Not seeing …

I recently decided not to go and see a very good jazz musician paying tribute to players of the past: why not? To be honest it is all wrapped up with the question as to why small jazz clubs are finding it difficult to attract a wider audience: over familiarity.

When I attend a live gig I expect to hear standards from the jazz repertoire and when I do I enjoy them. However, there does appear to be a trend for bands to play tributes to some of the greats from the past without also throwing in a few original compositions to show that we can, and should, move on from the greats.

I recently reviewed Carlos Henriquez’s album Dizzy Con Clave, which is a live recording of a tribute to the music of Dizzy Gillespie but with new arrangements that refreshes the original and avoids the label “over familiarity” – and you should be able to tell from my review that I really enjoyed this album.

The problem for many small jazz cubs is that they rely on those audience members who turn up each and every month to hear good jazz music played live, good jazz music that they are familiar with. These stalwarts struggle with the unfamiliar – they also struggle with vocalists but that might be a different topic to write about another time – and have been heard to say that they will not be at next month’s gig because they haven’t heard anything by the band that has been booked.

I would suggest that the elusive wider audience may not attend their local jazz club because they are not going to hear anything new and while they accept, and recognize, the place of the jazz standard repertoire, they do not necessarily want to be beholden to it. On Saturday 5 January, 2019 The Times newspaper wrote a piece entitled All That Jazz in which it was stated that, “For the past couple of years London’s new jazz scene has been quietly conquering the world “. Unfortunately for those of us getting our live jazz outside of London, the new jazz scene is passing us by.

There are many very good young jazz artists producing original material that deserves to be heard live by a wider audience. I should love to see the likes of Lorraine Baker, Tom Millar, and Freddie Gavita play live at a jazz club nearer to home than London. I also know that many of those who regularly attend jazz clubs in my area would think twice about paying for a ticket to hear jazz music they did not grow up with and that’s a shame. Let’s face it, if the audience at the time had not embraced the new of Monk, Coltrane, Gillespie et al we would still be listening to Livery Stable Blues and the “new jazz [bop] scene” would have passed us by.