Free Form Evolution
The advice to players remains the same. Even established musicians understand the changes recently, but the advice is still to play free whenever you can, play from the soul and speak with your instrument. Advice Storrer would give to an aspiring free form play today is, "Experiment with your instrument of choice, become a master of it. That allows the individual to go in any direction they wish. Only their own mind will confine them to where they can go. So, be proficient first, learn from listening to all previous music, learn by listening to your peers and then find your own voice and direction." Payne comments, "Play from the heart, find your divine light and be angry also"angry, meaning the political frustration expressed in music.
Wilkinson comments."If you are new in a town, try to get to gigs and meet players, put things together and go and play. Other than that, think about ways that you might go about making money but still have time to put stuff together. There is less pressure generally [in small venues], so although I believe you should always be prepared to play to your highest standard, you are more open to experiment and try new combinations. I like to use Flim Flam to play with people or combinations that I have never done before, and the fact there is an audience there helps to focus proceedings. I find it a very creative environment."
London is very special at the moment and, while musicians come from a different melting pot than in the rest of Europe, London venues like The New Vortex and Oto's remain key.
Payne comments, "New and free music needs to get into Ronnie Scott's and kick out all that nonsense that's being performed there at the moment; you know, middle of the road, easy listening, cocktail jazz." Scott's management might argue that they are under pressure to keep the place filled with drinking punters. However, Payne is right that venues need to change with the times if they are to continue to have the respect of jazz musicians and listeners. Venues have, to some extent, a responsibility for the continuing development of music, just as paying audiences and players do.
In Europe, like London, the scene is changing. When I spoke to Sheppard recently, he had just played Lisbon and he said there, the audience was younger and very interested in what they were doing.
Day believes there is currently a strong youth cohort interested in the genre. From 1997 to 2000, Day had to take a break from music and when he came back he found the audience had become younger. He comments, "There is a very healthy stock of improvising musicians in America, Australia, Asia, Europe and the UK. There are lots of great players coming up of mixed nationality like the Spanish and the French. The Malaga festival is for largely Spanish musicians, but they also welcome people like me with open arms. The musicians are really schooled so very adaptable. People like Javier Carmona can swap genres and try different styles and bands at festivals."
According to Mats Gustafsson, the scene right now is more interesting than ever. "There are so many more young players active now playing free and experimental music. You can't even compare to the '90s, '80s, '70s or '60s. The scene has never been so interesting and creative," he says. "More people are active with people arriving to free form playing from a huge variety of places and backgrounds [electronic, rock, folk, rock and pop]not just from a straight jazz background. I have to say I look to the future in a very positive way."
Brötzmann's advice to young players is if you want to set up something different stick to it."Forget about fashion and be strong and keep doing it." Saxophonist Evan Parker comments, "Any aspiring jazz player will first have to decide what the word 'jazz' means in the 21st century. If you are so driven that you can accept the material consequences, you will not be stopped, you will find a way. Become part of the community where you live, if there isn't one, start one and if you have to live somewhere else, do that." Yet this is increasingly harder to do, if you want to pay the rent as well. The advice of many established players to aspiring ones is to set up something locally and if nothing exists, play with as many musicians and bands as you can, find venues, seek new ideas and just play, but the reality of this, unless you happen to live with a sympathetic place to gig around the corner, is that it's a difficult challenge.