Sunday, September 30, 2007

Punk jazz

This weeks' Jazz on 3 had a feature about so-called "Punk Jazz" which is used to describe bands such as Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Fraud and Led Bib. In the end it highlighted that the phrase was a shorthand used to give it a bit of a boost for the confused public so as not to confuse it with more retro styles. Especially as each band has a different route through the music.
I am quite chuffed that such a feature takes place. Since two common elements are that they all have released their "seminal" albums on Babel and reached the public view from those releases. And the Vortex has been a key venue which has helped nurture them and bring them to a wider public. I am proud to be associated with both and to have invested quite substantially in this music.
It's all a bit surprising sometimes that it all picks up like that. Especially as I spend hours sitting in my little office wondering how anyone is going to buy this stuff and how I can get my investment back. (Latest example. When I did actually go into the new Alternative Music Distribution shop on Archway Road, Tony McLoughlin spent 5 minutes telling me that he is consciously trying to keep jazz in there to a minimum as it won't sell.)
They mention how these bands have got public attention and certainly it is great that people like Paul Morley have been behind these bands. He was suggesting that it is time for a "punk jazz" group to win the Mercury Prize. Well, at least Polar Bear got nominated.However, none of the other bands have, even though I have entered their albums. This year, with Led Bib and Fraud entered, the judges went for Basquiat Strings, certainly not from this style, though Ben Davis is part of the Fire Collective. Meanwhile, in the year that Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland were nominated for best album in the BBC Awards, the prize went to Jim Tomlinson and Stacy Kent, while with James Allsopp nominated for a BBC award for Rising Star, the prize went to the overtly backward looking Simon Spillett.
So there is still a fear of this music in the mainstream of jazz and music.
Also, don't forget the importance of the foundation on which the bands have built. The "Partisans generation" - members of Partisans itself, Christine Tobin, Liam Noble et al. who have slogged away for years when jazz was in a wilderness in this country. They still don't get the recognition they deserve. Partisans on Friday at the Vortex was killing, with Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum sitting open mouthed in the audience. (I'll be putting up a track of theirs from the gig soon.)
By the way you can still listen back to the programme till next Friday on the BBC web site. Go to it here and follow the links on the Listen Again button.
A live session by Phil Robson will prove on Jazz Line Up next week will no doubt show to the wide public that hasn't yet heard him or bought his albums on Babel (hint, hint) that he is an important link....


Steve said...

It's great to see a little bit of recog for the new breed - I'm still constantly surprised that there isn't a tidal wave of positive press about the current scene in London, given that it is a) fantastic b) full of energy and vitality and b) unlike anything that's coming out of the states.

So it is fab that Paul Morley/R3 etc are getting on board, but hopefully it'll be the beginnings of some sustained faith in and coverage for what's happening in instrumental music in this lovely city of ours. :o)


Anonymous said...

Not a mention of "Blurt" again...Ted Milton's doing jazz punk for decades.