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Jazz in the UK now

Sammy Stein By

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Double and electric bassist Yaron Stavi has lived in the UK since 2002 and is based in London. He has played with pianist Pierre Boulez, conductor and violinist Sir Neville Mariner,violinist Nigel Kennedy and more. He is a member of the Orient House Ensemble led by saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. He says, "I've played around the UK a lot in the last 12 years and as far as I can say there is quite a big jazz scene around the UK and especially in London. I feel the jazz scene in the UK is alive but one thing might put a question on its future more than any other is the audience's age. I have toured and played pretty much everywhere in western and central Europe and a lot in Eastern Europe, Asia, America and South America. The UK jazz audience is the oldest I have met. It is a wonderful audience who kept the jazz scene alive for many years but I am not sure what will happen to the scene in the future. The class of musicians is growing all the time. There are more and more great musicians and talented artists but I think that what needs to grow is the younger audience. The UK jazz scene is living, grooving and swinging. I hope and wish for it to live for many more years. For that it must reach more young people. They will be the ones who will keep it alive."

On funding Stavi says, "There are definitely differences between the funding methods in the UK and Europe. I am not an expert on the subject but as a touring musician who plays very often around Europe and obviously in the UK I see more funding for jazz but also for music and arts in general in Europe than in the UK. The funding is both public and private. I see many more sponsors and supporters of jazz in Europe than in the UK. I see that support in many festivals and venues around Europe. I know that venues and festivals around the UK struggle and sometimes even have to stop because of lack of funds. I don't know if this is going to change in the near future. There are, obviously, also a lot of good people and institutions who are doing great things such as Jazz Services and so on but I guess there is still more to do before the UK jazz scene will live up to its potential."

Saxophonist and composer Renato D'aiello plays in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Finland, Norway, Malta and Japan. For the past three years he plays every Monday night upstairs at Ronnie Scott's. He says , "the jazz scene in London is very lively. The UK scene is very healthy and people are definitely enjoying jazz more and more and the standard of players is becoming higher every year. There are a lot of places where young and less young musicians can play starting from pubs, restaurants, Jazz venues, colleges, village halls and festivals. There are also a lot of foreign musicians in London which a very positive thing. In terms of funding there is a big difference between UK and France or Italy (where there is no funding whatsoever). Musicians in France appear more able to concentrate on their projects, because there is funding in the form of an ongoing monthly award for artists called "Intermittance" which is non-existent in the UK and Italy. In the UK we also have some great organizations like Jazz Services which helps support touring bands and there are also other funding schemes supported by the National Lottery but this funding is difficult to access ."

The jazz scene in the UK has come back to life and with a vengeance. Much is down to the nature of the audiences. Saxophonist Evan Parker commented recently, "It is an amazingly strong and diverse scene that seems to thrive on adversity. The cultural authorities have been ignoring it for the past twenty years, and hoping it would die of starvation; but they have not reckoned with the determination of people to follow their hearts. We play in a very connected way—maybe too connected but the audience seem to appreciate it."

Edwards comments, "Music has always been the antithesis of political power— jazz maybe more so and free jazz even more. The establishment maybe want to keep people drugged up with the banal, working, doing the same thing. Maybe free music upsets that." He also feels live music definitely has a future. " We are all hard wired to gather together. It is the group thing. We thrive in groups and nothing can recreate live gigs....... Certainly in our culture the thing of some people being on stage playing and some listening is all part of the event. It is about all of us, how we get along."

Singer Barb Jungr says, " I think people really want to hear live music. Everyone knows that when you are in a room with something you get something very different than from listening to alone at home."

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