Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dublin 12 points

I spent two days at the new 12 Points festival put on by Gerry Godley in Dublin. Big congratulations to Gerry for working out a way of putting young musicians together in this way, giving many a great opportunity to get international festival experience at an early point in their careers. Led Bib were there, and played stormingly, as I would hope and expect. The other great impact over the two days was by Carsten Daerr from Berlin. Dynamism, tightness and effective interplay. Now I have to try and work out a way to get them to London. I was glad to hear some of the other bands there, such as Daniel Szabo from Hungary, but didn't feel that they had that "special" feature that means that I would want to bring them to London. It's always been a principle behind Babel that I try and record artists that have a uniqueness and validity to be heard beyond the confines of their own locality. It's a relief that Led Bib proved themselves here, and Fraud are one of the next in the line that I have been lucky to find.
It's vitally important that young bands get chances to cross borders and develop careers around Europe. Some governments realise this, such as the Goethe Institut. The British Council no longer knows how, concentrating on the political agenda further afield. Promoters such as Gerry do this by organising festivals, and also manage to bring in outsiders - such as me - to hear. The Vortex, by contrast, has to work out ways of integrating it into the annual programme. Such bands are coming in, often at the behest of musicians themselves, as was the case at the recent F-Ire festival, where musicians such as Stephane Payen came and played the club. It's difficult to get the curiosity levels of the public up. Persistence is one way that we'll do it, I hope.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Don't you love live music?

It's so exciting to work with some of the musicians in this scene. Such a diversity from one day to the next and such quality.
Thursday was a showcase at Steinway Hall for Richard Fairhurst and Tom Arthurs. What a sense of history when you walk around the million pounds worth of pianos there. A hall of fame including Berlioz, Stravinsky, Duke Ellington, Schnabel - and Richard Fairhurst. Totally acoustic, and incredible empathy (A word which I learnt when doing my bouncer's course.)
Meanwhile yesterday, Partisans truly confirmed why it's great when a band continues for years (in their case celebrating 10 years). It's become a sort of jazz "super group" with Phil Robson and Julian Siegel themselves proving themselves in all sorts of musical configurations. Chris Batchelor slotted in and really created a fantastic gig. The start, with Max, was gobsmacking. No wonder I couldn't get them out of the Vortex till 2 a.m. Why this band didn't get nominated for a BBC Jazz Award, I'll really never know. Of course, I'm happy for the others, such as Finn. Go for it, guys!

The Spitz - worrying news

The Spitz has announced that it is under risk of closing in September. Disaster, as there are so few venues for that sort of music of that size in London. How can we save it or replace it?

I hope that they find some sort of person who can act as a mentor and passionate saviour. We had this at the Vortex, with people like Tim Ward, Derek Drescher and myself, while the Hackney Empire was lucky enough to get hold of Griff Rhys-Jones. The problem faced by the Vortex was also made a bit easier that the size of venue that we were looking for was just for 100 people. The Spitz is that bit larger. Knowing the attitude of some commercial property developers making grabs at the area close to the City and in "fashionable" East London, I am really worried that the Spitz itself is lost unless there is a dramatic change somewhere.

However, with old factories and so on coming free, maybe there's an alternative even if it takes some time for it to develop. Of course, this leads to the other problem of local authorities and licensing. I know full well how problematic these guys can be in Hackney, where they don't have a jobsworth, but a Papworth.

If you've got a few million to spare, give it to the Spitz now. If you've got a building to spare, call the Spitz immediately.

Good luck Spitz! Good luck Rupert

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Billy Jenkins on Youtube

Some great Billy Jenkins footage on Youtube. There's more from the Songs of Praise tour than this.

Monday, April 16, 2007

BBC Jazz Awards - Fraud and Finn Peters

Great to hear that Fraud's new album is nominated for a BBC Jazz Award, even before it's properly in the shops, and Finn Peters' band is nominated for best band. Now please vote for them on this page for Fraud and this page for Finn. It's funny that Fraud's album isn't even in the shops yet. So all credit to the interest that this has brought.
Babel has had reasonable success in the BBC Awards over the years. Two years ago Huw Warren and Acoustic Ladyland won, but last year with three nominations for album of the year (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Partisans) Jim Tomlinson and Stacey Kent won. So, I can't place too much hope on the winning itself. As long as the awards are won by reasonable people, then I have no complaint. We have yet to hear some of the other nominations. It would be good if there were a few more Babel artists there too.
I feel that, while the focus is rightly on the musician, the fact that they are brought to the attention of the public and judges is part of a partnership of the musician with record label and agent (with stress on the word "partnership"). The partnership is never perfect, unfortunately, but I try my best! I have a little sticker that I was given by Ivor Cutler in the bottom corner of my computer screen. It says it all. "Imperfection is an end. Perfection is only an aim."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I'm feeling excited

I'm excited that, after a break, there are new releases on the horizon. Led Bib over the next couple of weeks. Great young crowd at their pre-launch gig at the Vortex, with Tom Arthurs and Richard Fairhurst playing at Steinway Hall next week, and the Fraud album to come. I find it hard to understand why people think it exceptional that there are young audiences coming out to hear bands like these at the Vortex. "Ah, but London's different", they say to me. But is it really? There are potential younger jazz lovers all over the country. So why shouldn't it be possible, with patience and imagination to target them in Derby or Manchester?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cuts in Arts Council grants

I had a meeting last week with someone doing market research for the Arts Council which is having an "arts debate". If they hadn't interviewed me, then there would have been no focus whatsoever on jazz. It doesn't even seem to feature on their radar. I think that grants to jazz total 0.5% of their grant giving even though jazz audiences are the same size as those for opera!
Meanwhile, a large focus of getting money (and that includes the Vortex) is Grants for the Arts. These have just been reduced dramatically by 35 % according to the Guardian. Surreptitiously done and all the money goes to the Olympics. These have been vital for many years to support tours and other one-off projects. For example we have applied for £30000 for a new piano and p.a. from that scheme. It's also clear that the touring circuit for jazz has virtually disappeared over the past few years. I think that we can now get rid of the word "virtually" for the future.