Yet more Doom & Gloom? (Part 8)
15th May 2017
I recently went to a stage show starring the chef Gino Di Campo. It was a birthday gift. I looked around the theatre audience and the vast majority were certainly older people with very few under the age of 50. Most were quite a bit older. Me included. I also attended at the beginning of this year a regular jazz concert in a large town close to me. Free entrance and very high quality jazz. Eighty people in the audience, but I can't remember seeing someone under the age of 50. It's not just old jazz that is suffering. We should congratulate older audience members for getting up and out of the door to support live music. They keep it going. When people say 'we should encourage younger people' to come to our jazz sessions, what age does 'younger' mean. 15? 20? In my mind audiences today who might be interested in older jazz are likely to be in the 40's+ age group. The Kids don't need a baby sitter as they will be at least teenagers. Mum and dad can get out of the house for a night out together. There are very few people in their 20's interested in jazz of any sort, let alone New Orleans, however good it is. Perhaps once we really understand who our audience is in today's world, we can more effectively market to them. -
Jeff Matthews, The Chicago Swing Katz
I'm a bit disturbed about Jeff Matthews remarks – maybe Jeff needs to check out the young jazz scenes in Manchester, Leeds and especially the London area, where there is a large jazz following among the Swing Dance crews and the Jivers, with loads of young musicians and bands - one only has to checkout Facebook on a daily basis to read about them - that's their P.R. centre - Social Media. And in New Orleans and at the Festivals in the USA where the average age of musicians and dancers has halved. Check out the Bix Fest, San Diego Fest on You Tube or the French Market Dance Stage at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans - or where their young bands are filling concert halls playing to young jazz fans and dancers. It is quite exhilarating!! And gives me great hope for the future - instance: Bombay Club on Conti Street on one Saturday in April this year. A young band - average age mid to late 20s/early 30s - playing tunes from the repertoires of the Halfway House Orchestra, The New Orleans Owls, Armand J Piron, Kid Ory...................................Nope, our music ain't dying, just being re-invented for a new age group, we have to find them, don't expect them to look for us 'old farts'.
Cheers - Pete Lay
I've been spurred into writing by Jeff Matthews' observations on the age of jazz audiences. As I have probably mentioned before, my wife and I are canal boat owners, also being involved in voluntary canal restoration. This latter frequently extends to helping with the practical side of running boat festivals, the longest running of which is over the early May BH weekend at Little Venice (London). For as long as I can remember one of the pleasures of the event has been two or three sessions of traditional jazz, usually from bands led by Bob Dwyer and Steve Strickland. This year was no exception but, because the island on which bands have played previously wasn't available, they were on a pontoon moored to one of the towpaths and thus much closer to their audiences. I was surprised and delighted in about equal measure to observe that significant numbers of people ranging from my age (70's) to under 10's were obviously enjoying the music, stopping to listen, tapping their feet and even dancing (quite risky on a busy canal towpath). Why don't they go to listen to similar music in jazz clubs? I've no idea. I'm sure, as Jeff says in slightly different words, that it's a marketing issue but who has the interest and expertise to get the message across? Not me, I'm afraid; I'll stick to running out the power supplies. -
My thoughts for what they are worth is that if you are hoping to see young people pouring into jazz clubs where my generation sit quietly and listen and give the odd dirty look when someone dares to talk, it ain't going to happen. When I first went to a jazz club as a teenager, they were all my age, they were all standing, some drinking, some dancing, and some talking. The last thing I wanted to do was join my grandparents at a club listening to a David Whitfield or Mario Lanza sound-alike. What made it interesting for me was that I discovered it for myself with a little help from a friend. I agree with Pete on this one, young people are finding our music, even if it comes under the latest 'vintage' craze, or via a Swing/Lindy dancing class. Young people will find the music if they want it, the old saying about leading horses to water comes to mind.
I've been to markets and fairs where there's been a variety of music played, I've even stopped a while, clapped and enjoyed listening, but it didn't make me an instant convert, wanting to find the nearest venue where I could listen again. I don't think you can use a one off outdoor event as a sign of a new jazz revival.
Re. Pete Lays' comments about the "young jazz scenes in Manchester and Leeds". I may have misunderstood his comments, so please could he identify the jazz venues in Yorkshire and Lancashire that have young audiences. I can only think of one, Matt and Phreds, in Manchester. All I see in the venues I visit are old audiences viz. the photo's on this site of Rochdale Jazz club. Either I need a visit to Specsavers or Pete Lay is in dreamland.
This is a typical negative reply that we get down South. Yes, of course, all the usual jazz clubs are full of grey heads. The young scene is not typical of our experience. They have their own venues, own clubs, own bands and specifically their own audiences.
I’m sure if you were to dig under the surface, you’d find what’s happening in Manchester and Leeds. I don’t want to get into a slanging match with folk, but I tend to find most ‘grey heads’ feel the scene is dying and are not readily accepting that the underground movement for keeping ‘Vintage and Early Swing music alive is safe and well among younger musos. One only has to look at the huge number of young musos involved at Whitley Bay Jazz Festival.
So many are still totally unaware of what is happening in and around London. If it happens in London, it generally is happening in some shape in other capital cities. It isn’t about proving where it happens.
Back in the July Just Jazz Editorial, Pete asked questions. Do we engage younger bands ? Or do we continue with status quo ? Perhaps it's time to take a gamble and try something new to achieve a new result ! Anybody game ? You tell me !
I responded to Pete that I intended to do just that. He wished me well, but did mention, in his e-mail reply, that for his Summer Jazz Party in June 2016, he took a gamble and engaged four younger bands. That did not entice one young person to attend.! I could see how it didn't work for him then. It was too sudden and unexpected for his usual older audiences.
I was just getting going again after a year enforced layoff, so ( with the OK by Joan Chamorro for a private jazz club showing ) I put the Sant Anfreu Jazz Band DVD on the big screen, together with video from Youtube of some young jazz bands, to show just what the kids can do. My more adventurous jazz faithful, and about ten dancers from the local Lindy Circle, came along. It was an enjoyable couple of hours and the response was favourable. I followed this to a ninety plus audience, with a local grammar school jazz orchestra, then a local band Deco Delight, who have been adapting their repertoire to suit dancers and finally young French band Old Chaps.
This proved that the 'receptive old' and the young could mix happily for me. However, I have realised it is not easy, and must say that I was not your usual sort of 81 year old, more a dyslexic 18, and last week progressed to 28 !!
As reported on this site recently I have decided it is time to stand down from jazz promotion, but not totally out of it, as I shall keep in touch as things are progressing locally mainly with the Lindy Circle who have put on their first live band, the talented Louis Louis Louis from Leeds. After this success, their intention is to do more, and my belief is, that it is these young people who will bring, and follow, bands like this, and Swing Commanders, into the festival scene.
Getting back to Pete Lay, I have to say I am very pleased to see his much improved confidence in the young. In the UK we're at least eight years behind Sweden, in particular, Europe and USA, but the young here are catching up fast and it is the dancing which is key. Pete is obviously keeping a keen eye on developing younger bands, knows the importance of social media and could well be the first big promoter here to 'bring it on' when next he gambles on the young !
In discussions concerning young people and jazz the location
of venues does not seem to have been considered. Years ago
much jazz occurred in large towns and cities. Consider
nowadays the accessing of a city centre venue by a musician
who plays a cumbersome instrument, or carries amplification
or is a multi-instrumentalist.
The ‘young – old’ thing is always
going to get mixed reaction. I thought Norman Gibson’s
response was good. I’m still trying to conjure up ideas to
get some of the ‘younger fans, dancers etc’ to get out into
‘the sticks’ and savour one of our jazz breaks. Trying some
more younger bands at Mill Rythe in 2018, so here’s hoping.
I know we have some of the younger bands on side – that’s
the easy bit, but it’s their followers which are the problem
– they can stay put in London and still have a good time.
It’s not all doom, there are many good young bands
here in France/Europe and I’ve put a selection of them
below. I’m sure there are many similar young bands in London
and the UK but there they seem to exist in a parallel
universe and are not featured by many of the longstanding
clubs and festivals. At Fest Jazz we go out of our way to
pack the programme with them:
Another important point is to use young people as part of
the organising team of clubs and festivals. Their input and
knowhow (especially on the Communications front) makes a
huge difference and they bring their friends to the gigs as
well. Posters, Flyers, Teasers are modern in style and that
too brings young people through the door. Involving young
people from the beginning does have a snowball effect…..
It’s not all doom, there are many good young bands here in France/Europe and I’ve put a selection of them below. I’m sure there are many similar young bands in London and the UK but there they seem to exist in a parallel universe and are not featured by many of the longstanding clubs and festivals. At Fest Jazz we go out of our way to pack the programme with them:
Another important point is to use young people as part of the organising team of clubs and festivals. Their input and knowhow (especially on the Communications front) makes a huge difference and they bring their friends to the gigs as well. Posters, Flyers, Teasers are modern in style and that too brings young people through the door. Involving young people from the beginning does have a snowball effect…..
Seems that we have been here before. I agree with John Muskett ( Hi John ) that city centre gis are fraught with inconvenience and potential unpleasantness but this is where the kids go for a night out. They see the scene with different eyes to us oldies. my youngest grandson ( 18) plays drums in a band. A few weeks ago I went to see them at a club and believe me by the time the band came on at 10 o'clock I was beginning to slump a bit. To the kids there the night was just starting but it was brought home to me that young and old people listening to the same music in the same club in appreciable numbers ain't goin' to happen on a regular basis. To paraphrase; young is young and old is old and rarely do the twain meet. If a young jazz scene is around I haven't heard of it but I would like to think that it is there.
Yours rhythmically, Moe Green.
contribution to D & G 8 (is it only 8?): first, well done
Norman and Trevor for so much encouragement to young
musicians. Second, as a bass player, I was interested to
note that some double bassists used orthodox classical left
hand fingering and others employed the fisticuffs method.
What matters, of course, is what come out. Third, of the
bands I watched on Trevor’s YouTube selection, the most
impressive (to me) were The Sweet Peppers (though I’d enjoy
hearing them playing something less routine) and the Sant
Andreu Jazz Band with the wonderful, no-pressure, trumpet
playing of Andrea Motis.
Looking forward to The Original Panama Jazz Band’s Wednesday night at The Irby Club this week: Managed to contact some local Jive Lindy Hoppers who will visit the Club and do their stuff: Should be great fun! -
Had a super night on the 21st, with members of the Cheshire Swing Cats Club who turned up in force to stun us all with their exciting dancing. A great time had by all, hopefully to be repeated! -
I was pleased to find some encouragement in John Muskett's letter. Maybe if more of the older generation of musicians could go out of their way a bit, to give help to the younger upcoming musicians, then the 'Keep Supporting the Youngsters' slogan would really mean something ! On the 25 May 2017 you printed my request to help find a band which could play the right music, with some swing, for the group of young Balboa dancers I know. I didn't get any offers ! I found only one on my own when I looked well South. John Beckingham, he of JB's Jazz and Blues band, has been providing music for the Balboa Bunch (dance club) in his area. Unfortunately his lead reeds player, being poorly, was not in a position to travel, otherwise it would have been 'bingo'. Tenacity has however won the day, as a local big band lead sax player has formed a sextet, and ,complete with metronome, will do the job to the correct tempos, from a library of over 300 arrangements. The social Balboa dance evening is set to go July 8th. in Lancaster - report to follow. Good to read Jon Critchley positive report of last Wednesday's 'The Original Panama Jazz Band's' gig, with the Lindy Dancers. -
Thank you John Muskett for those comments. It gives me a chance to bang on about one of my favourite points about involving young people in jazz: they should be involved as organisers! Their expertise with modern communications and social media, plus the ideas they can bring from being festival and club goers with other musical styles, is invaluable . And young people attract other young people….. Our young team has just published the Brochure for Fest Jazz 2017 and I insisted there was a page to thank those that have been involved (full-time in some cases) since September in organising the festival. Here it is (attached) and you can get an idea of their ages (the text in French is thanking the team (l’équipe) and all the others who work for the festival). In the UK why not approach Universities, Art Schools, Sixth Forms etc and ask if the students are interested in getting involved in a project to help a jazz club or festival? You might well be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Finally, John wanted to see a Sweet Peppers’ video that was
not “routine”; how about this:
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