Monday, December 22, 2008

New Babel releases for 2009

The following have been confirmed for early 2009. Not too many, but great all the same.
Big Air - Chris Batchelor, Steve Buckley, Oren Marshall, Myra Melford, Jim Black. Already selected as a CD of the year by Jazz on 3!
Zed-U. Shabaka Hutchings, Neal Charles, Tom Skinner. They were in the studio at the weekend and the album will be ready for April.
Amit Chaudhuri - author and musician, known more for his writing and commentaries but also able to move easily between and raag, jazz and blues.
More soon on the Babel web site.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The recession. Should jazz be worried?

It's strange that, over recent months, I have moved from being a big pessimist to a degree of optimism for jazz. I think - and hope - that jazz is well placed to weather the stormy recession clouds and storms. The Financial Times should be regarded as being printed on blood, and not pink, coloured paper!
Nevertheless, at the Vortex it's possibly the best December since the club reopened in Dalston, and the programme for 2009 looks really promising. My little shop is beginning to work out, as I now have an array of music available, both directly related to the club and also by many others, e.g. from elsewhere in Europe. Of course, that only happens because my requirements, financially, are relatively modest. I still haven't, though, got enough to justify paying someone when I'm not around! (So, when I was in Amsterdam at the Dutch Jazz Meeting at the weekend, I probably missed sales at the Acoustic Ladyland gig etc.)
Jazz has quality and value to it. It may seem trivial at a time of boom where there are quick bucks to be made elsewhere. But during the recession, it has a longevity that people will look towards.
There are problems, of course. The bankruptcy of distributor Pinnacle and Brecon Jazz Festival, the problems of Zavvi (via EUK), show that we are not immune. A lot of jazz musicians will suffer in terms of a few hundred pounds here and even perhaps a few thousand. This is concerning. But their commitment and flexibility will hopefully see many of them through.
Larger events, reliant on subsidy and grant, are also vulnerable. I have heard some worrying stories about private sponsors of festivals, as well as seeing how foundations and companies are cutting back. Not because of their respect of liking of the music. Just because of the exigencies that the recession brings.
The strength of the music is its ability to be flexible and look for the opportunities. Those who grew in the hope that the boom years would help out and continue are likely to be those who suffer most and have to adapt most.
I keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And now the good news....?

It's been a perverse year at Babel. When the economy was doing well, it was a drag on our activities having to sort out some of our payments to musicians. Now that the recession has hit good and proper, things are moving in a positive direction, for reasons that I can't yet fathom.
Portico Quartet's CD has continued to sell and sell, and it was a delight to see them at a sold-out ICA on Wednesday, confident and with some exciting new material and effects. It's probably Babel's best selling CD of all time by now!
The Vortex's piano has now been paid off, thanks to an individual act of generosity. With a further substantial donation by another "friend" to come, it means that almost certainly the club can weather the recession.
Finally, at a time when the retail music sector is in meltdown (more on the Pinnacle/New Note/Cadiz story unfolding soon), I have opened a Babel shop at the Vortex! Between the Nigerian travel agent and Somali qat seller. More a jazz deli than a supermarket, I feel that it's time to go back to basics and directness.
I have many CDs of the young jazz generation who perform regularly at the Vortex. Blink, John Randall, Amit Chaudhuri to name a few who are otherwise unavailable.
Why the (relative) optimism? My first thought is that at a time of recession like this, jazz is no longer peripheral. Quality and value are two important elements that spring to mind. It's music that can repay constant revisiting. Yet costs the same or less than other entertainments around. (My local cinema is more expensive than a usual Vortex gig.)