Monday, March 30, 2009

Who gets the coverage?

I did a rough and ready analysis of Jazzwise covers to see who gets on. It particularly shows, I think, what the public recognise easily in jazz. Rather than necessarily who the innovators are at any time.
I did it because I believe strongly that the great unsung innovators are pianists and also that the rhythm section gets underestimated in terms of being at the centre.
Based on covers that I pulled randomly out from a box where I had them stored. Artists on more than one cover are counted again (e.g. Ravi Coltrane, Seb Rochford).
Saxophone 14 (40%), Vocalist 5 (14.3%), Drums 4(11.4%), pianists 3(8.6%), trumpeters 3 (8.6%), bassists 2 (2.9%), bands 2 (2.9%), guitarist 1 (1.4%), trombonists and sundry instruments 0
I am particularly surprised that only guitarist at that time got on the cover (Pat Metheny). For there to be a lot of saxophonists doesn't really surprise me, as it is probably the instrument most associated with jazz by the general public and indeed most of the saxophonists are actually playing or holding a saxophone.
Any conclusions that can be drawn? I leave it to you, dear reader.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jazz on German radio

Peter Bacon's Jazzbreakfast writes about jazz in the media in the UK. I have just received a report on jazz on German radio, by Bernd Hoffmann of WDR. Not only are there over 300 hours of jazz a month on German radio, but much of it is before 9 p.m. and there are so many festivals and live recordings. The quality of presenters is also incredibly high. Of the new generation, I know Guenther Huesmann, Karsten Muetzelfeldt, Michael Ruesenberg. Fantastically thorough and thoughtful. Oh to have more of that here. The best journalists too often move on, as the money is to be earned elsewhere. Classic example is Richard Williams, as lead sports writer on the Guardian.
In the mean time, we are reliant on too scant coverage. As Peter points out, the blogs are beginning to fill the gap. As well as his and that of Seb Scotney, check out The Jazz Mann and Chris Parker on the Vortex web site.
If you want a copy of the report, contact me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri's new book is now out. Hear an interview with him on BBC's Front Row here by clicking on listen again for Tuesday. The new album, on the Vortex imprint, will be out in time for his gig at Hay-on-Wye in May.
He describes nicely that he is both an author and musician but the former has become better known. "This is not fusion" is the playful side of his brain.

British jobs for British people? Maybe Wynton needs to change nationality.

The new regulations for work permits mean that the Vortex is now "recognised licenced sponsor" for work permits for non-EU and non-EEA nationals allowing the club to bring in musicians. It's a minefield as this article from spiked shows. It included a 90 minute grilling from 3 members of the Home Office Border Agency. (Maybe "grilling" is too strong a word, as they were actually very polite.)
Amongst other things, they insisted that we keep information on those musicians who have the right to work in UK, who might play in the club regularly (such as Gene Calderazzo, Jean Toussaint).
Even though a permit is now only £10 a musician, the additional controls are troublesome. We have already had one band being put off coming. Andy Robbins, who books for the Jazz Cafe, also told me of a tour that has just collapsed because of the new regulations.
Of course, the Vortex will just continue to book bands, and will book what it can. However, it is important for the club to have in its programme the likes of Tim Berne and others who set the standards and give the music an impetus, as well as collaborations such as Big Air, which could only exist by having Jim Black and Myra Melford working with Chris Batchelor and Steve Buckley. The same music takes on a totally different shape when played by a different constellation of musicians, as we know only too well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Which is more important - the recording or the concert?

An article in the New Yorker suggests that, by giving away CDs or downloads, the recording is less important than the live performance. You can read the article here.
Certainly this is a change for the pop world over the last decade, when, in the old world, the recording was the way of earning money and the labels would give money to support the tour to act as publicity for selling the CD.
In reality, BOTH are important, as, in my view, is also the music itself. However little may be earned in the near term from a recording it is also important for documenting and putting a certain alternative way of hearing the music.
What the pop world has moved to is only where jazz has been, and is, for many years. That's why, so often, musicians have been heard by more people live than by their recordings. For too long, in the pop world, they forgot what the live performance could give to an audience.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who gains when the CDs come out of copyright?

There is a battle going on about whether to increase the labels' ownership of recordings to 95 years (as recommended now by the EU) from the present 50.
The argument from the (big) labels is that a limited life of ownership inhibits the incentive to release new music. In fact, I wonder if they are only wanting the extension because we are coming up to 50 years since the real explosion of money earning for labels, in particular the Beatles (out of copyright in 2013 onwards).
If we look at the amount of great jazz stuck away in the "vaults" (i.e. currently unavailable on CD), it is lamentable. Two major examples: Windmill Tilter, the first release of music by Kenny Wheeler (made for the Dankworth Orchestra) and the last Loose Tubes album (Open Letter to Dudu Pukwana). And the list goes on.

Labels think that they are doing a service to themselves, in the hope that one day they'll make a killing. However, when the albums come out of copyright, we have seen them often properly remastered and made widely available. The music gets the respect it deserves, instead of just being a commodity.
In my shop, I have been selling 4 classic albums by the likes of Jimmy Giuffre and Count Basie for just £5 each. I have particularly had pleasure from listening to Giuffre, who was one of the main influences on the existence of ECM.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Tower of Babel

Having just been to the Babylon exhibition at the British Museum, I was particularly fascinated by the Tower of Babel story. I had hoped that the most iconic image of it, that by Brueghel, would be there. It was, but only in reproduction.
I was quite intrigued about thinking about the whole idea of one language of music and the attempt to subvert and make communication difficult, which God seemed to prefer. Let's try and make sure that the religious lot don't achieve the same with regard to Babel?
Nice little video about the Tower here.
I found overall the concept of the exhibition intriguing, but a bit thin on artefacts. It seemed to be driven by the political, given that Babylon is in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Otomo Yoshihide

I went to hear Otomo Yoshihide at Cafe Oto, round the corner from the Vortex on Ashwin Street. Great venue, which has created a lovely vibe for hearing creative music.
My anticipation turned into disappointment. He fiddled around on the peripheries of music. Low hum, leading to repetitions from the inside groove of an LP etc. The sound of police cars and mobile phones had a greater impact at times. Perhaps he works better responding and reacting to other musicians. What am I missing? There was a large audience there. Were they feeling hoodwinked or exhilarated? I didn't stay long enough to ask.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The star rating revisited

The reaction to the 5 stars in The Guardian, along with a review in Saturday's FT was dramatic. Over 60 orders online - and still they come in. Just great to get people to be aware of the Babel stuff too. If they'd just gone into a shop then they would have bought the album and someone else near them alphabetically, e.g. Ayler.
Meanwhile, I spoke to Paul Clarvis about his Starry Starry Night album with Liam Noble. Sound quality, recorded at Abbey Road, matches up to the musical quality. I congratulated him on the range of reviews achieved over the past week - Guardian, Times, FT etc. His reaction was one of disappointment, as none of them seemed to get what the album was about. They were all 3 stars. I suppose he wonders if people are going to buy it with the wrong awareness of what's going on. (You can make up your mind if you want to buy it from our Babel shop on Gillett Square, where it's one of the opening offers!)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Big Air, 5 star review
Buy it from our shop in Gillett Square, the Vortex or online from the Babel web site.

As I like to sometimes look at philosophy behind these things, I think that I should soon have something about the rating for album reviews, the difference between the official line between magazines and the individual writers etc. Watch this space....

Thursday, March 05, 2009

We love Hackney?!

I was just down at Charlie Wrights yesterday evening to hear the wonderful Golden Age Of Steam. The venue has been temporarily closed by Hackney Council because of noise complaints. Zhenya at least is finding other places in the area in order to continue with his imaginative programming down there.
What is it about this Council? On the one hand, so much of their publicity enthuses over its cultural creativity. But this story doesn't seem to be getting through to the other parts of the Council. I understand that there have already been mutterings about the need to get rid of the Banksy in Gillett Square.
We would love, at the Vortex, to get a 2 a.m. licence so that we can extend our music programming with additional experimentation. Will we get it? Watch this space.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Banksy image by the Vortex

A new Banksy graffiti has just appeared in Gillett Square. Kid with boombox and teddy bear.
The opposite end of the Square from the Vortex. I note that it's the first new Banksy since last Autumn. And it was even done next to a CCTV!
I gather that it's getting increasingly difficult for the Council to remove these things immediately. Although they are the freeholder, the lease is with Hackney Co-operative Developments. Who won't give it up easily.
Long may it remain.