi, Mint Condition, Toni Braxton, and Common.

The cancellation announcement on BTW’s website, which was credited to its management, was short and to the point with no explanation as to why it pulled the plug on the Arizona Jazz Festival (which, despite its name, has featured more of an emphasis on R&B and soul the past several years.)

“With great regret, the Arizona Jazz Festival has been cancelled. Details regarding refunds will be available shortly,” the announcement stated. “Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

No information regarding the cancellation was posted to BTW’s social media accounts, however, In fact, the promoter shut down both its Twitter and Facebook at some point after the festival’s cancellation was announced. (Neither are operating as of this writing.)

New Times was able to speak with BTW’s management on Monday regarding the event’s cancellation. However, their explanation was as terse and vague as the announcement on the Arizona Jazz Festival website. And it inevitably leads to more questions.

Bradley Laughlin, BTW’s talent buyer and manager, told New Times that festival’s cancellation may have caused by the actions of an unspecified third party.

“At the advice of an attorney, I'm going to be limited in the stuff I can tell today...but what I can tell you right now is that we're the victims of some financial wrongdoings from somebody,” Laughlin says. “And we're just trying to figure out what can be done to rectify that.”

In the meantime, Laughlin says, the company is focusing on issuing refunds to Arizona Jazz Festival ticketholders.
“We're definitely actively working on a plan to refund the customers,” he says.

That might come as good news to festival ticketholders, at least those here in Arizona.

If BTW’s social media accounts were operating, we’d be willing to bet both its Facebook and Twitter would be filled with grumblings of those who were planning to attend the Arizona Jazz Festival

There’s been a growing rancor among festival ticket-holders about the cancellation since it was announced last Friday. Many are upset by the fact the festival won’t be happening, period, while those outside Arizona who made travel arrangements in order to attend are lamenting the fact they’re out a significant amount of money.

One such ticket-holder is Tishawn Bentley of Chicago, who was planning to travel to Phoenix for the festival and will now have to eat the cost of both airfare and a hotel. She expressed her frustration over the matter in a response to the Facebook page of PHX Soul on Friday.

“I'm sick...bought plane tickets from Chicago and paid for hotel for the weekend,” Bentley wrote. “Who’s gonna refund that? This is straight BS.”

Stacey Doss Bellamy, a resident of Washington state, expressed similar sentiments on PHX Soul’s Facebook. “

We got flight, car, and hotel reservations...I'm pissed!” Bellamy wrote. “What the hell I'm gonna do in Phoenix now? Can't even get a refund.”

Some ticket-holders also upset that BTW Concerts didn’t immediately contact ticket-holders via e-mail with news of the cancellation and information regarding refunds on Friday. Others have alleged that the calls to BTW’s offices went straight to voice mail and that messages weren’t being returned. 

And according to the managers for at least one of the artists scheduled to appear at the Arizona Jazz Festival claimed that BTW wasn’t talking to them either. New Times spoke with a member of Erykah Badu’s management after the cancellation was announced on October 16 and was told they were unable to reach BTW to discuss the matter.

Laughlin disputes all of this. While he couldn’t speak to the claims of Badu’s management, he emphasized that BTW’s staff has been busy with handling the refund issue. 

“We're just working on getting the refunds with the customers and sending out the notification to them on what needs to be done. We haven't closed our doors, we're still answering the phones, I don't know where all that's coming from,” he says. “Our office is open and [has] been open since the event and we're taking calls and explaining that to all the ticket holders. Emails have been sent to the customers.”

Laughlin says that it may take the company some time to handle the refunds due to the large number of ticket-holders and the fact that BTW has a small staff.

“[There’s] an overwhelming amount of calls right now and we’re returning every single one of 'em and when you've got tens of thousands of tickets sold and you have four employees, its hard,” he says. “So we're working through it.”

Laughlin declined to comment on whether the refunds will include service fees and became frustrated when New Times pressed for more details on the matter.

“We're working on all the details right now,” Laughlin says. “You keep asking questions but I've answered. I've given you everything that I can give you right now. I don't have all the answers. We're working it out, and we'll work it out with the customers.”

Editor's note: This blog has been updated since its original posting with new information.