Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where does the money come from?

According to today's FT, the main private sponsorship of the arts is to London and outside has suffered. Local corporate sponsorship is really difficult to get in the regions - there's less of it. So, for jazz and music, I can see that more of this sponsorship would be geared to festivals, because it makes a bigger splash in media terms than the "drip drip" of helping a smaller venue.
Similarly in London for a club like The Vortex. Dalston is in the regions as much as Dewsbury.
So two conclusions are reached in my view for now. First, public funding should be geared to helping the day-to-day. Second, the best way to fill the gap for a venue is to promote the voluntary activity and door money, i.e. lots of small amounts of money from individuals rather than large lumps. Much as the latter are desirable and not to be ignored, the work is harder to find it and grab hold of it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brit jazz

What a horrid name! But it seems to have stuck. And by making a festival, Ronnie Scotts is to be applauded for focussing on this scene for the next weeks. It's the tip of a vibrant iceberg of jazz!
I hope that it is not forgotten that British jazz is not to be thought of as something that only emerges when it hits Ronnie's in this way, or for the 10 days of the London Jazz Festival.
 People need to be reminded that there is jazz year round at places like the Vortex, 606 and Bull's Head where, between them, the programmes cover the musicians featured at Ronnie's. Ronnie Scott's puts on many of them anyway as the year goes on. And then all the other venues, like The Hideaway.
Musicians in the scene run the risk of being relegated to a few festival gigs a year. We have fewer and fewer club venues or similar. Especially with knowledgeable part-timers like Leeds Jazz pulling out.  We need the chance for musicians to play all over the place all year round.
I have been hearing great reactions to the quality of the scene here from a few people abroad, such as from Skopje and Strasbourg. We don't - yet - have to travel that far to hear our own local guys.
(By the way, surprised that Christine Tobin hasn't been booked for it. Maybe put her at the top of the list for 2011, Simon and Paul?)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Well done, Kit

So good that the Mercury Prize once again recognises a top quality musician like Kit Downes. However, it should not be regarded as the only style that Kit is involved with. He is such a perennially curious soul whos is fuelled by music. And the more he seems to experience, the better it becomes. So, neither is it the only side of Kit, and nor should it be viewed as the definitive. Take the work that he is doing with Golden Age of Steam (with a new album on Babel) and Barbacana.
Also we must not forget the record labels involved. All the jazz releases who have received recognition over the past decade or so have been on small UK labels. And certainly none have been dismissed by the Mercury Prize as "token" - that's something to be left to a few ignorant pop journalists. Jazz is an important element of the UK music scene which is in a very dynamic state. Many musicians elsewhere are using jazz musicians themselves or return to jazz as a way of developing new ideas. Examples include the likes of Fyfe Dangerfield who also is involved with The Gannets.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New York is where so much is at?

Going to North Sea Festival for the First time, what struck me was the focus given to much of the New York scene - or rather Brooklyn, as they want to call it at present. And how good much of it is. I already went with 2 nights of Vijay Iyer ringing in my ears from the Vortex so was already convinced.
Rudder, Darcy James Argue, John Escreet, Jason Lindner.....
Following in the steps of 2 key men, in my eyes. Steve Coleman and Tim Berne.
But what amazes me is the extent to which they haven't got through to audiences. Is it a Stuart Nicholson effect, who has been playing down New York for several years, or some other reason. We have tremendous trouble at the Vortex in selling gigs by Vijay, or Craig Taborn, to the extent that we should. If not at the Vortex, these musicians otherwise are tending not to be p,aying Ronnie Scott's or similar large spaces. But rather Charlie Wright's, or even small bars. Why?
It's not for lack of welcome exposure on Radio 3 or from jazz journalists, such as Kevin Le Gendre, or from other musicians, eg Phronesis working with Mark Giuiliana and Outhouse with Hilmar Jensson.
Thoughts please. Cos they should be being heard regularly, and selling out, in London.

Technology moves on - web sites and podcasts

There's the first Vortex podcast now available here. Not perfect yet, but a start indeed, especially as one can get music and information. With less and less time relatively available on traditional radio, podcasts (as well as internet radio) provide a way forward. Unfortunately, you have to look and find. So there's an element of luck in getting hold of many. But having a podcast around with a chance of it being found is better than nothing at all.
Downstairs at the Vortex - the bar and cafe owned by your truly as a tenant of the club upstairs btw-  has also come of age with its own web site ready (after a gestation period almost longer than for a human baby). Check it out here.
Web sites are important even for food. When my godson Tommy was looking for lists of good restaurants he eliminated some (even one run by a chef whose cookbook his father uses). Why? Because he didn't like the web site. So it's no longer just about the food.
But of course being a cafe that does more than food or a jazz club that does more than jazz are anyway the case with the Vortex and Downstairs. With more and more happening out in Gillett Square and our own events springing out organically from the position in the Vortex and also an enthusiastic staff. Such as the Portavilion on Saturday and the Sound Advice festival on Sunday.
Meanwhile we have some table tennis tables arriving next weekend as part of the Ping London event. However, due to Cyril, dj and barman (as well as rower and motivator in football academies), for us it's become Ping Brazil with capoeira and samba to accompany the tat  tat tat of the ball on table and bat.