Jazzers’ Debate No 6: 
Jazz Clubs & Ageing Fans


Jazzers’ Debate No 6

Jazz Clubs & Ageing Fans

Ian Bateman:

I’m quite amused to read some of the threads on Jazzers about how we can keep jazz club promoters and punters happy. I think it’s really a no-win situation, every club is different.

After years on the concert circuit with Messrs Lightfoot and Bilk I’ve re-visited some of the jazz clubs to launch my own band and spread the word. The reactions have been poles apart between the various clubs we have played at.

We’ve had jazz club gigs where the band has been very enthusiastically received, we’ve sold loads of CDs and we’ve been asked back. On the other hand we’ve had gigs where we’ve had a very low-key reception, sold no CDs and we don’t really want to go back!

The only way forward for bands is not to compromise. If the members of a jazz club do not like your music, there is always a club where they will. Go where you are appreciated, it is a waste of time trying to convert people who will not be swayed.

We have just had a very successful concert at Warwick School. 46 Music pupils were all eager to learn jazz music and we gave them a workshop (on a Saturday) at which they all took part with a refreshing eagerness. They then turned up at our evening concert with their friends/parents and filled the theatre. Everybody won and went home happy. The youngsters out there can dig our music and we didn’t have to grow our hair long to get them interested. Jazz clubs should encourage younger people into their fold, it’s for the good of all of us.

Bob Ironside Hunt Exactly Ian – but as long as “jazz clubs” are the domain of the old, half witted, stick-in-the-mud old farts that they are, then we’re never going to get the youngsters in. Schools such as you just describe are certainly one of the ways forward. We used to do a posh school near Ipswich (the headmaster had previously been head at Shrewsbury School, where we also used to play) and it was great… Its these shitty old school jazz clubs that I have a gripe about.

Louis Lince What is it about the “Jazz Club” scene in the UK that makes one yearn to play in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Scandinavia? Could it be that over there all ages attend and the bands are treated like human beings. Having said that I don’t write off all clubs here.

Jeff Lewis Unlike most of the rest of Europe, GB has become massively hijacked by a hideous caricature of US style marketing ethos. I don’t mean in the obvious “Britain Has Talent” way, but more insidiously, via the subliminal inculcation of an “expected model”. This can lead to a “safety in numbers” “herd” mentality, (euphemistically called “peer pressure”) where you are either part of the pack, or its prey. Whereas this problem by no means affects everybody, it does affect enough to make large numbers wary of trying anything “different”. But there is a bit of a backlash/enlightenment starting in Ayr, Edinburgh, Twynholm. I’ve found the Liverpool pub scene to be superb, full of people who just enjoy good music played well.

Graham Smith A certain provincial jazz club took the opportunity to book the Bateman Brothers and it was only their 2nd billed performance methinks. The majority liked the band and marvelled at the quality of the musicianship. A few remarked on the volume, some acknowledged it was different. A small number said it wasn’t their cup of tea but isn’t that their prerogative even though I can’t understand why. At least we have the freedom in this country to have the right to like what we like and musicians have the freedom to perform the music they prefer.

A major concern for promoters is firstly engaging bands that audiences will attend and pay to see. New bands, unknown bands are an obvious risk. However, when a promoter engages quality bands and musicians on a regular basis they could well encourage a loyal and regular attendance based upon a reputation for doing so. I can think of one provincial club that has managed that and established a popular and well supported annual festival which includes in its programme different genres of jazz along with professional performers, including some lesser known youngsters, who have consequently been in demand at other clubs and festivals. Having an open mind as a promoter helps, as well as being a bit braver than the norm.

Bob Ironside Hunt – I wouldn’t put such clubs in the “old school” category! I could name such places, but don’t think it would be right…. and besides, I think we all know the type of clubs I’m referring to!

Moderator’s Note: DARE WE NAME THEM if we are to tackle the problem? Without fans there would be no clubs. The next Jazzers Debate is related to this and is entitled “Ageing Fans and Cherry Pickers”.


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  1. Peter Blackburn says:

    I started listening to traditional jazz in 1949/50. In those days every band was different. There was the Crane River Jazz Band with two cornets, Mick Mulligan with two banjos and George Melly, Humphrey Lyttlelton with two clarinets, Graeme Bell with an alto sax and Freddy Randal playing the hottest trumpet I ever heard. The bands today are utterly boring, playing the same old numbers with no enthusiasm or originality whatsoever. The drummer in one well-known festival band seems too be half asleep all the time and is certainly no hotter than the drummer in Victor Silvester’s strict tempo dance band.

    The traditional jazz age died long ago. I have moved on to modern jazz.

  2. Peter Butler says:

    I would be interested to know how you qualify modern jazz, Peter. Transitional modern, current modern, Jazz FM Modern. Some is acceptable but much of it is simply way off beam, tuneless, toneless and hardly bearable. There’s an old saying: “If you can’t tap your feet to it or whistle to it, it’s not jazz!”

    But you are not entirely mistaken about some bands – but only some.

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