Must jazz be startling, to be jazz?

The other evening I popped into the excellent music and arts venue, Norwich Arts Centre; if you have never been there, look up their immensely wide spread of performers across all music genres … and many other arts events.   Also, send me some background and contact details of your favourite jazz venue and I will try to get there and write a review in Grapevine.

My impromptu visit was because I wanted to see and hear the stunning Broken Brass Ensemble which combines traditional New Orleans brass with more contemporary sounds like funk and even a touch of hip-hop.  An irreverent yet brilliant melodic and rhythmic approach would be my summary.  The band truly created a startling and energetic mix. The eight BBE members are all very young and talented musicians who combine their swinging brass with tight percussion. Much of their music is original, though the band isn’t ashamed to rock the audience with a surprising cover every now and then.  Sadly, no more planned gigs in UK but quite a few in their homeland, the Netherlands.  Listen to them on

Now why is that small country such a hotbed of great jazz, possibly the best in Europe?  The sheer energy of the group made me also wonder if some of our home-grown jazz is sometimes getting a little tame and predictable?  What are your views?

Have jazz tours faded away?

This experience stimulated me to run an informal study across a number of jazz fans on what makes a good club.  Though this has no statistical validity, as the researchers might say, the comments had a consistency that suggests there are some important aspects of the live jazz that most fans enjoy.  One of the surprising observations was that few jazz fans actually see organized jazz performances in theatres or at arena tours.  .  Pretty obviously the top factor was regular appearances of gretat jazz combinations.  Most fans seem to like a fixed venue and regular adtes.  As Tom Streissguth, a renowned jazz histrian said”The essential jazz experience seems to be local live performance and by a wide margin the best venue seems to be a well-run local jazz club.  If you run a club or have views on those you have attended, do please let me know so I can use your comments in future issues of Grapevine – keep it polite, and positive, please!  Send any views you have and let me know if I can quote your name if I use your thoughts.

Many of us can remember those great jazz tours where a band or, sometimes, several bands would play across dozens of venues in the UK.  This seems rarer these days.  Some years back, I saw many of the great US stars live sometimes even in pubs or dance halls, though often playing on the stage in cinemas.  These included Dave Brubeck, Benny Goodman, Dizzie Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Woodie Herman, Stan Kenton, the Modern Jazz quartet, Gerry Mulligan, Flip Phillips and Artie Shaw.  How I wish I had kept the programmes from all those magical events.  Anyone know a source where I could buy copies of these historic programmes?

Many enthusiasts I have spoken to believe the live performance stand far above those gigs electronically transmitted across cinemas.  Certainly these are ‘live’ in terms of real time.  But the cameras cannot really capture the atmosphere of being there.  Those bands I have seen and still go to see made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  Also I can recall countless live (often sweaty) moments that I would never have experienced via electronic media.  Imagine this bizarre one, for it actually happened.  Stan Kenton and his magnificent 20-plus piece orchestra with all those famous star players were there live on the stage of the Odeon, Southend.  One pre-teen youngster (me) had been smuggled in by his older brother.  My hero, Stan, had his hands poised above the key board, before launching into his trademark dramatic piano chords.  In that moment of perfect silence, a drunken voice emerged from the back of the stalls.  “How about One o’clock Jump, Stan?”  We were stunned at the interruption – and, worse, the ignorance of him asking for a number made famous by Benny Goodman and which Kenton had never played.   Yet, without a blink, hands still poised above the keys, Stan responded, politely: “I don’t think we have that in our repertoire “… then immediately plunged into the glorious Artistry in rhythm.

Tell us our readers about your club

Running a club, however, is a tough business proposition — one which even years of experience won’t necessarily make easier. If you’re considering life as a club owner, you need to conduct thorough research into your venue, costs and audience to succeed.  If you are running a club or reviewing your current club or thinking of forming one, you would be wise to read some of the recommendations of the managers of successful clubs. Try putting into Google, Starting a jazz club.