JAZZ AT SCHOOL…
A HOMAGE TO CATALONIA!
by Trevor Stent
In this challenging article, Trevor Stent, leader of the Anglo French Good Time Jazz Band, focuses on the achievements of young jazz musicians in Europe, and raises the question “Why not in the UK?
The recent Jazz&Jazz feature, “Voila! Jazz à l’Ecole!” provoked great interest in our project here in Brittany which is going from strength to strength. However, it is as nothing compared to what is happening in Spain. There in 2009 a brilliant local jazz musician, Joan Chamorro, launched a jazz band in a school at St Andreu, a suburb of Barcelona.
Take a look at these two videos and you will see that the results are stunning.
Breathtaking! So many great young performers in just one school! There are many other clips of them on YouTube. And one of them has emerged as a true star. Her name is Andrea Motis and she plays trumpet and sax and sings like an angel. And she got 200,000 YouTube hits last year alone.
Just take a look at this one for starters. And read the CD review in the February, 2013, issue of Just Jazz magazine (page 10):
So why not in the UK?
The Barcelona and, to a lesser extent, the Brittany success story provoke several questions about jazz in the UK.
First, the music played by Joan, Andrea and her friends is based on the roots of our own music; it may well develop into other styles but it is clearly and firmly founded on the origins of jazz. I always get the impression that in the UK the roots of jazz have been disregarded or even despised. Indeed, the recent BBC programme “Jazz is Dead” confirmed this. Everything has to be “current” and “exploratory” which sadly usually mean self-indulgent pretension which interests nobody but the pretentious, young or old.
Secondly, many of the musicians playing traditional jazz in the UK have got to get real. The Tea Party Tendency among the British Traditional jazz movement has very nearly killed it off. The 1950’s have ended, get over it! Just because young musicians don’t sound like Ken Colyer, perform Tin Roof Blues every bloody night or play numbers written after 1930 doesn’t mean that they should not be encouraged and respected.
Linked to that are some very encouraging signs here in Europe (and I believe in the UK) that young people are turning to the roots of the music because so much of the “new” jazz played in the last thirty years is increasingly considered to be old-fashioned and unappealing.
Groups like “Caravan Palace” in France, “Good Night Circus” from Berlin (also appearing at Fest Jazz), the amazing “Flap!” from Australia and “Billy Not on Holiday” (seen here busking in Turkey) are very popular. I believe the upsurge in interest in Lindyhop dancing is also part of this groundswell.
These young groups tend not to play “The Chant” or sound like Chris Barber in 1957 but there is a spirit, a buzz and swing that is undeniable and it must not be despised.
A final thought…
There are I know some wonderful young musicians in the UK. I am awestruck by the talents of Jamie Brownfield, Amy Roberts and others but I have the impression they have emerged in spite of the UK jazz scene rather than because of it.
How many like Andrea Motis lie undiscovered in schools in the UK that don’t have a Joan Chamorro to find them?