Friday, December 29, 2006

Where will the money come from?

It's not easy getting grants from anyone, as we know only too well at the Vortex. I think that too many of the bureaucrats are getting too distant from the realities of where the music is happening. For example, at the Vortex, the original Lottery application was turned down. So was the application for money for the opening of Gillett Square, Andy Sheppard's Dalston Saxophone Massive. In both cases, it was due to a scepticism as to whether the venue, or the particular event, would succeed. Similarly, when we had a meeting at the Vortex with the Arts Council, the first thing that was suggested was that the football season during the World Cup could not have succeeded. Of course the opposite was true - the season covered its costs from the first day, and apart from one game, there were never fewer than 50 people there.
By contrast, we receive individual sums of money at random but fast. One night recently, we got £1700 (!) from two particular people just because they enjoyed the night and we had told them of our needs.
In part, it's a matter of a lack of trust and lack of ability to understand the risks involved. Also, we have only once had an Arts Council official come to the Vortex (Denys Baptiste came to support Nikki Yeoh).
In fact, the Vortex does better as a "regeneration" project. That's where the money for the building and the Square have come from. The great benefit to the Vortex is that they just let us get on with booking the bands whom we want to book.
Not that I'm against the principle of funding from the Arts Council or other similar bodies. It's a good discipline. Nevertheless, it's taken nearly 6 months to get the form applying for money for the piano complete, because we don't have the resources to finish it properly, and there's too much else to do.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Return from Amsterdam - Dutch Jazz Meeting

Just returned from a showcase of jazz in Amsterdam, where I was invited along with 80 other promoters from all round the world to hear some of the latest out of Holland. What a difference in government commitment to that in the UK!

First, that they actually make such an effort to invite people to check out the jazz of moment. Second, that they give it a high artistic priority, in their international activities. Third, that they have made such a stron investment in the Bimhuis. I hadn't been to the new one before, but it's amazing, overlooking the city with a huge picture window behind the band, great acoustics and comfortable seats. It takes a long-term, almost indefinite, view to support such a venture.

Contrast that with the UK. The Vortex got going on no direct public funding, and certainly is dependent 100% on self-generated income for survival. (The equivalent at the Bimhuis is 25% raised from door income and bar.) And people are hardly aware of any new trends in UK jazz at present. I spoke with a father and son from Timisoara who run a festival. In the 10 years that the festival is running they had had no contact with anyone about UK jazz whatsoever.

A few of the bands might be feasible to have perform at the Vortex. I felt that many were in general still 1 or 2 years away from being well enough developed, though I was impressed by their energy, especially some of the young guys. The problem at the Vortex will remain that people still don't come to such gigs based on quality and curiosity alone. It would be good to change people's minds on the matter.

I understand that Gwilym Simcock is worried that, based on a recent comment in the Evening Standard, he might not get gigs at Ronnie Scott's. As John Cumming of Serious pointed out to me, would he really want one anyway with Ronnies being what it is at present?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What to look for in UK jazz in 2007

I was wondering about trends for 2007, both positive and negative.

1) 2007 will see the continued development in the UK of the BAND as opposed to just the musicians playing together. Following on the lead of Partisans, as well as Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland, bands like Led Bib and Fraud (both with albums out on Babel early in 2007), Outhouse from the Loop Collective and Empirical (to come out on Courtney Pine's label) will mash things up. With uncompromising music, they are nevertheless getting through to audiences of all ages. When I heard Outhouse on Monday at the Loop Collective night at the Oxford in Kentish Town, there were probably only 10% of the audience over the age of 30!
2) A number of musicians will move beyond the "promising" stage and really assert their presence. Three particular to mention are Robert Mitchell, Tom Arthurs and Tom Cawley.
3) We are seeing a flowering of top young bass players, an area where UK jazz has been lacking over recent years. Larry Bartley, Tom Mason, Phil Donkin, Johnny Brierley to name a few.
4) The media, funders and record industry will continue to fail to realise these positive trends. The first (especially newspapers) because they are only looking for short-term gimmicks, the second because this music mainly occurs below their radar and the funders are too lazy and risk averse; and the third because they do not have the adequate resources. (This is not to knock the work done by labels such as Babel, Basho and others, but we are all too small and insignificant! The scene has never properly recovered from the demise of Mactwo.)