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Jazz Connective in London – some thoughts

The Jazz Connective conference in London on 11-12 March followed on from the one in Birmingham. We tried to focus and develop some of the issues that had been raised so far during our meetings but also, hopefully, give some ideas for the final meeting in Lyon in July DV*.
We managed to avoid discussion of the possible impact of Coronavirus (which was beginning to affect everything) and so could look a bit more at the longer term. We only “lost” a couple of participants and one of the groups.
From my own involvement throughout and with a period to reflect while our venue is closed(!), a few thoughts come to mind.
the importance of a venue as a centre of community – of its area, of fans and of musicians. 
Jazz musicians are generally quite good at responding and developing ideas around, perhaps even more than many other art forms. It confirms what was pointed out for grassroots venues generally at Music Venues Trust, an organisation over here which is broader than just jazz. This sense needs to be capitalised on and not forgotten. A club needs to be proactive with its musicians and fans, and has a chance to be that because of the nature of its programming. As the Covid pandemic has gone on, we have noticed it more and more at the club, with private donations and musicians donating tracks and money too.
the nature of improvisation, which we take for granted and indeed regard as a vital element is something that has an appeal beyond the jazz world. So, we noticed this with the work of Aurelie Freoua and Résonances (where artists, dancers and poets undertake visual improvisations and interact with musicians), in the jazz and poetry nights at the Vortex and in the work of Penny Rimbaud, who needs improvising musicians to give life to his poetry and performances.
there are many networks around beyond the ones that we hear about from national organisations and so on, where musicians get to know each other across Europe and start collaborations. For example, the youth jazz orchestras of UK, Germany and Netherlands do tours together. We need to keep aware of these and work out how to use them as conduits.
the opportunities are now there to cash in on the internet opportunities, such as streaming, internet radio, podcasts and blogs. These have grown quite significantly over the past decade. We have to join in ourselves, either directly or by working with some of the blogs, internet radio stations and so on that now exist. Before the radio or traditional media used to be there to help. Now we need to start doing these things ourselves. Similarly there are portals developing such as jazzed.com which are independent of the radio stations. We need to look at these and develop our own. Unfortunately, this will require learning new skills and none of it is free. The returns are also more uncertain. Given that we are already at our limits, to add this on is not an easy matter. But it has to be done. We have perhaps more time to work out the options, as we don’t have the daily rough and tumble of organising gigs.
While some there expressed their strong preference for actual live gigs, and also some discussion about whether musicians will be touring as much anyway in the future, the current lockdowns are certainly make us adapt fast. There are still some major problems in terms of latency between different locations, quality of video and so on. But we have to sort it out.
Musicians are as amazing as we know they are, at problem solving as much as organising. With Verneri Pohjola and Mika Kalio unable to come from Helsinki to play with Orphy Robinson and Dudley Philips, we sorted out, based on musicians there, a great improv jam, including tap dancer (Petra Haller), Dave Smith, Aurelie Freoua, Loz Speyer and and and…

Supported by the CU Creative Europe Fund and Arts Council England, you can see a list of the main partners here. The programme of the event is available here including the band showcases.

  • Deo volente – God willing.
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