Jazz in the UK now

Sammy Stein By

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Fowler is also aware of the growing enthusiasm away from the capital. "I did a lovely gig in Bristol at the Bebop Club with some old friends." He says, " The audience was mainly middle-aged I'd guess with a few younger and older members. Revisiting my hometown jazz club in Wakefield, I feel lucky thinking I was exposed to music in this environment. Although it is a mixed audience, it's full of people of all ages who are all really into music. I think if the scene is changing and becoming younger, it can only be a good thing.I think it's great there's loads of young people around at the moment like trumpet player Laura Jurd and drummer Jonathan Silk who all have something new to say on their instruments."

Drummer and percussionist Pedro Segundo is house drummer in Ronnie Scott´s since 2010 with the James Pearson Trio. He has played and toured with trombone player Dennis Rollins's Velocity Trio. He comments, " The music scene in general is obviously energetic and versatile. In jazz there's many old standing venues that provide quality jazz such as Ronnie Scott´s, 606, Pizza Express, Vortex to name a few and there's other pop-up places all around London that present great up and coming jazz musicians. London at this very moment is very much enjoying jazz. The late shows in Ronnie Scott´s are often packed and the audience is young. Obviously due to the economical situation there are countless cuts in the Arts Fund. It is imperative that there is a financial support for new projects that are waiting to branch out."

Saxophonist Dave Lewis is an American but now lives in the UK. He leads his seven piece band '1UP' and has also toured and recorded throughout the States, Europe and Japan, and made numerous TV, radio and video appearances. Dave has played with John Martyn, Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton,Joan Armatrading and more. He plays many venues in London including Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express Dean St, the 606 Club, Hideway and other places so knows the UK scene well. He comments, "One of the major challenges facing jazz venues today is to broaden the demographic. Many established clubs had active members of a certain vintage which had not necessarily been added to by a more youthful crowd. Things, for a while, were not looking good. There seems to be hope however, as the educational system in the UK for jazz is now infinitely healthier than it has ever been and there is now a genuine upsurge of activity and interest from new players and new audiences alike. Long may this continue. "

Nothing can be taken away from the importance of small venues like Ryans Bar in Stoke Newington where free players can often get a showcase in their FlimFlam events. Musicians can play to a full house but also the landlord will not kick them out if there are only three or four in the audience. Bigger venues are diversifying and offering different musical talent a space to play. One consequence has been they have got younger people into gigs. The scene has taken on an energy which only youth can bring. Sometimes, success can mean it becomes more difficult for musicians just breaking into the scene to get a gig but the growth of places promoting much more free music, as well as trendy venues that are popping up, is very healthy. London is proving a magnet for players. Saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, for example, used to play London once in a while but now he seems to be there almost monthly. Brotzmann himself has said that in Europe it was once possible to set off on the road and play for two weeks at small venues dotted across the countries but now it is harder and you have to travel long distances between gigs in Europe but the UK and especially London is still attractive. Small venues have opened or re-opened across the capital. Examples include The Luna Lounge, in Leytonstone, The Forge, Camden, Hideaway, Streatham , Pizza Express Jazz Club, on Dean Street and the 606 Club, SW10. Kings Place, York Way, N1, is where you can catch freeform, amongst a range of art offerings. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson says, "London has always been one of the most amazing places for free and creative music and always will be. Key players like guitarist Derek Bailey, saxophonist Lol Coxhill, musician Steve Beresford, drummer Roger Turner and saxophonist John Butcher all helped build up a totally ass-kicking scene over the years. London became one of the most creative scenes in the history of jazz and improvised music. The problem is that venues in London always had limited funding."


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