European Jazz Conference 2016

Ian Patterson BY

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It is important for musicians today not only to play an instrument, but to become an instrument of change.
—Danilo Pérez
European Jazz Conference 2016
National Forum of Music
Wroclaw, Poland
September 22-25, 2016

We have two ears and only one mouth so perhaps we should listen more than we speak. This old maxim is often credited to Hellenistic philosopher Zeno of Citrium, though who's to say he didn't pinch it after being admonished by a fellow Stoic for not listening enough himself? We'll never know.

What we do know, however, is that the way we listen to music has changed significantly in the super-technological age that sweeps us along at dizzying speeds like leaves in a storm, or that blows over us like a hurricane meeting a tree, leaving us overwhelmed and bedraggled.

The fourth European Jazz Conference, held in the magnificent National Forum of Music in the historic Polish city of Wroclaw, was all about listening. Entitled Listen Up!, the conference addressed—both directly and indirectly—notions of how we listen to music, how we listen to each other, and how we might do both better.

Two hundred delegates—jazz festival directors, promotors, agents, musicians, academics and journalists of the Europe Jazz Network—from thirty five European countries, plus distinguished guest speakers including Danilo Pérez, Georgina Born and Ben Ratliff, put heads together and traded back and forth for three days, with the intention of deepening mutual understanding, addressing common challenges and collaborating along numerous lines.

Eleven Polish jazz showcases across the three evenings gave a taster of the tremendous depth and talent that exists on the Polish jazz scene. These concerts will be reviewed in a separate article.


The way we listen to music—the food of love—is evolving fast, moving away from a communal experience to an increasingly hermetic one, with legions of ear- plugged individuals on trains, buses and planes locked in their personal sonic worlds, oblivious to those around them. Legions more walk, run, cycle or rollerblade to a personal, carefully crafted playlist that acts as a soundtrack to the rolling panorama.

And of course, we are able listen to far more than we ever did. Youtube and music streaming services have together created a musical library of infinite proportions, one we can access from almost anywhere at any time. The past has become the present.

Increasingly, music takes up less and less physical space in our homes as vast quantities of music are stored digitally, consigning the good old second hand record store to the collective memory. Clouds on the horizon indeed.

For far too many people these days, music is consumed for free. Few will stop to consider, as they download and share files, how the musicians are supposed to continue making music if they aren't paid. The rapid demise of the value of recorded music (in a certain sense) has had the effect of increasing the necessity of musicians to tour. Incidentally, it's difficult to think of too many other professions where men and women in the eighties and some in their nineties have to travel frequently and often for extended periods of time to keep body and soul together.

Paradoxically, at the same time that live streaming can bring a performance to people around the world, it also negates the necessity, for some folk at least, to bother attending the gig at all.

As promotors seek to offer new live listening experiences for their audiences, new types of settings for music are increasingly the norm. Classical music in car parks (Multi-Storey Orchestra), jazz in volcanic mountains (Jazz Gunung, Indonesia), festivals in deserts (Burning Man, Nevada) or rainforests (Rainforest Music Festival, Borneo), to cite a few examples, have taken music out of its habitual environments.

Venues as diverse as abandoned train stations, factories, warehouses and squats (think Centri Sociali in Italy) are commonplace throughout Europe, offering ever- more alternatives to the club, concert hall and auditorium.

Concerts at 33,000 feet (Jamiroquai's 2007 Boeing 757 gig), at 300 metres below sea level (Katie Melua, 2006, Norwegian off-shore gas platform), from space (Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in 2013) and at historic sites (Grateful Dead at Giza, 1978, Placebo at Angkor Wat, 2016) provide exotic backdrops to familiar music.

Even the exotic, however, slowly becomes standardized and institutionalized with repetition. The challenge for jazz promotors, in the main, is less about dramatic settings and more about meaningful ones. The spaces in which we listen to music was one of the central, recurring themes of the EJC 2016.

Music as never before is ubiquitous—interminable sonic wallpaper in lifts, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, trains and shops assault our overworked ears at every turn, at every step. It's everywhere, whether we like it or not, all the time. Little wonder that the acoustic overload of urban spaces, the decibel mayhem, provokes sonic isolation— if not silence—through ear-plugs.

At the same time that scientists, neurologists and therapists understand more and more about the healing properties of music, evidence suggests that compressed music is damaging our hearing. And, just as live music brings ever greater numbers of people together, with the proliferation of music festivals of all kinds and mega-gigs such as Jean Michel Jarre's Moscow gig to an estimated 3.5 million people in 1997)—so too it has the negative capacity to create boundaries.

With the rapid evolution of music technologies and changes in the consumption, dissemination and practical uses of music, the EJC 2016 raised, and attempted to answer with varying degrees of success, some fundamental questions regarding music's multiple roles in society.

Keynote Speech: Danilo Pérez

It was certainly apt that the EJC 2016 should invite keynote speakers of the international renown of Danilo Perez and Georgina Brown, and, in a one-on-one interview, Ben Ratliff. Apt because Wroclaw in its capacity as European Capital of Culture 2106 has pulled out all the stops. The EJC 2016, with its eleven Polish jazz showcases, was just one of over 800 events staged in Wroclaw and Lower Silesia in the year to date, events that have attracted more than two million people from all over Poland and abroad.

The opening day got under way with the lights out in the National Forum of Music's main auditorium with a surprise, unaccompanied clarinet improvisation from the front balcony. For ten minutes the music snaked this way and that, lyrical and visceral in turn, before the lights came up to reveal the music's creator—Mateusz Rybicki, one of Wroclaw's leading improvisers.

This musical welcome was followed by brief introductions from Piotr Turkiewicz and Ros Rigby—EJN Vice President and President respectively—who welcomed delegates and guests to the conference. Rigby then presented Stephen Meade—Artistic Director of the Manchester Jazz Festival—with the 2016 EJN Award for Adventurous Programing.

For two decades, the Manchester Jazz Festival has promoted up-and-coming jazz talent in northern England, providing a platform for bands—notably GoGo Penguin—to establish national and international reputations. Investing in the unknown, commissioning new work and seeking partnerships outside of jazz with the science, digital and literary worlds to extend the reach of the music, have been some of the cornerstones of Manchester Jazz Festival's growth and success. The road hasn't been free of bumps and Meade acknowledged the importance of "having the courage to get things wrong and be okay with that."

Clearly, Manchester Jazz Festival, under Meade's canny guidance has got an awful lot more right than wrong in its first twenty years.

Twenty five years ago, Danilo Pérez would typically have been described as a very talented pianist. Today, it's not quite so simple to hang a hat on the Panamanian. Pianist, improviser, composer, festival director, Artistic Director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, UNESCO Artist for Peace and Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Panama. It's been quite a ride since a twenty-something-year-old Pérez moved to Boston in 1984.

Pérez spoke of his childhood experience of the power of music as a tool for change, the inspirational figure of his father, and the great musicians he encountered in Berklee and subsequently New York, where he was invited by Dizzy Gillespie to join the United Nations Orchestra. For Pérez, Gillespie was much more than a musical mentor, showing the young Panamanian how jazz could be used for humanitarian purposes and as a tool for diplomacy.

Another towering figure in Pérez' personal and musical development has been Wayne Shorter, the quartet of whom Perez has been a member of since 2000. Shorter, Pérez recalled, advised him that "more than mastery of your instrument, it's about mastering your life, because that's what goes into your music."

Pérez recounted a concert in Panama in December 1989 that occurred just two days after the USA had invaded the country. Instead of canceling the concert, as might have been expected, the pianist and his band went ahead as scheduled. "I thought that if I die, I would like to die playing music," he recalled. To a packed club, Pérez' quartet played for two hours. "Through the power of music," Pérez described, "the concert became a ceremony of peace. We remembered our humanity and we fought war with jazz."

It was an experience that motivated Pérez to work for the benefit of his community, particularly with young musicians. Later, through his work with UNICEF, Pérez' eyes were opened to the extreme poverty and injustices in his country. These experiences engendered the Danilo Pérez Foundation, which, among many projects, utilizes music to increase memory capacity, improve mathematical ability and promote art and a culture of peace among children, adolescents and youth from socially disadvantaged, high-risk backgrounds.

In 2003, without sponsors, Pérez realized a long-held ambition when he and a small group of family and friends founded the Pananma Jazz Festival. Doubters at the time thought that a jazz festival would never fly in Panama, but Pérez had history on his side. He reminded the audience of Panama's historically significant jazz figures: Luis Russell, musical director for Louis Armstrong; pianist Sonny White, who recorded "Strange Fruit" with Billie Holiday, [as well as playing in the bands of Sidney Bechet, Teddy Hill, Lena Horne and Hot Lips Page]; pioneering jazz-fusion drummer Billy Cobham, of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame; Randy Weston and Eric Dolphy, who both had Panamanian roots.

The Panama Jazz Festival has a strong educational core, providing tuition and scholarships to young musicians. It is this positive philosophy, combined with the high international profile of the festival that has prompted the Panamanian government to pass a law that dictates that the Panama Jazz Festival should be enshrined as a national, annual event, with financial support from the government. It's an achievement that Pérez and his team can be rightly proud of.

Echoing the philosophies of mentors Gillespie and Shorter, Pérez stated: "It is important for musicians today not only to play an instrument but to become an instrument of change." This sentiment Pérez extended towards the audience of the EJC, inviting them to use their platforms, their festivals, to connect with society in a more meaningful level. The invitation, like Pérez' speech in general, provided food for thought.

Panel Discussion: Listening to Our Changing Cities

The question of how to grow jazz audiences and specifically how to attract younger generations—so that the music has a viable future—is a recurring theme of panel discussions at jazz meetings around the world. The salient themes of this discussion, chaired by former Demos director, An De bisschop, were: how jazz festivals can connect more meaningfully with communities; finding ways to develop and encourage broad participation in the arts; using music as an educational tool. Although the proposed framework for the discussion—that's to say, how our cities are changing/evolving,—wasn't really addressed in any depth, there were still plenty of ideas to tussle with.

The panel, featured Pérez, Francois Matarasso, an independent writer, artist and researcher, and Stephanie Toure from Banlieues Bleues, Paris, who has been conducting projects involving artists with a wide variety of youth and marginalized groups. Social Interaction, promoting inter-personal skills and improvisation, empowering and educating youth may be common aims of the Danilo Pérez Foundation and Banlieues Bleues, but to your average European jazz festival the main concern is often about balancing artistic and commercial concerns and not about addressing social inequalities. A lot of jazz festivals struggle from year to year to obtain the financial support just to continue.

Even if a jazz festival wished to reach out to the marginalized sections of the community, what does 'community' even mean in our rapidly evolving, bulging cities, where diversity—and diversity of lifestyles—is ever greater? 'Communities' may be a slightly better term, but as Matarasso pointed out, 'community' is a very fluid dynamic, and often temporary (as in the EJC). Jazz festivals pop up annually for a few days or perhaps a few weeks at most before hibernating—perhaps not the most suitable organs to aspire to charitable/educational functions.

However, as access to the arts is generally agreed upon as a basic human right—indeed a necessity—at the very least a proportion of affordable tickets (for the main gigs) for socially disadvantaged groups would be a simple and laudable way to make jazz festivals a little more inclusive.

Pérez' suggestion to consider opening future conferences to the public, as a means of fostering key partnerships with interested groups [those working with the disadvantaged and socially marginalized, youth groups, immigrants etc] provided food for thought. So too, a rhetorical observation by Matarasso, who asked: "What are we listening to? Who are we listening to? Unless you go into to this with the idea that you might change what you do I think there's very little point in doing it. If all you want to do is be a missionary...and take your faith out to other people and indoctrinate them to appreciate and join your faith...then you're like a radio that's only ever broadcasting. But radios can receive as well, you just have to turn the dial in the other direction."

Jazz music is often trumpeted as being the most democratic of musics, a liberal, tolerant music—the music of freedom and equality. Lofty claims perhaps, for a music in which women have long been marginalized figures and where jazz is often perceived, rightly or wrongly, as high-brow music practised and appreciated by a fairly hermetic community of cognoscenti. That's a difficult position from which to preach inclusiveness or to practise outreach.

One suggested way to practise meaningful outreach that surfaced from the floor—one that would involve relinquishing a little power—was to bring people in to co- curate festivals, certainly a direct way to open new routes of collaboration. It echoed a point made earlier by Pérez, who said that with the right partners positive synergies emerge.

Perhaps we ask too much of jazz, of any music, as a tool of social change. On the other hand, as Matarasso noted: "Art doesn't change the world but it changes people who change the world."

Parallel Working Groups

The EJC 2016 featured nine working groups split over the two days. Themes included audience development and engaging children/youth in creative music; working with new communities/impact on programming; music as therapy; developing collaborations between presenters, managers and booking agents; co-commissioning works; building strategic cultural partnerships.

In the afternoon of the second day's working groups were divided according to the typology of organisations: clubs/venues; festivals; national organisations; managers/agents; research, etc.

These groups threw light on some of the working projects of EJN members—of which there are many—and doubtless helped form some synergies to birth future collaborations. One obvious weakness in the format, noted by many of the attendees, is that being present in one working group meant missing out on all the others. A simple solution that occurred to many would be to record each working group and make the recordings available on-line.

The Healing of Communities through Music

This working group was led by Patricia Zárate Pérez, musician, music therapist, ethnomusicologist and founder in 2013 of the 1st Latin American Music Therapy Symposium in Panama City. Pérez also serves as Executive Director of the Panama Jazz Festival, and in conjunction with husband Danilo Pérez, is helping to evolve a music therapy program at Berklee College of Music.

The modern music therapy movement, Zarate Pérez noted, began in World War I, though music has been believed to harbour magical/healing properties since ancient times. Zarate Pérez recounted how 90% of the paintings in the Niaux Caves in the French Pyrenees—one of the most impressive Palaeolithic rock art galleries in the world—were painted at points where the caves' acoustics are best, suggesting, as others have noted before, that the cave dwellers were aware of the positive properties of good acoustics.

Zarate Pérez presented examples of known benefits of music, from jogging memory in people suffering from dementia, to playing a contributing role in the regeneration of parts of the brain following traumas—as was the case with American politician Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an attempted assassination in 2011.

Zarate Pérez highlighted how music can serve as a political rallying cry and an act of defiance, as during the Civil Rights Movement, [think also Dimitri Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, premiered in Leningrad while the city was under siege by the German army in 1942]; music can serve to uplift the impoverished and disadvantaged, as in El Sistema, Venezuela's publicly financed education program, which to date has provided free classical music education to nearly three quarters of a million children in 400 centres countrywide; music can cross otherwise insurmountable socio-political barriers, as in Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra, which unites musicians from Israel, The Palestinian Territories and other Middle Eastern countries.

A striking example of music as resistance and symbol of hope was presented in a video clip [see Youtube] of Karim Wasfi, cellist and Director of the Iraqi National Symphony, who plays solo cello at the site of bomb blasts around Baghdad, turning sites of terror and devastation, for a brief moment, into places of beauty, compassion and peaceful contemplation.

In an engaging presentation, Zarate Pérez recounted once more the history of the Pananma Jazz Festival, from its humble beginnings in 2003 to its current status as a government-sponsored symbol of national pride. The educational component of the PJF has grown significantly, with around 250 students in 2003 rising to 4,000 in 2016. It will be fascinating to see how many students of the program go on to develop careers in music in the coming years and decades.

The extent of the benefits of music are not fully understood by scientists/neurologists but its ability to stimulate speech and rhythms in people suffering from Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, autism or strokes is no secret. The video of Henry, the elderly gentleman in a near-vegetative state in a nursing home, remarkably reanimated by his favorite music, has been seen on Youtube over two million times, and provides truly poignant testimony to the power of music and the need for ongoing research into its multiple physical and neurological benefits.

Keynote Speech by Georgina Born: Music Space and Listening

There can't be too many academics who previously enjoyed a career in avant-garde jazz, rock and improvised music. Cultural theorist and Professor of Music and Anthropology at Oxford University, Georgina Born is one such person. Born cut her professional teeth in groups such as Henry Cow and the Feminist Improvising Group, as well as playing in Michael Nyman's band for the UK Premier of Terry Riley's "In C."

In recent years Born has conducted extensive research in the developing and developed world into the way that music and musical practises are changing due to digitization and digital media. Everybody will be aware of the profusion of cell-phones recording sound/images during concerts but the ubiquitous cell phone is not the preserve of the developed world: "Cell phones throughout the developing world have become the platform for the mediated experience of music," Born emphasized.

Even in the Massai desert of Kenya, Born related, "every Massai adult has a mobile phone," and thanks to affordable prices some thirty million people in Kenya—out of an estimated population of forty five million—are able to access music from the net.

With this background in mind, Born proposed that we need a new term in place of 'listening' to describe modern practises. For Born, a broader term would be 'musical experiences.' Much of the presentation drew form Born's edited book Music Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Spaces (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and if the language was occasionally overly academic for a largely non-academic, multi-national audience, the messages were, nevertheless, thought- provoking.

Though collective live music experiences of a concert, festival or political gathering bring diverse people together, Born highlighted how a sound-system event in Harlesden, North West London is "all about the affirmation of male Afro-Caribbean social identity. " With women largely staying away, these gatherings are also about marking territory and erecting boundaries, which, in other settings, Born noted, can be drawn along gender, age, race and ethnicity. "We should all be very concerned with that," she cautioned.

Drawing from a 1984 paper by Shuhei Hosokawa entitled The Walkman Effect, which studied the then new-found control over musical environment, Born underlined the duality of the "creative process" of today's i-pod users (creating/streaming the soundtracks to their lives) and also their conscious decision to "block out" other experiences and stimuli. Born's example underlined how mass listening practise can have a decidedly individual character.

Multiple listening experiences, summarized Born, co-exist: from live to mediated listening; offline and online; individual and social; inclusive and exclusive. Our listening experiences, Born added, also depend on our socio-economic position, our education and culture, and our technological predilections and literacies. "All of these things come in and they mean that we hear and experience things differently."

Effectively, Born posited that we should perhaps no longer confine our aesthetic experience just to sound, but to conceive it more expansively to include the space, the material, "the embodied and audio-visual and social extensions of musical sound—how it comes to us...."

Parallel Working Groups: Engaging Children and Young Audiences in Creative Music

Concerts for kids is one thing, working with kids is quite another. Increasingly, however, jazz festivals and jazz organisations are looking at ways to introduce children to improvised/creative music. The criteria is the all-important thing. Is the primary motive to grow audiences at jazz festivals? Is it to gain easier access to the resources of funding bodies? Or is it for the benefit of the kids?

This workshop, co-led by Nina Torske from Vestnorsk Jazzsenter, Norway, and Wim Wanbbes from the Handelsbeurs Concert Hallhe, Belgium, addressed such questions and debated whether it's even necessary to 'tailor' music for young children, as opposed to introducing them to the same music adults enjoy.

In a The Jazzline news item that quoted statistics from the 2014 Nielsen Music US Report, children's music was at the bottom of the heap, representing just 1% of total sales, propping up jazz and classical music, which both held 1.4% of the market. It's a glass half full/half empty scenario, as clearly for children's music the only way is up.

One positive project which hopes to use music as a tool to enhance children's social skills, improve confidence and tap into their creativity, is Twist and Shout. Currently being developed by Handelsbeurs Concert Hallhe, the aim is to create a language that children from all backgrounds will be able to use to create music, with their voices, clapping and using hand-made instruments. As Wabbes explained, a combination of sign language and graphic language could be implemented.

The first workshops begin in October and it's hoped that the project—a musical language research project essentially—will attract the support of interested partners on a Europe-wide scale.

The question of presenting music for children raised animated discussion, with Nigel Slee of Jazz North advocating a common sense manifesto that stipulates high standards of musicianship, a quality sound-system and a commitment to safe volume. Some people suggested that children's showcases at key festivals/events would be a good way to promote their wider implementation. Veteran music programmer/promoter Nod Knowles, however, disagreed, saying: "We need a big statement, not lots of little sideshows." He went on to propose a showcase at the EJC, and suggested that instead of inviting journalists it would make greater sense to invite teachers from around Europe. Listening to teachers' voices—the gatekeepers themselves—might make an awful lot of sense.

Ben Ratliff Interviewed: Every Song Ever

Why do we need a book about how to listen to music? It was a reasonable opening question from interviewer Agnieszka Antoniewska to music critic Ben Ratliff. After all, it's something we all do.

Few, however, have listened to as much diverse music with such a finely attuned critical ear as Ratliff. Pop and jazz critic for the New York Times and author of several books, including Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), Ratliff's latest book, Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016), is an attempt to think about music not in terms of genres, but in terms of effects.

For Ratliff, the underlying premise of the book is about how we listen to music today compared to how we used to listen to music in the pre-internet age. For the author, the choice boils down to becoming increasingly subservient to streaming services such as Spotify, or attempting to make our own sense of the vast, sometimes overwhelming amount of music available at the click of a button. "Good listening is about you and about how you think about music, your own curiosity and your own originality," Ratliff said.

Antoniewska was quick to take Ratliff up on the seemingly contradictory fact that the suggested listening lists at the end of each chapter of his book are available on Spotify (about sixteen hours of music), to which the author replied that this had been his publisher's decision. Spotify and other streaming services are today's reality, for better or for worse, and Ratliff's book, as he attempted to get across in this interview, is all about listening to and making sense of music in today's reality, using all the tools at our disposal.

The interview got a little bogged down on the pros and cons of Spotify and its business practises, drifting away from the message of the book; the message being that there are multiple ways to listen to music and ways to make connections between seemingly disparate styles that may enhance our understanding of and appreciation of diverse music, beyond the constraints of genres.

On Antoniewska's point regarding shorter attentions spans, Ratliff noted: "Yes, we're at a moment when it seems to be that we have shorter attention spans, but at the same time we seem to be able to watch an entire series of a television show in one day, or one evening—straight, end to end. We can absorb it whole."

There was plenty to absorb in the Ratliff interview, and more still in the Q&A that followed, including the observation by John Cumming of Serious/EGF London Jazz Festival that the modern means of transmitting music [i-pods, smart phones, streaming services, live streaming of concerts, podcasts, social media etc] are crucial in informing and expanding the audience for live music.

Whether the live music experience leads people to be more curious about recorded music or vice versa is a moot point, but the role of technology is vital, Cumming emphasized, when he spoke of the need to find new audiences and reinvigorate the older jazz audience demographic in how they listen and how they find out about creative artists.

This interview with Ratliff, whilst touching upon many points, touched only lightly on the content of his book, which is recommended for anyone looking for guidance or suggestions on how to make sense of the enormous, ever-growing library of music now at our ready disposal.

Parallel Working Sessions: European Research Group

In the afternoon of the final day, conference attendees split up into groups according to typology of organisations—festivals, clubs/venues, managers/agents, national organisations etc. These sessions provided an opportunity for more specific sharing of ideas and potential collaborations.

The session dealing with European research was led by Tony Whyton, Professor of Jazz Studies at Birmingham School of Media and author of Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album (Oxford University Press, 2013)—highly acclaimed books that challenge and question accepted notions of jazz history/mythology.

Whyton is also a leading figure in the groundbreaking Rhythm Changes project—a pan-European research collaboration that has gone from strength to strength.

Around twenty people attended this session, and one by one they introduced themselves, their projects and areas of expertise, which took up a sizeable portion of the session. The time might have been more productively used had it been possible to sign up for the session prior to the commencement of the conference, with each person submitting short bios/outlines of their work on-line.

That said, the range and breadth of research going on across Europe was most impressive. Studies/projects, both country-specific and pan-European, covered: musical archiving; Cuban elements in jazz; cultural politics in jazz; marginalized figures in jazz history; jazz and disability; the impact of jazz festivals; the numbers behind the Europe Jazz Network; audience development/audience data; peripheral actors in jazz; world music, and more besides.

Arguably the most ambitious project, driven by journalist/promotor Francesco Martinelli, is the European Jazz Network's undertaking to write a history of European jazz encompassing thirty five countries. It's a huge task but one nearing its conclusion. Martinelli will shed more light on the book and its contents during a talk at the EFG London Jazz Festival in November.

What are the benefits of academic research into jazz? In a nutshell, outward-facing research—advocacy of another kind—provides better understanding of the multiple forces that move jazz and its audiences, therefore helping promotors to offer more meaningful programs, and perhaps helping organizations/musicians to access funding. Research into jazz also allows insight into the cultural links uniting countries, highlights the key differences in the meanings associated with jazz from one country to another, and in the process, enables the opportunity for better international co-operation between musicians, agents, festivals and organizations.

The key for the academics/researchers in persuading others of the importance of their research, whether other EJN members or funding bodies, lies perhaps in the language used. There's no greater turn-off for the lay person than being subjected to insider technical jargon.

The academics/researchers present at the EJC 2016 are all enormously passionate about jazz and in promoting better understanding of the forces that shape the music—not only its production, dissemination and consumption, or the demographics and trends, but the sometimes thorny issues that jazz histories have tended to overlook. Time to listen up indeed.


EJC 2016 flew by in the blink of an eye. An intense few days generated a lot of talking that required a lot of concentrated listening. The lessons imparted during the conference, the suggestions for future projects/creative strategies to promote jazz and grow its audience, will no doubt take a while to digest.

What was easy to see, however, is that the members of the European Jazz Network are tremendously passionate about the promotion of live music. Jazz, like the societies we live in, is experiencing rapid evolution and it takes effort to understand the forces that bring about these changes and the knock-on effects. How jazz will continue to evolve—the music, the audiences, the technology and the spaces—is unsure, but understanding the multiple currents of jazz' history, as any academic/historian will tell you, should you care to listen, is key to predicting what the future holds.

The EJC 2017 will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Photo Credit: Lukasz Rajchert

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