“Is this the way to go?” Attracting ‘young blood’ to join our Jazz Clubs

Lois Lloyd wrote to me today. She said: “Hi Peter, I see you (Jazz&Jazz) are noting our [jazz’s] history, a useful deed as we are losing so many wonderful musicians and at 64 David and I are often the youngest punters at the gig!” Lois is a member of the Plymouth Jazz Club.

Plymouth Jazz Club

Just Jazz magazine ran an article by Ken Butler in the March issue entitled “Is this the way to go?” featuring the Leeds Jazz Club and their success in attracting ‘young blood’ to join them (Just Jazz, March issue, p 6). Ken had asked a young singer, Tessa Smith, to join him at the club to see if she liked it. “She did and she enjoyed it so much that she has been back virtually every week since. Not only that, she has spread the word among her friends to such an extent that [recently] I counted at least 20 youngsters dancing and having a really good time.”

Leeds Jazz Club

Struck by this, I decided to follow up Ken’s article with this letter published in the June issue of Just Jazz:

Dear Pete

Got my copy of the March issue of Just Jazz yesterday. Very timely because of the article on Leeds Jazz Club “Is this the way to go?” about attracting “young blood” back to Traditional Jazz Clubs.
Tessa Smith raises the very pertinent point that youngsters today can’t relate to jazz. They hear “the squeaking of horns and discordant piano solos or free improvisation, or technical mastery …… that lacks a discernible melody” and proclaim “I don’t like jazz”! Then when they hear traditional jazz they say “but I like what you just did”!
Barry Price at the Hemsby Autumn Festival last year asked the girls behind the bar if they liked jazz. “No!” was the answer. So, pointing to the stage he asked, “Do you like this kind of music?” And they said they did! So he told them this was original, traditional jazz. So the jazz that put them off had to be modern jazz!
Just like the Leeds Jazz Club, locally in Welwyn Garden City I’m striving to help Brian Smith build up the ageing membership by attracting younger fans. We’ve made a small start but there’s a way to go. Bob Thomas and The Thomcats used to play in our village pub and Bob also organised a weekly rota of other bands. In fact Bernie Tyrrell recently mentioned to me that Bob is no longer advertising in the Jazz Guide and I told him that’s because with landlord changes, the Long and The Short Arm had stopped the jazz nights.
That’s why Brian (“Smiffy”) started The Peartree Monday Jazz Club and now that we’ve been working on rebuilding the “disbanded” fan base with some success, yes, it’s time to try to get the youngsters along, some of whom used to wander in from the other bar in the pub.
Why am I keen on mentioning this right now? Not just because you might like to use this as a response to the Leeds Jazz Club article in the next issue of Just Jazz but also because I’m constantly seeking ways to help reinvigorate real jazz via my website jazzandjazz.com.
It takes time for a new website to catch on and “go viral” (horrible expression). Yet although perhaps not so many older fans use the web, it’s got to be one of the ways of reaching a younger audience.
It’s a hard slog but I want to get there. One of the approaches I’m aiming at is to contact “younger” musicians who attract younger fans such as “Dom Pipkin & The Ikos”, “The Fallen Heroes” and “Young Blood” crews. I’ve got plenty of photos of them in action to display what I’m about, although to make this pay or at least recuperate my costs I need to sell more commissions, portraits and prints. But that will come.
This brings me to a key point of this email, which I hope isn’t boring you due to its length but I think you can tell I feel passionately about this.
As a fairly recent “returnee” to the trad jazz scene I don’t want it to appear I’m knuckling in. You know I’m not. but I have in mind approaching clubs like Leeds and Plymouth to link up endeavours.
Peter Butler, Welwyn Garden City, Herts 
With Pete Lay’s permission I intend submitting another article analysing the current state of traditional jazz in the UK. Hopefully it will appear in the August issue of Just Jazz.
In  the meantime I would like to hear the views of clubs, musicians and fans. Just email me: [email protected]
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