“Our audience is dying and there is little we can do!”


Keeping Jazz Alive: Part 1


Those were the dire words of Mart Rodgers writing in Fred Burnett’s October Jazz North West News Update.


JazzNWMart lamented: “I have heard from Sale Conservative Club where they have run the Sale Jazz Club and the bad news is that it has finished because of lack of attendance”. Well I contacted Phil Williams who has been running jazz there, and this is what he told me. “WOW ! News certainly travels fast! I assume it was one of the bands I had to call to cancel.  Yes it’s true. We used to get over a hundred once a month a few years ago but now we are down to 34 last Friday and we have been losing £100 every month for the last three months. I took over two years ago because the previous organiser, Dave Hardman, was retiring. He had run it together with Gordon Hand and Mike Hargreaves for over twenty years. It’s very sad but there are no teenagers pleading with their parents to take them to a Trad Jazz Night. Our audience is dying and there is little we can do”.

New Venues, Young Fans and “New Age” Jazz Bands
I have flagged up this dilemma on more than one occasion on Jazz&Jazz and it seems it’s time to do so again – but to place a positive spin on it. Because the good news is that although there may not be any teenagers asking their parents to take them to jazz nights, the number of young people enjoying their own jazz nights is growing. Not at ‘stuffy old timers’ jazz clubs and festivals but in new venues and with younger, “new age” jazz bands.

Old Hat Jazz Band

Old Hat Jazz Band

Right now, spurred on by discussions with a leading UK promoter, Jazz&Jazz is planning features on up and coming UK jazz bands. In fact, as a beginning, we recently featured “The Old Hat Jazz Band”.

Andrea Motis

Andrea Motis

Featuring True Greats and Emerging Stars
Let’s get back  to “Trad Jazz Nights”. Jazz&Jazz prefers the term “New Orleans Revivalist Jazz” – which came to be termed Traditional Jazz in the UK and Europe when bands over here put their own slant on it. New Orleans Revivalist Jazz is Sammy Rimington’s preference and this post will be followed by an article on Sammy’s 2014 UK Autumn Tour. But following that I will feature a post on a spectacular 19 year old Catalonian star, Andrea Motis, and her mentor Joan Chamorro, at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club.

Why? Because to encourage younger fans I believe we must be prepared to mix it and get away from the almost outdated Trad Jazz syndrome.

“So That Our Audience Doesn’t Die”
I recently overheard an ardent Trad fan loudly berating a successful club manager for hosting a mainstream jazz evening. The manager responded quite firmly that club members knew his policy was to mix the music to a degree to maintain high attendance and that the fan could have checked the programme for the evening and not come along. He added that most of the members who preferred mainstream also turned out for the “Trad” evenings. This is a thriving small town jazz club.

So, yes, Jazz&Jazz is mainly about New Orleans Revivalist Jazz and will introduce our new generation of jazz bands – even if that takes “mixing it a bit” so that our audience doesn’t die!

Please also read: “Sammy Rimington: “In The Upper Garden” plus “Outstanding Debut for Young Catalonian Star Andrea Motis”.

Peter M Butler
Editor and Proprietor, Jazz&Jazz

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  1. Peter Butler says:

    Graham Hughes has emailed me with these very vital comments:

    Hi Peter,

    In reply to your article saying “jazz is dying” I’d like to mention that Jazz is definitely not dying. In London alone there are dozens of really fabulous musicians and bands that have appeared in the last few years.

    The thing that is dying is the Traditional Jazz Club.

    Many Traditional Jazz Clubs need to look at themselves to see why they are dying.

    There are a few thriving clubs:

    – these tend to be monthly
    – they tend to welcome a broad spectrum of people (who love to be entertained)
    – they book bands that are really class acts
    – the bands each month tend to be a little bit different to provide variety
    – the venue is appropriate for a performance
    – they tend to start earlier (7:30 or 8.00) and finish earlier (10.00 or 10:30)

    An audience needs to go home wanting more. They shouldn’t be tired, having heard too much music and wanting to go to bed.

    The promoter needs to be really positive, smiling and welcoming to all of their customers, and to the musicians too.

    The list goes on.

    If a club gets it right they’ll find people want to come – not just jazz fans, but anybody that wants a great night out.

    Best wishes,

    Graham Hughes

    Alan Haughton runs just such a club in Olney, rural Buckinghamshire. I was there last night for Ben Holder Master Fiddler Special. YouTubes on the way! https://www.jazzandjazz.com/?p=9746

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