What makes a jazz evening successful?
John Muskett picks the bones from the results of a survey initiated by Norman Gibson & David Wellock
Thanks to you and to Norman and David for investigations into the popularity of jazz. Norman asked his audience for written replies to the question “Why have your jazz evenings been so successful?” I have read the comments which were in four sealed envelopes containing 8, 8, 7 and 10 responses. The 10, according to my consultant graphologist, all appeared to be in the same hand: although it’s possible that 10 responders employed the one scribe, I will assume that 24 persons contributed. Statistically from an audience of 120 this number might indicate random sampling or voter apathy. However, the consistency of replies gives me every confidence that the views expressed are representative of all the listeners (also I suspect that a number of individual responses reflected the opinions of couples).
Opinions that appeared between 5 and 11 times were “enjoyment of wide variety of jazz” (although one responder “would like some modern jazz”), “good organisation”, “friendly atmosphere” and “good standard of music”. Other views getting more than a single mention were “palpable enthusiasm for jazz”, “enjoyment of meeting people”, “enjoyment of live music”, “jolly management”, “informal atmosphere”, “close to home” and “entertaining bands”. Single comments were “never been disappointed”, “competitively priced”, “good traditional bands”, “well behaved audience”, “good programmes” (not clear to me whether this referred to Norman’s programming or bands’ play lists) and “pleased to bring own food and drink”. The only suggestions for improvements were “not close enough to home”, “provide a bar” and “provide more dancing opportunities”.
Clearly Norman and David have “got it right”: good luck to their successors in continuing the operation. It isn’t, of course, possible to find out why those who don’t attend jazz clubs regularly, if at all, stay away: church congregation members are likely to think religion is a good thing.
I’m not sure what pointers individual musicians and bands can take from the survey (see my original question). While good music seemed more important than entertainment value, it would be interesting to get feedback on the variety within individual bands’ programmes and to learn whether on a return visit a band would offer a different programme. One guide to a band’s jazz credentials would be the response to a request for a reasonably familiar tune not normally in its repertoire: however I would not expect any band to serve up “Love For Sale” or “Lush Life” out of the blue!
So thanks again to Fred, to Norman and David and to all the responders for taking time to try and unravel one of life’s mysteries (to me, at any rate).