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).
Over the years there have been lots of comments on your site, and elsewhere, about the imminent demise of “our” jazz….clubs closing, musicians getting older, the audience getting older and lack of young musicians showing interest.
I put forward a few reasons why Jazz Club 90 manages to keep going which you kindly put on your site.
Over the months since the first lockdown about 15-20 of our regulars met at the Social Club for a lunchtime drink and chat, plus taking our own lunch, unfortunately this had to end in November when the Social Club was sold for housing development.
Marie and I kept in touch on the phone with other regulars and I sent out a newsletter at least once a week to the 70+ on our mailing list to keep them up to date with the sale of the club, and other news, and I also added links to videos which I thought people might enjoy (some of them links from your website!). We also kept in touch with many of the bandleaders and musicians.
The reason for this preamble is that on several occasions at our little get togethers some of our fans, who also go to other clubs in the Midlands, said that we were the only ones who had kept in touch, they had not heard a thing from any other club and they were delighted that we made the effort.
Since the start of the Covid 19 lockdowns there have been comments about whether clubs will re-open, bands may be disbanded, audiences may drift away so we feel the least we could do is try to make sure we had bands and an audience when we eventually resume gigs in what we hope will be our new “home”.
It would be interesting to know if this lack of contact is common elsewhere of is it just in the Midlands?
Forgive my ramblings, Fred, maybe I’m getting old!