JAZZERS’ Debate No 2: Younger Jazz Bands and Musicians

EXAMINING FUTURE PROSPECTS


Jazzers’ Debate No 2


A Jazz Festival for Younger Bands?

Jazz Camps for Novice Musicians?

 

Initiator

DixieMix Jazzband

I just thought “Maybe us youngsters should start a jazz festival promoting younger bands?” But then that bypasses why I love playing the music so much – I get to share a stage, gain knowledge and listen to fantastic tales of ‘being on the road’ with guys who’ve been there and done it. Must be a happy medium? Simon

Peter Mark Butler Excellent thought and I take your point. So why not a festival of younger bands with a couple of older bands in guest slots? Worth some serious thought!

DixieMix Jazzband Possibly. That in essence is what I’ve tried to achieve with my band line up. Two stalwarts of The British jazz scene with four great younger guys (to carry their heavy items and dish out their tablets!!)

John Petters Simon, you raise an interesting idea. But you have hit the nail on the head. You gain knowledge and experience playing with older musos. I was in a similar position when I started playing. Everyone was older that I. I was lucky to find a few mentors. The other thing I considered a great privilege was to play with the few surviving veteran Americans, who taught me so much. I can remember being amazed at the gaps left in the playing of Wild Bill and Yank Lawson. There was an economy of notes. From Al Casey and Art Hodes, I got to appreciate laid back time. Records are great – and are the only option today – but that direct experience of working with these men was priceless. By the time I came on to the scene, few were left. They have all gone now.

Alyn Shipton Not quite all gone – Sir Charles Thompson will be 95 in March and he’s still playing in Japan with Yoshio Toyama among others.

DixieMix Jazzband  John. I’m with you 100%. You only get the real experience from the guys who have done it. Two gems of wisdom that have stuck with me from my first experiences of traditional jazz both came in New Orleans as a 13 year old boy! I was lucky (through a helpful introduction from Pat Halcox) to spend a lot of time with the excellent trumpeter Wendell Brunious – who had covered for Pat during his illness. Wendell gave me some great advice as I was having a lesson with him. Blowing my trumpet into the ground (trying to look cool!). He lifted my horn and pointed it out straight and said…  “you’re 13…. you have the cute factor! You can play what you like and everyone will think you’re cute cos you’re young, but boy, when you start to grow stubble you better be able to blow that horn cos you won’t have that on your side!” And if I hadn’t recovered from that, the following night we were at Preservation Hall and sat with the band on the side of the stage. The trombone play was Waldon ‘Frog’ Joseph he was well in to his 80’s and pretty frail. He turned to me as he saw me singing along and said “do you play?” As an enthusiastic 13 year old I replied “Yes… Yes. I play the trumpet!” “No you don’t!” he barked…… “you learn the trumpet! I’ve been playing 76 years and I’m still learning!!”

Super advice which I still remember and thats what I love about the music.

Many of my friends think I’m a little strange that I spend all my time hanging about with guys in their 70’s and 80’s but I count those musicians as far more genuine friends!

Jeff Matthews What a wise viewpoint Simon has. The traditional jazz scene has not died even though it is not the youth filled music of the 50’s and 60’s. It has matured. It is a community of young and old giving their talents to the music. Both learning and leaning on each other. In this way it is not separatist as the rest of the UK has become. Traditional jazz is not and in its pure form, was never ageist. The idea of having a young festival plus older well established bands is a better suggestion than having either just old bands or just young bands. As Jim Macintosh said, if I understood him correctly, we spend too much time analysing and becoming angst ridden about all of this and not enough time promoting and playing this great and happy music. Please stop putting the music into age groups – it’s is for everyone! Simon – you have it right.

John Petters Simon, you are indeed lucky. The advice you were given was sound. My friends thought I was strange. They were all into Hendrix etc and I was listening to hot jazz. I agree with Frog Joseph’s comment. First class. Keep listening.

DixieMix Jazzband Here’s an example of what we are all up against. This week I received an email from The Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Over the last 4 years we have done a total of 18 gigs for them on a cruiser on the Norfolk Broads. Every gig has in the past sold out (120 tickets).

This year the festival is dropping the jazz cruise!! They are Arts Council funded and not interested in helping local bands or popular acts. It’s such a shame for the area that they would rather bring in some chap on Mongolian Nostril flute to play to an audience of 5 than provide top class entertainment to full crowds!

Louis Lince As big an audience as 5!!! I doubt it!

DixieMix Jazzband I’m learning the nose flute ready for next year!!!

Steven Coombe If they are always sold out why not just run the gig yourself?

DixieMix Jazzband We are looking into it Steven. To run it at the same time. The only slight issue is that the Festival had an enormous advertising hit to over 100,000 with brochures. We cannot replicate that. But people I’m sure will be looking for the jazz boat around that time.

Peter Mark Butler 100,000 brochures and only one jazz boat, might well be pretty good odds. After all, the boat might capsize if you poached more than 120 fans!

DixieMix Jazzband We used to do two or three sailings each saturday throughout the festival.

John Petters Jeff, I think it is important to analyse the music we play. I did a residency in Zurich in the 80s. I always take music with me. Trevor Whiting, who you will know is an excellent player, did the same. It was the right stuff. Oliver, Armstrong, Basie Ellington, Goodman, etc. One of our band members brought music with him too – but it was a tape of his own recordings – and it showed in his playing!

Jeff Matthews John, totally agree on this. That is positive and forward moving and craftsmanlike and professional. I think it is vital for musicians to understand the history and the lives and the craft of those pioneers who developed it from basic concepts. But that is professional analysis of the tools we use. It is not the same as trying to divide the music into age groups. I am watching the BBC 2011 Proms right now. Great music. Great musicians and singers. What is important to this discussion is that there is a wide age range amongst these artists. I never have heard of anyone saying that all classical/symphony music has to be played by one age group to be successful. It is great to see young and old musicians sitting together, as a ‘family’ playing to their utmost ability – together. All having fun. As music should be. And each one has done their due diligence on the work bench for sure.

John Petters Yes Jeff, of all music, jazz isn’t an age thing. Historically musicians have always had respect for older players. Louis always acknowledged Oliver. Gene Krupa always stated Zutty, Baby and Tubby Hall were his early influences. What happened with ‘some’ musicians over here and in Europe is that they only heard Ball, Barber and Bilk and were not interested in going back to the roots. It’s the same with kids who want to play Coltrane. They need to understand Bechet first. You don’t build a house without foundations and the foundations of jazz are in New Orleans and the blues & Africa.

Jeff Matthews I was once talking with a UK based organiser of a jazz instruction course for musicians and I asked him if they covered older jazz styles from the beginning. “Yes” he said emphatically, “we go all of the way back to Charlie Parker.

Jim McIntosh The happy medium may be for you to organise the festival, but for the older guys to foot the bill?

Jeff Matthews May I suggest a festival with young bands but hosting The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Jimmy La Rocca runs his band out of New Orleans. He is the son of Nick of course. I met up with him at a festival and persuaded him to do a video interview with me. He is a sparkling ‘Southern Gentleman’, plays excellent trumpet in all styles and I think has important things to say about the beginnings of jazz. The video also contains concert footage. It was a freezing cold night, but the music was hot. See it at www.tradjazzonline.com. Warning! It is 1.5 hours long!!! Free to watch.

Peter Mark Butler Perhaps we should explore mileage in Jim’s suggestion above – ie “for the older guys to foot the bill”. Come to that, Jeff Matthews, Pete Lay and I touched on the feasibility of launching a New Orleans style Jazz Camp in the UK (see also under Debate N0 3 on Mentoring and Jazz Clubs). Any possibility of linking the two ideas? There may even be possibilities of seeking some kind of sponsorship for that? Over to you for your thoughts Jeff. And of course other Jazzers for their valid points.

DixieMix Jazzband It’s a good idea. I used to get a lot from workshops etc as a much younger player. We were obviously lucky in Norfolk that there was a strong youth jazz teaching scene. Mainly thanks to private individuals rather than any government funded schemes. Although again the bulk of the workshops were more mainstream based so yes there could be room for one exploring earlier jazz forms.

Of course the most valuable learning happens on stage and I was always so grateful to be allowed to sit in with bands for a tune or two. (again a beautiful thing about jazz – the internationally known standard repertoire!)

Jeff Matthews I was inspired by a trip to New Orleans last June when I was offered support by the organisers of their Course dealing with early jazz. I thought we could pursue the idea here. Banu Gibson and her team loved the idea of developing New Orleans jazz ideas over here. Mix the skills levels up and put on shows each evening to develop the stagecraft. I wrote an article in Just Jazz magazine about the idea but typically received no feedback. There is interest out there. We just need to ‘cook it up a bit’.

Peter Mark Butler I want to work with Just Jazz as closely as possible and I most certainly defer to their longstanding authoritative voice. But the internet offers more immediacy for responses to such ideas, so I’m sure we would appreciate as much input as possible on these issues and possibilities. In turn it might be possible to include articles in Just Jazz to help drive things forward. Simon, you and DixieMix Jazzband have certainly stirred things up with this exchange on Jazzers. One of the reasons I launched the Jazzers Group! Let’s press on.

DixieMix Jazzband I have no intention of ‘stirring’ things up just merely enjoying the opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with you all. I guess we are all very passionate about our music which is why we should be sharing it with audiences and keeping it alive!

John Petters On a cautionary note, if you are thinking of bringing non EU bands over, there are all sorts of hurdles. I’m not up on the current regs, but such things as withholding tax, work permits, travel and accommodation costs etc would be an issue. I had to do all this when I brought Wild Bill and Art Hodes over in the 80s and it was a nightmare!

Peter Mark Butler MY CONCLUSION: YES, ITS GOOD TO REMEMBER THE FORMER GLORIES OF PAST MASTERS AND TO LEARN FROM AND REVEL IN THEIR MUSIC, BUT HAVE WE THE SPIRIT AND DYNAMISM TO RECAPTURE THAT PAST GLORY IN A MOVE FOR A MASSIVE JAZZ REVIVAL INVOLVING NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK AS WELL AS ESTABLISHED BANDS?

FOR INSTANCE, EVEN WITH TOP BANDS AND EMERGING STARS BACK AT THE 100 CLUB? TAKE A LOOK AT THIS, CAN WE RECAPTURE THOSE TIMES:

Johnny Parker Ken Colyer Careless Love www.youtube.com Personnel: Ken Colyer [trumpet] Graham Stewart [trombone] Alan Cooper [clarinet] Johnny Parker [piano] Jim Bray [bass] Dave Evans [drums] 

 

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