Keeping Jazz Going

It’s hard work keeping a jazz club going – I’ve tried it a couple of times.  It’s possibly even harder on a wind-swept Sunday night in an out-of-season Lowestoft.  But Milestones Club proves that a warm and vibrant micro-climate can be created within an otherwise inauspicious venue for jazz, the Hatfield Hotel on the Esplanade, but a hotel which I’m sure serves town and businesses well.

Milestones Jazz Club’s first Sunday programme is also different in bravely taking its audience (so far this year) from blues fusion to new-ambient jazz to contemporary composition and, this month, back to the early Swing influenced The Palomar Project.  It won’t please everyone, and two ladies discreetly departed early on in the evening last month.  My sense however is that Milestones has a loyal and open-minded bunch turning up to see and hear both local and leading-edge acts.

Partikel can be said to come under the latter description, a nominally trio-based ensemble that has incorporated a string quartet on recordings.  They were thus accompanied in Lowestoft by the accomplished Benet McLean on violin, possibly better known in his mode as an avant-bop pianist and who certainly did not depend on familiar jazz-violin contributions.  Partikel – Duncan Eagles (sax), Max Luthert (bass) and Eric Ford (drums) – have been building their scene in south London over some years now.  Their music opened with some electronic twiddling and atmospherics, breaking into the angular post-M-Base struts of Dave Holland or Chris Potter groups.  I felt Partikel’s greater certainty and muscle came through from the technically gifted frontman in the more strident second set.   But this is a trio that achieves complex composition and improvisation without the bedrock of a chordal piano or guitar.

In February’s Jazzwise magazine (I’m catching up), I couldn’t help but notice two parallel pieces.  Another young trio with electronics – GoGo Penguin, now signed by Blue Note – are among a number of new sounds coming out of Manchester’s Gondwana Records stable.  Inspired by but not necessarily grown out of jazz, GoGo’s strong melodic riffs attract popular appeal; or, in quoting a gig-goer: “It’s like jazz, but good”.  The other piece in the magazine laments jazz that is simplified for easy consumption.  Stuart Nicholson’s principal target is the BBC, media establishment and arts gatekeepers (and, I would add, provincial arts centres).  But jazz presented as a pleasant ambience rather than as music that takes a bit of effort to get into, such as by our departing ladies above, is what got his goat.  I’m no fan of authenticity for its own sake, but be as wary of ‘inspired by jazz’ as you would of Leicestershire potato crisps ‘inspired’ by the flavours of Italian delicatessens.

Cool jazz from the Suffolk coast in the form of quartet Morphology found its way inland in March, with a warm performance over pizzas at the Old Kings Head in Brockdish near Harleston.  A week later the group impressively held the local airwaves, playing live for two hours on Ipswich Community Radio.  For those up early on a Saturday, catch the quartet at Jimmy’s Farm Jazz Breakfast – a scheduling that’s as novel as’s A Morning Cup of Jazz, to be found streamed online our time at 4.30 in the afternoon.


… Dereham Jazz returns in May, on Thursday 19th, a different day at a different trial venue – Dereham Golf Club.  Show your support!