Julyan Aldridge (drums); Karl Hird (clarinet); Jim Swinnerton (bass); Mike Owen (trombone, vocals); Denny Ilett (trumpet); Brian Mellor (banjo).

“Acker Bilk was music, his famous velvety vibrato, low slightly breathy style of clarinet playing was unique and will remain so.” With those words, Pamela Sutton, Acker Bilk’s Personal Manager, bid farewell to a legend of jazz.

The passing of Acker has given added impetus to the current Jazz&Jazz debate: “Keeping Jazz Live and Alive”.

Ian Brameld (The Pump House Jazz Club, Watford) aptly summed up the issues: “There seems to be two diverging scenes: 1) Keeping the old jazz clubs going for the declining numbers of ageing members and musicians; 2) A revival of the jazz of the early to mid 1900s played by young, trained musicians in their own style and for their contemporaries.”

The Audience Isn’t Dying
This we can be sure of, the audience isn’t dying and much is being done about it! The number of youngsters enjoying jazz is growing – in their own venues with their own exciting “new age” jazz bands. Jazz&Jazz has begun featuring these bands. But as one young jazz musician put it: “The old and the young don’t necessarily mix well,” which highlights the emerging divide between older and younger fans.


Baby Jools at one of Max Collie’s Rhythm Aces final concerts during the 2011 Ramsgate Seaside Shuffle Festival.

Yet there are younger bands and musicians who play at our traditional clubs and festivals. Fans will recall Baby Jools as Max Collie’s drummer with his Rhythm Aces. Max recognised him as having “lots of drive and swing” and rather than hiding his talent behind the brass section gave him his own raised dais

Baby Jools and the JazzAholics
To the fans delight “Baby Jools and the JazzAholics” starred at Pete Lay’s Autumn Jazz Parade, Hemsby Norfolk, this year. True, besides Jools on drums, Karl Hird on clarinet and Jim Swinnerton on bass, the band included Mike Owen on trombone, Denny Ilett on trumpet and Brian Mellor on banjo, but this added enjoyment for the older fans and demonstrates Jools’ willing and inclusive appeal.

Graham Hughes recently commented: “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.” Yet he added: “There are a few thriving clubs which welcome a broad spectrum of people who love to be entertained. They book bands that are really class acts and tend to be a little bit different to provide variety.”

So although we have lost the greats like Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, Terry Lightfoot, Phil Mason, Ron Mckay and Pat Halcox, if fans would willingly put aside personal prejudices they need not despair.

Sit back and enjoy the YouTube. Jazz has a great future!

Photos & YouTubes © Peter M Butler, Jazz&Jazz

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  1. Paul Goddard says:

    I agree with this positive theme rather than the negative one elsewhere. I have been present at more first-rate live gigs in the last three years than ever before in my life, including the great British jazz revival of my youth. I can compare the pleasure I got from “Standard Miles” at their gig(s) as being on a par with being at a MJQ concert back in their heyday over half a century ago; to highlight just one.
    Also, in my family, five years ago I was the only one expressing an interest in Jazz; and certainly the only one going to Jazz gigs. Now, it is not unusual for one of my daughters to be with me at a Jazz gig; or indeed my former wife. Not to please me, but because they want to be there.
    Around a week ago I was at “The Bedford” to hear Tad Newton, with my older daughter Jo. During the interval she commented that she must be the youngest one present by about ten years at least; I looked around, ready to disagree, but I could not – her estimate was probably generous! But she is now planning to come with friends (some younger than herself) to the January gig featuring “Rachel Johnson’s Youngbloods with Mellow Aystrieh Bakui”, whilst I intend to be there with some of my contemparies.
    Peter, keep up the good work! There is still hope for Jazz, the greatest thing to ever come out of America. We must all do our bit.

  2. Peter Butler says:

    I’ll be posting a promo on “Rachel Johnson’s Youngbloods with Mellow Aystrieh Bakui” at The Bedford, Paul. (And I made that small amend).

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