The Plight of Jazz, Jazz Festivals, Jazz Clubs, Jazz Musicians and Jazz Fans – An Appeal!


DukeEllingtonParis60-2Duke Ellington “created an orchestra that was so diverse and yet so unique that he was guaranteed to remain at the front of the music for years.”

Charles-MingusCharles Mingus to Duke Ellington: “Why don’t you, me and Dizzy and Clark Terry and Thad Jones get together and make an avant-guard record?”

The Duke’s response: “Why should we go back that far? Let’s not take music back that far, Mingus. Why not just make a modern record?”

Mingus later commented: “If I was avant-garde in 1954, then what am I now? Avant-avant garde? Modern-modern, new thing new thing? The new, new thing?”

In 1959 Ellington wrote: “I don’t want to be modern … futuristic … and neither do I want to be hung by the plaintiveness of something we might have done years ago, even with success, I don’t want to have to feel obliged to play something with the same styling that we became identified with at some particular period. I have no ambition to reach some intellectual plateau and look down on the people. And by the same token, I don’t want anyone to challenge my right to sound completely mad, to screech like a wild man, to create the mauve melody of a simpering idiot, or to write a song that praises God, if I so desire.” (“A Royal View of Jazz” 83).

“Jazz continues the pattern of barrier breaking and emerges as the freest musical expression we have yet seen. To me, then, jazz means simply freedom of musical speech! And it is precisely because to this freedom that many varied forms of jazz exist. The important thing to remember, however, is that not one of these forms represents jazz by itself. Jazz means simply the freedom to have many forms.” (Interpretation in Jazz).

Nick-LaRoccaODJB“Jazz is the assassination, the murdering, the slaying of syncopation. In fact it is a revolution in this kind of music. I even go as far to confess we are musical anarchists … seldom consistent, every number played by us eclipsing in originality and effect our previous performances.” Nick LaRocca interviewed in Britain in 1920 when his Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) first came to England.

The Plight of Jazz Today

Perhaps the biggest problem jazz has today, and has probably always had, is a disconnect due to lack of communication and consultation from the top down – i.e. between bands, musicians, clubs and fans – and yes, festivals. Each and every one of these are in it for their own ends. And why not? Isn’t survival the key? Even if it comes to survival of the fittest and finest? Yes there is friendship, camaraderie, mutual respect – but when the chips are down, each is in it for himself. Survival of the fittest!!! Most certainly this is the UK scene. And the end result – clubs are closing, festivals are ending, bands and musicians are struggling for gigs. And fans? Well too many of them – and they are a declining breed – are even yet chasing UK Trad, not accepting that there are other wonderful dimensions to the music.

Musicians need bands, bands need clubs, clubs need fans, and fans want festivals. Yet all are in decline. Amongst the oldies that is. Because there is an entirely new dimension to jazz these days. Not just in New Orleans and Europe but also in the UK. Younger musicians forming younger bands and playing for younger fans at their own select, mainly city, venues. Because, yes, jazz does have a future. And they are happy to play at “oldie jazz clubs” and to represent the future at festivals.

Search the pages of Jazz&Jazz to discover some of them because they are the future of jazz.

“Why Not Make a Modern Record?”
Forget trad, forget mainstream! Read again what The Duke said all those years ago: “Why should we go back that far? Let’s not take music back that far, Mingus. Why not just make a modern record?”

I’m opening this up for discussion via “Comments” below and by linking the post to my Social Media outlets. Let’s get together and make jazz work! For musicians, for clubs, for festivals and for fans! Let’s get off our buts, stop fighting our own precious yet declining corners, work together, arm-in-arm, and raise the flag for a brand new, promising era for jazz!

Or have I posted this totally in vain? Are all my efforts on Jazz&Jazz totally in vain? After a lapse of years, I got back into jazz a decade ago. Am I going to find my return totally in vain? Promise me not!

Just a perk in closing. When I posted this on Jazz&Jazz a couple of years ago I was request to take it down. But when the producers recognised my aims, they reversed that decision:

A Touch of the Duke:


Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

(Photos © Peter M Butler, Jazz&Jazz)


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