Most of what keeps jazz and jazz inspired music alive is live performance. Back in May I rehearsed a now familiar theme for me: “The network of clubs, festivals, workshops, weekend and longer courses that make up so much of the jazz scene in all its variety is sustained by a frequently un-sung army of people. They organise, book, ‘do the door’, promote.” Writing that, the idea of a ‘Jazz Citizen’s award’ popped into my head, not a very snappy title, I’m sure it can be improved (Jazz Community Award; Jazz Shout Out; The Big Whoop Award…?) , but the intent would be to name-check, thank, ‘big-up’ individuals who give a lot of themselves to make things happen and make a difference to large numbers of people through music. Musicians are of course celebrated through awards (though not as many as there used to be for jazz) as are educators, writers and publishers. So this little category is for a different section of the community of which jazz lovers, listeners, learners and players are all a part. There’s overlap between those identities naturally and multiple motivations, but all these people I’m noticing add something important to our collective lives in different ways. Here’s a handful then from the local scene in Bristol and Bath whose paths I’ve crossed one way or another in 2013. Others will have to ‘do the honours’ for other parts of the country (or add more from Bristol and Bath)
Slight caveat: I wrote a ‘New year’s honours list’ in 2011 and so have largely avoided repeating some of those in this admittedly slightly individual set of name checks/ whoops. Many of my 2011 list would undoubtedly appear here otherwise
Denny Ilett and Colin Gorrie: Between them they masterminded the inaugural Bristol Jazz and Blues Festivals and there will be a second in March 2014. Quite a apart from the programme of ticketed gigs over a cold weekend in March, for the thousands hanging out in Colston Hall and soaking up the atmosphere and general exuberance it was a priceless moment in time.
Jonathan Taylor of Fringe Jazz: Establishing a regular jazz gig and keeping it going is no mean feat and Jonathan Taylor has managed it the in the bijou performance space behind the Fringe Bar in Clifton with the weekly session well past its first birthday and continuing regular slots for all manner of local heroes (Andy Sheppard, The Pushy Doctors, James Morton and many more) and the occasional visiting heavyweight (John Etheridge earlier in the year for example)
Simon Greening/ John Lambert: The monthly East Bristol Jazz Club Jam Session waxes and wanes in the attendance and support it gets, but this one has a continuous, traceable history stretching back fourteen years. I’ve written about this it before but as I chewed over the history again at the recent packed Christmas session with the founder, trumpeter Dave Mowatt, there was a another raising of the hat to Simon who has kept it going in recent years through a couple of venue changes and to John Lambert who is still the regular ‘house pianist’ as he was at that first session 14 years ago. Whoop!
Tony Benjamin Venue Magazine was a Bristol institution for many years and was finally snuffed out as even an online presence in late November this year. For a lot of the last few years and through some of the Magazine’s glory years, Tony Benjamin, documented, reviewed, supported and shone a light on a lot of the Bristol music scene and especially Jazz. So, yes a journo but a real supporter and animator of so much music and so many musicians and, for a while, the programmer of the Jazz Lounge at Glastonbury that took a fair bit of the Bristol Jazz scene to the Pilton mud-flats. So for all of those reasons, a big whoop for Tony.
I’d welcome additions to these.