Our Kind of Music

Hello Fred,

Can I draw together two threads from recent correspondence: the inclusion of Horwich RMI as a jazz venue, and the comments of (almost) octogenarian Trevor Hodgson?  Jazz is very much a minority interest on both sides of the Atlantic.  Devotees of all styles ought to combine efforts to keep the music going, although I acknowledge that the  motive for starting your web site was to give voice to lovers of the traditional idiom, which has been disgracefully ignored by most present-day "patrons of the arts".
I suspect that Traditional Jazz, as appreciated in the UK in the 1950s and 60s, was as much a social and cultural phenomenon as a musical one, being appropriated by young people with beards and thick sweaters (and not just the girls) as a revolt from the commercial smooth popular music (itself derived from 30s swing) of the 40s and 50s and beat-influenced pop (with blues overtones) of the 50s and 60s.  The immediacy, ebullience and hints of the unorthodox associated with traditional jazz were powerful magnets for the youth of the day seeking a unifying theme.  There may be more than a hint of trying to recapture that atmosphere among present trad lovers.  But, as Trevor says, the exponents and their adherents are dying off, and replacements, without the baggage of nostalgia, are hard to come by.  To attract a wider, younger audience perhaps compositions by Lennon and McCartney, Randy Newman, Burt Bacharach, Billy Joel could be added to programmes (alas I'm not familiar with any more modern suitable works). 
Emphasis could be placed on promoting those bands with a wider remit who show respect for the traditional repertoire and style.  The most powerful periods of jazz have been when innovation and development have been to the fore.  It seems to me that many of the recent explorations in jazz have not been especially fruitful, so that an imaginative reappraisal and re-working of earlier styles is a valid approach: slavish imitation of any idiom is surely the antithesis of jazz.  Maybe it's no accident that two of Britain's finest bands of the trad era, those led by Alex Welsh and Sandy Brown/Al Fairweather, operated within very flexible parameters.
I don't know whether I'm the only one feeling slightly queasy when I encounter the words, "our music".  I'm sure the phrase is intended to be inclusive and unify those of us loving the old style (and I defer to no-one in my enthusiasm for the works of Oliver, Morton, Armstrong, Beiderbecke, Noone, Clarence Williams and other luminaries of the 1920s).  However, and probably in common with a number of other lovers of dixieland, I also greatly enjoy the work of (for example) Bill Evans, Stan Tracey, Gerry Mulligan, Clifford Brown, Charles Mingus and above all Duke Ellington, and I wonder whether I would be excluded from the "our music" group as a dangerous heretic and not to be trusted peddling traditional jazz.  Shouldn't we be trying to make "our music" into "everyone's music"?
Hoping I haven't trodden on any corns,
Harmoniously, John Muskett - 5th March 2011
Hi Fred,

Although I consider John Muskett a dangerous radical who should be approached with caution I do agree with his comments on OKOM. I've always thought the term sounds rather smug and elitist and puts me in mind of people who have never ventured beyond early 60's British trad. EKOM would be better although I suspect everybody wouldn't be interested these days. As for playing music by more modern composers even the ones John has mentioned would be met by blank incomprehension by the kids to-day. What we have to do is play monotonous tunes with no appreciable melody and we might get through to them.( there is an opening for sarcastic remarks here but I am not getting involved ) !

Moe Green.  - 6th March 2011

A very interesting point about OKOM, it covers a almost a multitude of sins as for some who play OKOM means different thing, the Chicago lot, the classic and the purists (Kid Thomas, Lewis etc) I know that most traditional jazz musicians can play all those styles, in the end it all boils down to what the trumpet/cornet player can play and his technique.

About audiences, I am fortunate in my Sunday sessions as we get some younger people coming down to listen, the most famous being Jim Swinnerton, who I got to sit in with my band after I noticed him turning up just to listen, on clarinet at first then he was our regular bass player, also Adrian Wilkinson who was still at school when he started sitting in with my band. By younger I mean people in their teens to people in their fifties.  I have a young woman in her twenties sitting in on cornet now and again. This is all well and good but the majority of the audience are still of pensionable age, we had a funeral for another one last week and one next week. I try my damndest to get young people to play and as you can see have had some success.  I know of others out there who I have asked, some are fine musicians but sometimes its difficult, some of the modern musicians knock traditional jazz and will not have a go as they think it is below them. When you mention it they have no idea what traditional jazz means, to them its Kenny Ball.  I am not knocking Kenny here, they should study the roots of the music, some do.  I remember Lol Coxhill on a TV program taking an Albert System clarinet from under his bed and saying it was the type of instrument played by George Lewis. I know of one young musician who plays in Ska, Rock, bands etc, but I have seen him playing clarinet in a band that plays Hungarian and Klezmer, both of course involve improvisation, I know he prefers clarinet to sax, and I have tried already to get him to come and play with us, but with no success but I will pursue it. I sometimes think some young musicians are scared of traditional jazz and some not so young.

I have gone on long enough here, there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel for EKOM but sadly the light is not very bright just now.

Just for the sake of interest I have had to use some modern jazz musicians now and again, give them a chart of Panama Rag/ Clarinet Marmalade or some classic tunes with parts, key changes, bridges and breaks and its a foreign language to them.

Barrie Marshall - 6th March 2011

Well it's all about taste isn't it, and we are individuals and can't do a lot about that.

We are lucky in that we have the opportunity these days of hearing a huge variety of music. Once recording started, first by notation and publishing, then by recording, it widened everyone's opportunity to discover what they liked. Jazz particularly spread through recording because it's spontaneity couldn't be notated, in fact if it hadn't been for recording it would have remained a local oddity in a relatively small part of our world. As to MKOM (my kind) I like Mozart Puccini Beethoven Bach Tchaikovsky Oliver Morton Armstrong Barber Bilk Lewis Parker Monk Bix Weber Elgar Goodwin Arnold Ellington Basie Rolling Stones Queen Status Quo etc. etc. etc. And I could go on ad infinitum, aren't I lucky? Brass Bands (both sorts) Chamber groups Pianists Sitars Gamelan and so on and so forth as Morton would have said. However I think I've mentioned Garage and Rap before. (One has to draw the line somewhere!) I thoroughly recommend a programme on Radio 4 called World Music for those who would like to discover how wide their tastes can go; (you need to be a bit of an insomniac as it is broadcast in the small hours on the BBC World Service). The point is, particularly where jazz is concerned, the listening is absolutely vital, it's where we learn what to do and what can be done, and what we can experiment with. That's what makes it so exciting and rewarding. Now I'm off to listen to some more.

Richard Knock - 7th March 2011


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