Thursday, November 22, 2007

Portico Quartet on BBC London TV tonight

The Portico Quartet will be on BBC London news on BBC 1 tonight at 6.30 p.m. as part of the coverage of the London Jazz Festival. They played outside National Theatre earlier today and Will Gresford, the new hunky face of London jazz (and manager of the Vortex) was also interviewed.
I feel really proud to be associated with the sort of publicity that the Vortex has achieved this week, along with the opportunities given to the band.
Meanwhile, the Guardian has just published 1000 albums to hear before you die. There are 4 on Babel - Acoustic Ladyland's Last Chance Disco, Polar Bear's Held On The Tips Of Fingers, Billy Jenkins' Scratches of Spain and Christine Tobin's Your Draw The Line. I am amazed and flattered to have been associated with so many albums on such a list as it covers everything from Spice Girls to Beatles and Rokia Traore with all points between.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Live gigs - on the up? Hmm

With the London Jazz Festival it's been great to get some good articles about the Vortex in both Time Out and the Evening Standard. Certainly we have had great audiences over recent weeks at the club, not just during the festival (where we have had 5 sold out gigs in a row so far) but also before, with The Necks and Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton last week.
But I have also found it saddening to talk to some musicians who are telling me that it is getting hard to get gigs or tours for some of their slightly larger line-ups. Certainly a decade ago there was a touring circuit of perhaps 7 or 8 venues which could take such gigs, and funding more easily available. Meanwhile the record company could assist in giving a bit of an extra fillip through some publicity and having the CDs available for sale at the gigs.
Now, it is harder. More competition for gigs from a range of incredible musicians (not so bad in itself) but the venues are not there to that degree any more. It's great to celebrate the Vortex, but Ronnie Scott's is moving towards less and less innovative jazz (an oxymoron?), The Spitz has closed and there are no guarantees of anything anywhere.
I actually think that part of the problem is that the record industry is no longer willing or able to provide the lubricant or incentive any more. Bands would play for free or cheaply with the chance of a recording ahead, or indeed the possibilility of some sort of record deal. No longer. The deals offered are, when they come, less generous and often indeed rely on earning from live gigs. The causal link is going in the opposite direction to previously.
I am concerned that this could easily mean that venues which already were offering little to musicians, such as the indie pub circuit, could dry up completely.
However, on the other hand, we have the chance to hope that there will be more and more return to a focus on quality rather than quantity, though it's difficult to identify that quality from the number of demos that are received. Venues will have to become cannier and more imaginative in getting their music out. For example, the London Jazz Festival has a strong media link with its support from BBC Radio 3, while at The Vortex is taking advantage of its name and close links with Babel (i.e. yours truly) to start its own label. The Portico Quartet effect on the club has been dramatic. It has meant that we could have a more than sold out venue yesterday for the band and the audience was then exposed to the driving free improv of the Gannets.