Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ronnie Scott's - a sad demise, but not the end of jazz

The latest news about Ronnie Scott's is that Leo Green, the "Artistic Director", has resigned in a fit of pique, having a real go at the club's management for ignorance. What makes it so sad is how the one of the world's great jazz clubs, with nearly 50 years of history, is going into free fall, compared to what things were like just a couple of years ago.
In part, it's because of the style in which it was refurbished and hopes. Putting on an image that was decidedly "retro" and building on the phenomenon of Parky jazz, as epitomised by Jamie Cullum's success a few years back. This is now no longer as fashionable any more. And certainly it's proving impossible to get people to pay the prices required to make this venue viable for the sort of artists involved. There's an unholy alliance against the club of the jazz lovers, disappointed by the programme and the prices, and the accountants who probably think the programme too "jazzy".
It would be great if Ronnie's doesn't die in jazz terms. We have had too many London venues close recently - the Spitz and Pizza On The Park to name but two, while the Pizza Express programme is patchy. (Who wants THREE weeks of Acoustic Alchemy in December? However, watch out for a F-IRE festival and Dutch jazz festival in January!) Less jazz at Ronnies really dilutes the options to hear jazz in London in the short term at least. However, extending a point that Howard Mandel makes about the changing New York venue scene, rents mean that jazz may well be impossible to run in the centre of town and it's going to be more and more in places a little bit away, such as 606 or the Vortex, where consistent jazz will take place. Other West End venues will dabble in good quality jazz, such as the newly reopened Marquee which intends to have jazz on Sunday evenings. Though, sad to say, the Museum of Garden History, which has put on some great gigs over the past two years, has also finally closed its jazz programming
Jazz music, and its proponents, know how to survive, and find the wherewithall to do so. Just because Ronnie Scott's is failing, or that Jamie Cullum's last album sold a fraction of the previous, doesn't signify its failure. Look at the scene and energy in the colleges, and at the small venues. I am really excited by the programme at the Vortex over coming weeks (Andy Sheppard, John Taylor, David Torn, Dave Liebman in January) and the release schedule for Babel in early 2008 (Outhouse, Bourne Davis Kane, Paula Rae Gibson, Big Air), not forgetting the runaway success of Portico Quartet over recent weeks.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily bode well for certain bigger scale collaborations in the future, but that's something for another posting...