Saturday, February 18, 2012

The power of grass roots on jazz- a French example

In France there have been two campaigns afoot. One is to change to funding scheme and set up a Centre Nationale de la Musique. Mired in politics, it follows from a report commissioned by Sarkozy, who was pressed by the whining of the major labels. Maybe they were refusing to put out a new album by his missus?

That gives more money and power to the major labels. Both main political parties are committed to the change. It will entail money coming from ISPs to fund music, but is, based on the way so far described, going to used to prop up recordings and their dissemination primarily. Musics such as jazz, dependent on live performance for starters, are difficult to categorise.

Jazz was left out of this discussion and organisations like Afijma, the French jazz festival organisation and of which the Vortex is an associate member, are fighting a strong rearguard action to try and save some of their position and not be dismissed as niche or marginal. Good luck in the battle to get recognised by M. Sarkozy and his friends. I'm preparing a discussion about this for a seminar soon, and, in the same way, that I put up my slides from the Lost London Jazz Venue talk, I'll put this up when I have it.

On the other hand, the campaign launched by pianist Laurent Coq last year and described in Londonjazz seems to be bearing fruit. He, Pierre de Bethmann and journalist and broadcaster Alex Dutilh were commissioned by Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterand, to write a report on the state of jazz. I have received a copy and can let anyone have it if they wish. (Email me.) If it were in English, it would read almost exactly the same. They did this in TWO months with the full help of the jazz scene (musicians, labels, promoters etc.). The upshot is going to be a new training scheme for young jazz musicians and a new venue to be dedicated to jazz. An empty theatre in La Villette, which can be used by the Orchestre National de Jazz as a base and with 2 halls, one for 500 and one for 150. The trio of Coq, de Bethmann and Dutilh will now be pressing for all the political parties in the election to ensure that these ideas are properly recognised.

A similar debate is now taking place also in Germany, following on from an article by Michael Hornstein in Sueddeutsche Zeitung's weekend edition of 21 January claiming that jazz has no relevance in today's society. It's stimulating debate, such as a summary by the ever-lucid Michael Ruesenberg, or an article saying that "Jazz has it.... NOT!"
It would be good if the grassroots campaign started by Jazz Open Space and also described in Londonjazz could bear similar fruit. Does Jeremy Hunt have similar open ears for jazz? It would be good to think so. Or even the Arts Council?

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