Justice for Jazz Artists: Trumpeter Jimmy Owens Performs "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" at New York City Council Meeting

By Ian Holubiak on Sep 18, 2014 06:07 PM EDT

A landmark institution that defined New York City and American music, city council officials met Wednesday for a hearing on jazz's plight...and trumpeter Jimmy Owens broke into song halfway through his testimony.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens called jazz a "national treasure," according to the New York Times.

While it may no longer be a staple of music on a grand, national scale, specifically in New York City, jazz defined the underground of the greatest city in the world--the same city that makes it so hard to make a living as a performing musician.

The goal of the hearing was to persuade council members to endorse a resolution supporting the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, an effort of Local 802 to help find pensions and other benefits for struggling jazz musicians.

Unlike the players in the pit and symphonies, jazz players aren't gifted pensions, health insurance or other benefits from unions.

And over the last few years, unions had argued with club owners over the likes of mainstays Iridium, Blue Note, Jazz Standard and Village Vanguard (as most of them had gone back on a promise made in 2006 to pay pension benefits in return for a sales tax break).

The situation poses a major threat to the institution of jazz in New York City. Future generations of jazzers won't be born if the genre can't sustain itself.

Perhaps that is why Jimmy Owens heartbrokenly digressed into a flugelhorn rendition of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

In case you aren't in the know, here's Owens below.

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TagsJimmy Owens, New York City Council, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Justice for Jazz Artists, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Local 802

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