2009 – Jazz is alive and well and living in Europe
We hear so much about the demise of jazz; we know of the difficulties
we all face – more young musicians being trained at college and
universities, with fewer clubs in which to play; appallingly paid gigs
that often barely pay for transportation costs. The unequal government
subsidies favouring other arts like opera, licensing restrictions brought
in a government policy if any venue or restaurant hires more than two
musicians. This is particularly unfair when DJ's (who are not musicians)
are hired for whom licences are not required playing recorded music, replacing
struggling musicians who are.
But despite this there are a younger generation of musicians whom I have
recently heard, do not seem deterred by such difficulties, and I am more
impressed than I have been for many years. There has of course always
been a group of jazz musicians, that I knew when they were first coming
on to the scene; they now provide a great backbone, not only to British
jazz but in supporting the new young generation of players. Ian Shaw,
Lianne Carroll and Claire Martin come to mind as well as Gary Crosby and
the bands that he has founded and nourished.
In July 2009 it was heartening to hear some of these new talented musicians
at the Yamaha/All Parliamentary Jazz scholarship awards . When this chosen
group began playing, the very first tune was Lennie Tristano's "317
E 32nd St". It showed that these young musicians recognised a great
jazz musician from the nineteen fifties, one whose music has been somewhat
overlooked in recent years. This composition was named after Lennie's
famous studio in downtown Manhattan. It was an ambitious piece to commence
with, and was a masterful performance.
In November we were kindly invited to the 50th year celebration of jazz
at the Bull's Head in Barnes and heard two especially remarkable performances.
Following the first set of the evening with such stalwarts as John Critchenson,
Martin Drew, Vic Ash and Andy Cleyndert, we were treated to a total musical
contrast with the duo of vocalist Elisha Caleb and, her guitarist husband
Joe. It was refreshing to hear the combination of standards and originals.
But for me the evening was topped by what I can only describe as the sort
of energy I knew in those clubs on New York's 52nd in the late nineteen
forties and early fifties. Led by multi saxist Yolande Brown. She gave
an incredible performance as did the entire group. And what is more the
band was totally supportive, listening and playing together as one.
There is new blood coming to British jazz. Steve Rubie of the 606 club
in Chelsea voiced a similar opinion, commenting on how the younger generation
of musicians are so supportive of each other. You could see and hear that
in the performance by Yolande and her group.
It is a new kind of openness that I sense in this young generation . Sometimes
they write to me, just wanting to talk about jazz. No side, no angst,
no concern about looking "the man". It is great to sense that
connection and I must particularly thank guitarist Dave Preston and Moses
Boyd for going out on limb to try and meet up with me. I had the chance
recently to play with Dave when Ian Shaw invited me up to the stand at
the 606. It didn’t escape me that as I walked onto the stand Dave
quietly played the first few bars of Lennie Tristano's "Line Up"
a recording on which I was the Bass Player. A mark of respect I felt.
And it is not only in the UK that I see the energy of a new young generation.
In July I was in France – in Auvers sur Oise and went to a concert
in a local restaurant -"Sous le Porche" and there were two Polish
musicians playing with French friends, again I felt that intensity that
I knew back in those days of the fifties in New York. It seems clear that
there is also a pool of jazz talent emerging from Eastern Europe and also
the Middle East.
Is it just me or do others see it too? Let's hope that UK radio, TV and
the print media pick up on this. I am also personally addressing this
to Waterstones at Richmond, for bookstores often fail to stock a range
of available books concerning jazz – to me this is inexcusable!
Peter’s Blog –
Memories of 2008 – My 80th year celebrations
We have recently been looking at the footage of all
our jazz celebrations last year. It was not until we were compiling the
book about the club I owned and ran in the 80s and 90s – the Bass
Clef in Hoxton Square – that I realised we had hardly any photos
of that time. (Since then fortunately some of the jazz photographers like
Tim Motion and Brian O’Connor have generously provided some images
of the club.) Anyway it meant that for my 80h birthday celebrations last
year Sue spent most of her time behind a camcorder taking footage of the
events. And really it is wonderful to have all those memories.
There is obviously the excitement of the big events.
Publishing the book on the Environment in January was a major milestone
in my life for me. The launch of five new CDs at the 606 club in Chelsea
in March gave the Wave label some new vigour. Producing the booklet for
the exhibition of paintings at the Karen Taylor gallery in London in June
has given me a calling card unlike any other! The generosity of Ronnie’s
club letting me have the birthday party at Ronnie Scott’s Upstairs
Bar in July was given an even greater celebratory feel with the Gay Pride
march all around us. Then in July for my birth date over to play a thank
you concert with young jazz musicians in Auvers sur Oise, France, where
we live now for part of the year. Even the refusal of the Immigration
officers to let Lee Konitz in to the UK to play our concert at the 606
club in September had one redeeming feature – I met again old jazz
colleagues - Dave Cliff, Iain Ballamy - as well as the younger musicians
– Kit Downes and Gwilym Simcock. It made the later concert in November
with Lee even more treasured. Personally I will always remember being
a part of the International Bass Players biennale convention in Paris,
hearing François Rabbath – a truly unique bass player - and
being invited to play again with Rufus Reid in the concert in one of the
incredible architectural gems of Paris at the Théàtre du
Châtelet as a very special event. A final concert at Sunside in
Paris all organised by the group of young French musicians that I have
found so enthusiastic and supportive – Michel Goldberg, David Georgelet,
Alain Jean Marie and Laura Littardi - was the final highlight of 2008!
But it is also the unexpected aspects of these celebrations
that we can still see and hear. We were able to fund 5 special CDs and
one of those was – to me – an incredible piano duo of Matt
Ross and Eddie Thompson – two great British jazz musicians. It has
meant that even though Matt sadly left us in the summer of 2009 there
is a record of his playing forever. Simon Purcell invited me to do a Master
Class at Trinity College in June 2008 and it is clear that there is a
lot of talent coming through, which needs great support from older jazz
musicians. For my part it has meant being asked to be a patron –
along with Michael Connarty MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary
Jazz Support Group - of the Yamaha Jazz Education programme and going
to see the next generation of jazz musicians being recognised.
All those personal memories I will never forget
because I can see them on video clips. It made me think that we need in
the UK to record, recognise and celebrate much more all the jazz events!