Monday, July 27, 2009

Is jazz helped by gimmickry

By which I mean pandering to what might create publicity, such as a commission or a festival.
The commission - a way for promoters to get a bit of a high from getting something different. Often from a festival. Barry Green told me yesterday that a band that he was in was encouraged to do a commission from a festival. It meant a whole change in the nature of the band. Extra musicians, time spent writing and rehearsing (which could have been better used for honing and improving). And the result was something played once and never again.
A festival is also a way of providing a gimmick and a sop for something that continues 365 days a year. Is it enough to just get the jazz "fix" over a few days or, in the case of the latest Britjazz festival at Ronnie Scott's, two weeks. The Olympics are going on about something called "legacy". We need that, at least from festivals, and also the link to the past that's also going on. For example, I introduced gigs at the last year's London Festival by saying, for example, "Day 8 of the London Jazz Festival and Day 320 of the Vortex Jazz Festival". It's a year round thing. As it is indeed for the musicians.

Friday, July 24, 2009

And then two come along at the same time

Not buses, but Tom Arthurs on BBC Radio 3 twice today. And before midnight!
Once - and just as I am writing this - with Richard Fairhurst and then later today improvising with Julie Sassoon.
My gosh, when you look at the write-up, the BBC tries as hard as possible to show that it's jazz without using the word. "scope for improvising" etc. Hmm

And of course the real person coming twice, rather than my old friend/enemy the 210.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A few brief twitter thoughts

I have been on Twitter for a few weeks and find it quite intriguing - for much of the time. I like the information that is sent through much of the time.
But two things get me:
1) those people who are regarded as "icons", such as Stephen Fry, who are allowed to judge things in a few words and are hung on to. Even to the extent that he is being used to recommend world music albums by p.r.'s. (Well, I like Stephen Fry a lot, and like much of what he says, but not that religiously.)
2) People come to snap judgements and write up instant reactions at the wrong times. Perhaps they should sometimes take some time to digest things or listen again. I was reading, on the BBC web site how the instant comments to Bruno were enough to kill box office by Day 2 and also the latest U2 album.Not a good thing for jazz, where the devil can be in the detail and the second, third or fourth listenings can be revelatory.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Led Bib

Great that Led Bib has been nominated for the Mercury Prize with their new album Sensible Shoes.
With Babel of course (see photo above)
Close contacts with the Vortex. They launched their first album there, did a festival in the lead-up to recording Sizewell Tea (on Babel) and have played there regularly.
It's interesting that they don't come out of the regular London "conservatoire" circle but from Middlesex University, where they were taught by Loose Tubes alumni Chris Batchelor and Stuart Hall, with means a strong dose of the music of Hermeto Pascoal, amongst others.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Iconic singers

Every country/style has an iconic singer who creates emotion like no other for that style. Often they are female, and often they are now dead. Very few are in jazz.
Youtube is great in that we can at least now check them out.
So here are a few:

Amalia Rodrigues.(Beautiful enough to make one cry and understand the meaning of saudades.)

Om Khaltoum. (When I went to Yemen a few years ago, there was even a channel on the plane dedicated just to her.)

Elis Regina (here with the Father Christmas of jazz, Hermeto Pasocal. Amazing to think that, if she were alive today, she'd be just 64.

and of course Billie Holiday

Too many more to list. But I'd be interested for any thoughts, especially UK ones.
Suddenly thought. What about Sandy Denny?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful!?

I have heard of a number of stories about jazz's survival recently. Copenhagen Jazz House has been given £250,000 by Nordea Foundation, linked to a Danish bank; Jazz Times is about to re-emerge after being suspended; Jazz Journal has been reborn having merged with Jazz Review. Meanwhile, the Vortex has been given a large grant from an individual to pay for its piano.
Why is this happening in a recession? Hard to guess, but probably it's to do with jazz continuing to be a meaningful music, being played to a high level, whatever the economic environment. So, for that reason, it encourages people to give it money. (Certainly, nothing to do with public funding.)
There's a fantastic sense of community and all this clearly is leading to survival of the music in relatively satisfactory surrounds.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Festivals, festivals

I have just come back from Copenhagen Jazz Festival, lucky enough to be there for 3 days. 100 gigs a day, and over 80% by Danish musicians. The whole city is overrun by jazz. Perhaps the rising preponderance of local musicians is due to economic stringencies, but there is also a great sense of pride in the local scene. Local musicians working with the legendary Yusef Lateef and Palle Mikkelborg celebrating Aura. What's more many of these gigs are free to get in, especially those in the open air. Such as in the square next to the university at Frue Plads or in the N.C Orstedt park near the hotel, where I heard a free improv band including Lotte Anker. Yet playing to several hundred.
The city takes advantage of the fact that much of it is all within walking distance within the old town. Not a cheap town and there seem to be cafes everywhere. In fact, both jazz record shops, Jazzcup and Jazz Kaelderen, seem to be as important as places to eat and drink as to buy music. Well, why not? Jazz is about atmosphere and why not make buying the music as good a part linked to the ambiance as anything else.