Sunday 24 March 2019

Who'd have thought it?

   I'm delighted that the last couple of years has seen an explosion of new talent onto the British "jazz scene". Not only that, but even more nature artists have been tempted into more experimental formats, and fusions with all sorts of sub genres. In fact, it's even more difficult to define "jazz" than it ever has been, something that I really appreciate. I hope that the fusion continues unabated, and "The Edge of Jazz" will be doing all that it can to help explore the fringes of what's going on out there, and encouraging it.
"Why?" you may well ask do I want to preserve this spirit of experimentation, and why is it so important?
The answer lies buried (for me) in the long ago distant past. From the earliest time that I was ever asked to play in a band I became aware that the musical scene I was about to enter was riven with a set of completely impractical rules. I was recruited because I could play the clarinet..very was, after all, my third instrument. Nor did I enjoy playing it very much, but the temptation of money loomed large, so I was asked to join a band local to where I was living at the time, and who were gigging regularly in a time frame and area that I could manage. After several moderately successful gigs I asked the leader of the band which played straight ahead new Orleans Jazz (I thought) whether I could take along one of my saxes to play on a couple of numbers. The response has stayed with me to this day " New Orleans Bands don't have saxophones" . I didn't realise just how constricted the view of what 'jazz' was for the members of the band that I was playing in, and then only became aware subsequently of the strict rules that debarred some of the local bands from having banjo's, piano players, or (and always the oddest to me) not allowing a sousaphone player to take the place of a bass player. 
  It was therefore an intense relief to be asked to sit in with a group of local muso's who didn't want to be a part of the raging trad arguments that were endemic at the time, but just wanted to be free to play what they wanted to with any line up that was available to them. Truly a dilemma. Earn money in front of a leaping crowd of young folk getting off their head in cider and be constrained within a musical framework that I didn't fancy or play for nothing within the confines of a band which I enjoyed playing with and who were kindred spirits. Regretfully money won, but I always thought that if I were starting out again I'd want to make it clear at the outset that I wasn't going to hemmed in by the constraints of playing within a format I hated. Which is, I suppose why I so readily applaud all those players who are out there, fusing together styles that deserve to be heard, and playing without the restraints of a single tradition or ethnic approach.