Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jazz on German radio - part 2

Going to a seminar on jazz and film last week in Linz, run by Bernd Hoffmann of WDR, made me realise all the more the differences between radio in UK and in Germany, something I alluded to a while back
First, radio is able to be highly reactive to its environment and its musicians. For example in Linz, there was a small festival in a club called Cheeese (sic), which was recorded by ORF and WDR. So all six bands were recorded and the broadcast went out live or just delayed by a day or a few hours. Furthermore, one at least from Cologne, co-led by saxophonist Niels Klien, was a new Franco-German collaboration encouraged by WDR. How often can that happen over here? Not that often, where decisions at the BBC are made so centrally, the shows are much shorter and broadcast at graveyard times. Meanwhile the enthusiasm of the presenters and producers over there - not just Bernd Hoffmann but also the likes of Arne Schumacher of Radio Bremen or Guenther Huesmann - and their ability to translate ideas into practice is so different.
No wonder jazz over here remains so much in the hinterground.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The economy as a saxophone?

No, not something suggested by Terry Pratchett, but rather a description by Doug McWilliams - erstwhile colleague many years ago at the CBI - in yesterday's Financial Times to describe the shape of the economic recovery.
But which one? I presume he means an alto or tenor. But what about a baritone? Or even a bass with all its bends and stretches. That could be fun, but it would make the economy a bit of a rollercoaster ride! Try modelling that one, economists out there?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Record labels. A subject close to my heart!

Steve Lawson is a compulsive communicator. Through video, twitter and blog. Yet he still seems able to have time to make music.
Great on all fronts to follow, because 90% of what he writes is worth thinking about or reacting to.
So I read with interest his views on record labels. Which I sort of agree with. He sent a thought-provoking response to my own comment. Thought-provoking in that his positive comments about what Babel has achieved in terms of releases but (his perceived) lack of reaction to this from the artists.
Where do many musicians regard the album? A means of archiving? A quick fix from something that, because it is a "label", must be able to give them the same monetary return as an advance from Universal?
They therefore don't often look at the recording in its own terms, perhaps. I was delighted that Julian Arguelles for example recognised Skull View as his favourite recording. I indeed am proud of Julian's three albums for Babel between 1995 and 1997. they also focus so much on the here and now.
Last night we had the launch of Zed-U's new album at the Vortex. I think that they are doing something wholly unique in a manner that is totally balanced between the three musicians. Let's hope that people buy the album too, as that's the only way that I am going to get anything back from it.
Certainly, I would agree with the point of Steve that they have to realise that it's something that we work on together. There is for me a great and important partnership between the recording, the live performance and the music itself.
I am about to sit down and include on the web site all the accolades which Babel artists/releases have garnered over the past 15 years. There are a lot of them, I think. And I hope, enough to keep me inspired for the next 15 years of Babel - or perhaps I should just be looking to the next few hours.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Royal Opera House 17, Polar Bear 2

No, not a football score, but a contrast as to the number of rehearsals being undertaken for performances by Royal Opera House Orchestra for the new production of Berg's Lulu and by Polar Bear for their new recording.
Seb gave his band the music on Sunday, they played the Vortex on Monday and Tuesday and into the studio for a new album on Wednesday and Thursday.
Of course, it shows the difference in resources available between opera and jazz, but also shows the resources that are thought to be required between the two. Is the orchestra at Covent Garden really that poor to need so many rehearsals? I always thought that UK orchestras were renowned for their speed of learning of the most complex scores. Hence their use for so many recordings.
Seb not only feels, I am sure, that this is enough to retain the freshness of the music but also that he doesn't need more. (The studio in which they have recorded is also excellent value, with Sonny, the engineer, the man behind the Portico Quartet's first album and also recent work by Paula Rae Gibson.) But, hell, the Opera House clearly "needs" the money.....
I am knocked out by the speed with which jazz musicians learn parts and then deliver energy at their gigs. Something from which the administrators at the Opera House can learn?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Babel prize winners

It's great when musicians get recognised with prizes for their work. Kevin Le Gendre (with new Now's The Time compilation) and Phil Robson both won Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Ingrid Laubrock has won the prestigious SWR Jazz Prize.
Unlike the UK awards system, the German is recognised with a handsome sum of money (€15,000). By contrast I don't know of any UK awards that give more than a bit of local prestige. Even getting a major "gong" doesn't help pay the bills. Stan Tracey now has a CBE but, because he has a minimal pension, has to keep working at well over 80. Amusingly, I heard from Freddy Gavita, who won something at the British Jazz Awards, that he was notified of his award by text message and contact via Facebook. Not even a piece of paper!!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The print media - going through the agonies like music

I have just read on Howard Mandel's blog that Jazz Times could be folding. At least Jazz Journal survives, having merged with Jazz Review.
The print media sector is going through the same problems as music has been going through over the last 10 years in trying to adapt to digital and so on.
Initially they have tried to believe that free content will drive advertising revenues. This hasn't happened. It's all about the content really, and can they work out a way for the participants in the digital world to pay?
Then the two can co-exist side-by-side. I still love the feel of paper and look forward to the thrill of opening the morning paper or a new magazine. (Though I don't do it for the same reason as the guy who said that he first opens the Times to see if his obituary is in. If not, then he knows that the day can progress OK.)
How that is to be done, I don't know the answer to. Possibly micropayments, such as buying the individual articles (reviews) where they have the authority. Otherwise indeed all will migrate to blogs. That's OK for reviews , but certainly not good enough for longer thoughtful pieces. Both because of inadequate available investment to spend the time involved to get the topics right.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Music Market - 7 June

The next Music Market is on 7 June, in the Square next to the Vortex. Upstairs at 4 p.m.will be the London Jazz Orchestra performing Coltrane's Africa Brass. So why not make an afternoon of it?
Free to sell or attend.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Jazz sous les Pommiers

Jazz sous les Pommiers is a lovely way to spend a few days in May. A small town of just 10,000, they manage to sell out a hall of over 1,000 three times a day, as well as a theatre of 400 and a spiegeltent and many bars full of blues bands and whatever. Can you think of any festival here which might have a jazz fun run? Or have a chemist full of jazz posters?
Also some great gigs. Especially Dave Holland. Making the complex seem simple, he stands there with the most enormous grin from ear to ear for 90 minutes. And Branford Marsalis, using Justin Faulkner, just 18. In its way, Partisans is the UK equivalent of Branford's band. Even if it uses a guitar instead of piano. And of course both have Calderazzos in their band - Joey with Branford and elder brother Gene on drums with Partisans.
Django was there with StoRMChaser. And of course a sprinkling of French bands. (I enjoyed Emile Parisien. Very intense, very French.) BTW, if you look inside the CD of Django with StoRMChaser you discover that the title includes Rhythmic Music Conservatory's initials. It also includes the alternative suggestions by Eddie Parker, which were not used. Such as SpeRMCount! (Eddie always has been able to play with words. I recall that he discovered that an anagram of Bill Evans was Ball Veins. How appropriate.)
I also managed to see the Bayeux tapestry en route. One is a bit rushed through the tapestry itself, though it's an incredible artefact, in its history and descriptive powers. A shame that I was unable to spend time seeing the D Day beaches. I really enjoyed the tableaux of the battle and also the ships arriving in Hastings. Check out the decapitated body at the bottom of the frieze.