Wedding Venues & Village Halls, the new live jazz venues

Today, far less live jazz is played than used to be the case, where once there was a great business in jazz clubs and dance halls, as in the days of King Oliver: in night clubs, for dances, and on the stage. Indeed, the honky-tonk, or bar room, or night club - especially the less classy type of joint - once was an essential pillar of the music, with small bands like a jazz trio being popular, especially in the United States, where the specialist jazz public is less organised than in Europe.

We all know how strong jazz used to be, and how big a place in the everyday lives of people that used to play, just from watching period films. A lot of life centred around jazz clubs, dance halls, pubs were live music was being performed. We can talk to our grandparents and great grandparents who may have been alive during the war years, with a dance hall on the Saturday night dance was a regular feature. The music would have been played would have been jazz. The American big bands performed on BBC radio, and I can even remember big-band radio programmes on the radio when I was a child. I couldn't stand it. The discordant harmonies of a typical big-band jazz piece ending just hurt my ears offended me. It was complex stuff, and the youngster I just didn't have the experience or understanding to make sense of it. Having played big-band music in my adult life, I can appreciate that rather than being a hideous mass it is tremendous complexity, with harmonies that can collapse and re-form and change with tremendous rapidity.

So where does jazz live today? Well obviously on the downloads for iPods and the like, occasionally on CDs, with more and more for private events like weddings, birthday parties and the kind of events where someone wants something very special and different, perhaps harking back to a previous time where things were more personal. This is the kind of business that we cover. Jazz musicians also employed by people who run holiday complexes, when as a theatre for those staying at the complex, and more and more crew ships, where they can be up to 6000 guests on board, providing a large captive audience who are keen to be entertained.

The jazz business deals in the distribution of an available product: musicians. Improved quality and distribution of recorded music means that in some sense these musicians can be reproduced at virtually no cost, much in the manner of computer software. This means that only live performances by musicians are unique, limited in quantity, thus higher in value, just as the artworks of the famous painter who is now dead. Somehow, this doesn't seem to sink in to some people who are in a band. They seem to view a band as a readily available product, sitting in a stack of a hundred identical bands in the warehouse somewhere, ready for overnight delivery. They don't seem to be able to get their head around the fact that there is only one band, and one set of musicians that band available. They find it hard to get round the concept that if somebody books that band before them, then they can't have a cloned copy. This causes all sorts of ructions. We live in an age of mass production. We are used to computer software being downloadable as often as we like, to as many devices as we like.

Nothing like the conservatoire, or the classical ballet-school, has ever existed in jazz, until recent years where one or two of the colleges have introduced jazz and pop courses, and the Guildhall School of music have brought out a series of graded jazz exams. The associated board of the Royal colleges of music still have not, to my knowledge, included jazz in their exams. Musicians have got their elementary education in playing instruments wherever they found it and their secondary and higher education by playing with other musicians. The production of a steady supply of first-class and fully mature players therefore depends on the existence of commercial bands which also happen to be sound 'educational' institutions.

So, although when hiring out string quartets, if one string quartet has already been booked, the higher is very likely to be equally happy with another string quartet, because the musicians of all been through a very similar education and there is a standardised way of performing classical music, this is not the case with jazz bands and small jazz trios, where musicians have come to jazz from very different routes, and jazz bands can sound very different. I guess there is a far more standardisation in the playing of early jazz, and one Trad Jazz band may sound somewhat similar to another one, but as one moves on through the period jazz there is more and more variation.

Let us consider, on the other hand, the young European player who came up exclusively through the 'jazz' movement and the young American player who is arriving today. The young European, if he entered music after say 1945, very likely played exclusively for a specialised jazz public and with specialist 'revivalist' or 'traditional' bands composed of other youngsters like himself, who had learned their music from records (older players, who were normally forced to go into ordinary commercial pre-war dance bands, generally received a much better technical training). He would rarely be forced to play alongside musicians who, though less learned about King Oliver, were technically far in advance of the amateurs. He would escape both the grind and the educational value of sight-reading, rehearsals, and the varied routine of dance-band playing. The young American player of today suifers in a rather different way from the temporary eclipse of the large band which, in the later 1920s and 1930s, was the chief musical school of jazz. There, and there alone, could men learn that extraordinary capacity which makes a band like Count Basic's produce so dynamic a sound: that which enables a man not simply to be 'carried' by the rhythm of the rhythm instruments, but to 'swing' individually and in sections. For (leaving aside 'traditionalist' jazz, which is virtually defunct in its homeland) small-group work, or jam sessions, are what emerges from jazz education; if they educate the player at all, it is only at the highest and most sophisticated level. He must be good already if he is to become better by small-group work. Big bands may come back, or other forms of training may evolve.


Musicians may lose interest in it. and flee into carefully rehearsed and arranged jazz (which has its own merits), as many tend to do. The growing flood of jazz which has actually to be performed and recorded to meet the existing demand merely intensifies these problems, particularly on record. Of course, highly processed recording does not produce bad jazz. If jazz were ever to be standardised into purely composed and 'executed' forms (when it would cease to be jazz as we know it) it might avoid these difficulties. The repertoire which fills halls may be rather more limited, the versions which appeal to the public a shade more florid than musicians might like, but within those limits they play what they consider 'good' music.

But the jazz group cannot afford to become a dealer in standardised commodities, partly because its commodity (creating music while it plays) dies once it is standardised, partly because the music itself constantly changes and evolves. The jazz player, if he has any sense, is reconciled to playing standardised stuff most of the time, for that is his business as a professional entertainer; and if he is sensible, he will also enjoy performing as the actor does, though he is less completely dependent on the audience. It is the gradual conquest of this margin by the jazz business (i.e. by you and me, the jazz public) which has led him into a quandary in the past twenty years.

JJazz is what its musicians and singers make it. The player is the centre of its world. We must therefore try to discover what sort of man, or more rarely woman, the jazz artist is.

Let us consider the coloured musician first. The obvious and dominant fact about the earliest jazz is that it was a poor man's music, and a music of the 'undeserving' and unrespectable poor at that.  The godly man sang gospel songs, and put away Satan's tunes like the blues with horror and disgust. That the modern jazz lover has made both work-songs and spirituals into part of the jazz repertoire is one of the many ironies of our subject, but one not shared by devout artists like Miss Mahalia Jackson, who has steadfastly refused, through the years, to sing for anything but the glory of the Lord, or in company with reprobate music. Naturally the barriers against jazz were less high among coloured Americans than among whites. Today, at a time when mixed bands under a coloured leaders are a commonplace in jazz, there is hardly yet a single coloured conductor of an American symphony orchestra or leader of a chamber-music ensemble, and few coloured symphonic players. It is therefore natural that, from the beginning, some middle-class coloured Americans entered jazz. Indeed, among the musicians for whom a musical training, or general education, or simply an initial degree of relative self-confidence are important assets - composers, arrangers, band-leaders -the middle-class African American played a disproportionately large part almost from the beginning. Most of the leading jazz composer-arrangers - Handy, Carter, Morton, Redman, Ellington, Sy Oliver - and many of the leaders of the famous early large

African American bands - Fletcher Henderson, Ellington, Redman, Lunce-ford, Count Basic - are or were of middle-class origins. (This is in marked contrast to the leaders of the famous large white jazz or semi-jazz bands, who are mainly of relatively much lower social standing, like the Dorsey Brothers, who came from the Pennsylvania mines; Ben Pollack and Benny Goodman, who came from the Chicago Hull House slum settlement school; Harry James, who came from circus life; Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Ted Lewis, Paul Whiteman. The white equivalents of Ellington or Henderson had other careers open to them than band-leading.

But on the whole the early jazz was poor men's music, or the music of traditional show folk, whose social standing was not much above vagabonds'. The instrumental players (other than guitarists) and pianists were perhaps not of quite such humble social origins as the blues singers and players, who clearly represent the most pauperised, oppressed and vagrant segment of the African American people. A foot-loose rural guitar-picker like Leadbelly, in and out of jail, was despised, if only as a hayseed, even by the poorest street musicians of New Orleans.

Handy was later to make one of the classics of jazz, the Yellow Dog Blues, out of this memory.) The women singers, though their musical status was to be much higher than the men's, came from comparable social depths. Few great artists have come from such appalling slum poverty as the great Bessie Smith; and the social status (and perhaps the original profession) of many blues singers is indicated by the nickname of Bertha 'Chippie' Hill; for a chippy is a prostitute. Except for the peculiar group of New Orleans Creoles, the instrumental musicians came from equally modest social backgrounds.  At all events, the original jazz players belonged to the working class which, since African Americans are largely confined to labouring jobs, meant the unskilled. You see, the average working man is very musical. Playing music for him is just relaxing. He get as much kick out of playing as other folks get out of dancing.

The artist sprung from the unskilled poor, and playing for the poor is in a peculiar social position. In the world from which

Creoles and other old city musicians would have all the townsman's contempt for the country African American. Old town musicians in New Orleans set the standards, had the connections which got a man engagements in tour and in other towns, in other words they have decided - via the discographers and researchers -which New Orleans musicians live in history and which do not. Chris Kelly is a footnote in history, rescued thanks to the loyal memory of some minor New Orleans musicians.

Every investigation into the social origins of the rich, of business and public executives, or men and women of high intellectual achievements, demonstrates the extraordinary disadvantage at which the genuinely unskilled and illiterate are. THE MUSICIANS

The jazz musician was therefore potentially a king or duke, but his Versailles was on the Place Pigalle, his subjects lived in the slums, and his rival potentates or peers were (coloured) gangsters and crooked politicians, professional gamblers and fighters, fancy women, and occasionally great preachers, lay or religious.

Jazz began to lose its popularity from about 1927 the African American papers began to hint that jazz was 'on its way out'. Nothing went right for the great King Oliver after 1928, and his simple goodness and modest Christian resignation - Oliver was that rare phenomenon, a pioneer jazz player who was also a copy-book citizen - only make the story of his last ten years more pathetic. It would be doctrinaire to argue that the new styles now demanded even by the coloured public were not jazz, even though they were quite certainly much more influenced by the standards of white commercial entertainment; and it would be simply untrue to argue that most musicians minded very much what they played, so long as it swung and gave them the chance to blow out. Plenty of jazz players continued to feel at ease in their world, even when resigning themselves to a more modest place within it. The kings of New Orleans might be cornet players; the queens of Nashville or Atlanta blues singers; but the kings of the Northern African American ghettoes, with their more sophisticated tastes, were more likely to be music-hall dancers like Buck and Bubbles or 'Bojangles' Bill Robinson, boxing champions, or, if musicians, band-leaders.  Fortunately for jazz, in Harlem a superlatively vivid rhythm was sometimes gimmick enough. Chick Webb, the crippled little drummer, made his and his band's reputation exclusively through his 'swing'.

The musician began to be alone with his music. It is significant that, whereas the kings of the pioneer instrumental jazz got their crowns by public acclamation, Coleman Hawkins, whose supremacy on the tenor sax was virtually unchallenged among musicians from his first appearance in the early 'twenties for more than a decade, never led a band until 1939, and was indeed forced to earn his living in England and Holland for the best part of the 'thirties. The top player was increasingly a musician's musician, or a star only for the selected and untypical public of 'true' jazz fans. Jazz lived and flourished best no longer where it was acclaimed, but where it was tolerated and left alone, as in the speakeasies and night clubs of Kansas City. A good deal of jazz thus tended to become a musician's music, and the jazz player to be even more closely confined to a special social and intellectual world. Such was his situation when white intellectuals in the 'thirties discovered that jazz was intellectually reputable, and when, thanks largely to then-systematic championship, it became widely popular among the whites as well as among its old coloured public.

At this point we must consider a factor in the coloured jazz musician's life which has steadily grown in conscious importance : race relations. No bar of coloured jazz has ever made sense to those who do not understand the African American's reaction to oppression. But, as we have seen, most of the pioneer jazz musicians did not protest openly against their condition. Handy and Armstrong could write or sing about 'darkies', 'piccaninnies' and 'coal-black mammies' as if they did not realise that these are insults and fighting words to the sell-conscious African American.

much in the nature of things as that coloured artists playing the South should accept discrimination. A generation brought up in the Northern ghettoes, a couple of decades playing in the North and West, and the marvellous political awakening of all the oppressed and underprivileged in Roosevelt's America, put a new tone into the jazz-musician's instrument: open resentment. Jazz, as we have seen, had always attracted a small quota of middle-class and intellectual African American players, but with one major exception (Duke Ellington) they had played or arranged the music as it came.

But from the late 'thirties the coloured jazz musician became increasingly ambitious, both to establish his superiority over the white musician, as it were officially, and to raise the status of his music by competing with white music on its own ground of elaborate and sophisticated structure and theoretical, as well as practical expertise. Jazz did not, indeed, begin to attract young African American intellectuals as such in any numbers until the new and ambitious versions of the music had already established themselves. The Modern Jazz Quartet, for instance, three of whose members clearly belong to the coloured elite (John Lewis: anthropology and music at University of New Mexico; Milt Jackson: music at Michigan State; Percy Heath: fighter pilot and Granoff School of Music, Philadelphia) contains no player whose career began earlier than the last war years. Nevertheless, the urge to intellectualise and turn jazz into an avant-garde art-music is clear from the end of the 'thirties.

'You see we need music, we've always needed a music - our own. Only our musicians don't play like the whites. So we created a music for ourselves. When we had it - the old type of jazz - the whites came, and they liked it and imitated it. Pretty soon it was no longer our music. No African American can play New Orleans jazz today with a clear conscience. A few old ones still do, but no coloured man listens to them. They might just play it for the whites. Even though the experts have proved that there's no blacker music. 'You see, as soon as we have a music, the white man comes and imitates it. We've now had jazz for fifty years, and in all those fifty years there has been not a single white man,

 Among older middle class musicians, other than those already mentioned, we may note Benny Carter, 1907, clarinet, sax and arranger (Wilberforce Univ), Teddy Wilson, 1912, piano (Tuskegee), Billy Eckstine, 1914, pop singer and band-leader (Howard) and Fats Waller, 1904, piano and pop singer. It was viewed very much that "only the coloured men have ideas. But if you see who's got the famous names: they're all white."

In the present state of the USA it is still inadvisable to draw public attention to the coloured jazz players who, in and after the 1930s, were associated with the Labour movement and the Communists, but it's unlikely that the pioneers of the new jazz were among them, though some may have played, among other symbols of rebellion, with the orthodox left-wing ones. It could be suggested that left-wing politics got among the highly specialised and insulated group of coloured musicians, especially outside New York, mainly through their contact with the strongly progressive band of jazz enthusiasts and critics. However, it is important to remember that the new developments of jazz, however abstract and formal at first sight, expressed a political attitude. The very slogan 'art for art's sake' (or, as the pioneer revolutionary, John Birks Gillespie said, 'I play for musicians') must be translated, at least some of the time, into some such terms as: 'Jazz is an art-music, not just entertainment, and as African Americans we demand attention for it as such.'

Reading and orthodox culture had never been essential qualifications of the jazz player, but in the new era it became a distinct asset to be able to say, like Thelonious Sphere Monk, a particularly characteristic pioneer of the new music, that 'we liked Ravel, Stravinsky, Debussy, Prokofieff, Schoenberg, and maybe we were a little influenced by them'. The rebellion against the inferiority of the African American and the traditional forms of jazz expression which were identified with it ('Uncle Tom Music') is equally evident in the behaviour of the new players. Groups like the Modern Jazz Quartet, reacting against the old ways by anti-bohemianism, appear on the stage in faultless morning or evening dress, bowing stiffly and with expressionless faces to applause. Not to play like a music-hall act and a clown, not to behave even offstage like the old-style player who looks for a night club and some whisky and a chick, and a band to sit in with, as soon as he comes off the job: such is their ambition. An even more obvious form of revolt against inferiority, which a leading group of the new players shared with other Northern big-city African Americans, was mass conversion to the Muslim religion.

The attitude of the new musicians, as well as their music, thus expressed the peculiar ambiguities of this generation of African American intellectual rebellion. The new musician and the new music thus expressed the peculiar ambiguities of this generation of African American rebels. It is coloured, and desperately anxious to compete with the whites as coloured music: the 'respectable' ambition of the modern jazz musician is no longer simply to be accepted as a man who plays Bach, or as a composer of classical music, but as a man who plays a music which is as complex as Bach but based on a specification African American foundation, e.g. the blues. At the same time his rebellion - even when he attempts to side-step this effect by a flight into Mohammedanism or some other non-white culture - takes him farther away from the specifically African American musical idiom of the old jazz, and the cultural situation of the old jazzman which, though not particularly determined by skin colour, was sharply distinct from orthodox and respectable culture

The 'modern' jazzman represents the same type of minority avant-garde music as his white equivalents in Paris or New York. Dizzy Gillespie (born 1917) is one of nine children of a bricklayer from a hole in South Carolina, who came up through the ordinary jazz-band world. Charlie Parker (1920-55) was a slum-child from Kansas City. Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Chico Hamilton, the drummers (born 1914, 1919, 1925, 1921 respectively) learned their music as it came. No doubt some of them had a better education, including musical training, than the men of Armstrong's generation; but they can in no sense be regarded as people who owe anything substantial to conservatoires or to the advantages of a African American middle-class background, or even - since their music repelled most jazz intellectuals - to outside influences. It was among such players that the musical and social revolution of the jazz musician began round about 1941-2.

The Harlem hipster 'functioned' in some respects like the jazz player. Like bop jazz, only in verbal terms, jive talk was a set of variations on themes and rhythms unstated, because assumed.

That is perhaps why the only people who have come close to realising the hipster's ambition in their own field are the jazz musicians.

There is little doubt -though again it would be invidious to name names, even those which have come before police courts - that drug addiction was much more widespread among the 'modernists' than among any previous group of jazz players. There was merely the total inability to get on any terms with the world, and the compulsion to play what must be played in the face of the world. Since those early days of the jazz revolution the harshest outlines of revolt have been a little softened, though no doubt somewhere there are still young players who see themselves -jazzwise - in the same defiant, and partly self-pitying terms as each new avant-garde of orthodox artists.

The Modern Jazz Quartet is reviewed by a classical music critic for the Sunday Times. In fact, it has taken the jazz revolutionaries a great deal less time to win orthodox recognition than it ever took a Benny Carter or a Dicky Wells to get accepted as a serious artist outside a tiny circle of unknown enthusiasts. The young jazz musician today is socially and individually a different person from the Armstrongs and Bessie Smiths, and even from the Fats Wallers and Lionel Hamptons of the past.

The white musician in America need not be discussed at such length. In a sense, he has practically from the start been the outside type, playing a music which he knew to be misunderstood by the public. 'When will we ever be able to earn our living playing hot?' asked Frank Teschemacher, the famous Chicago clarinetist. Teschemacher and his friends knew perfectly well from the moment that they began to imitate the coloured players that this kind of music was not saleable to the white dancing public for 'jazz' in the 1920s. The uncompromising white musician thus faced the problem of the misunderstood and isolated artist from the beginning; indeed, who knows how many of them had not chosen to play jazz just because it was their private paradise, which neither fathers not 'square' friends could share, a protest against the old generation, against the 150 per cent Americanism of the lush decade before 1929? Howard Becker the sociologist has described a group of such young white jazz musicians in the Chicago of the 'cool' era, but the description, with a few changes, could stand for the 1920s also: they were sons of good middle-class Americans. They protested, totally and absolutely, against all aspects of the 'American way of life', by playing their jazz, by frequenting only musicians and night-club girls, by wolfing existentialist or other guaranteed anti-bourgeois philosophers. No generation of white jazz players since the start (with the possible exception of the poor New Orleans whites who simply played the New Orleans way and thought no more about it) has been without such a contingent of rebels. Southern or Northern, the genuine professional musician type seems to have lacked something of the hunted purism of

 Among the Italians in early white New Orleans (or 'Dixieland') jazz we note La Rocca and Sbarbaro, Mannone, Bonano, Rappolo and the Loyacanos, who probably have the historic distinction of being the first jazz-players in history to come of Albanian stock.

In Europe, where no musician could earn even pocket money, let alone a living, by playing jazz until the rise of a specific jazz public in the 1930s and 'forties, the ordinary professional dance band or variety musician formed an even more important component of jazz. The working-class background was inevitably strong, since the most obvious school in which the musician learned his trade was one which, both as a professional military and as an amateur civilian institution, has long been part of the British working class, especially the skilled part: the brass band. P5] That is why we frequently find such dance-band musicians as did not turn professional immediately in characteristic proletarian professions like printing, factory work, engineering, as toolmakers' apprentices, in cotton mills, as professional footballers and the like, and why wefindmanyevenamongthosewho started as clerks-mostly, one would guess, the sons of working-class fathers - beginning their careers in brass bands. These men were not necessarily jazz players, though they were the most likely to come into contact with jazz, through touring players and singers, through the jazz influence in the pop music they had to play, or because the work of dance musicians is so boring that they were quite likely to seize upon jazz as a creative relief from routine. The few early players who came straight to 'rigorous' jazz had naturally to fit into this milieu, since it was the only one in which they could make a living by playing their music at least sometimes. The dance-band profession was thus the earliest nursery of European jazz, and patronised it even while it remained 'commercial'. Henry Hall, of the BBC band, hired Benny Carter, the American star, to arrange for him. The dance-band profession, in fact, made possible what jazz there was in Britain -at least until the middle 'thirties - and provided its first fifth column within commercial music.

Since the end of the 'thirties, the rise of the specialised jazz public has produced a new kind of white musician: the amateur jazz enthusiast, who has, in the nature of things, often turned into the professional player.

Whatever the character of the white jazz players, one thing has always - until recently at least - separated them from the coloured ones: their freedom of movement. Playing music (for self-educated players, playing their kind of music) or some other form of entertainment were their only ways of earning a living unless they wanted to be unskilled labourers, and their only way of making a way in the world. For most of jazz history the coloured men, who found jazz jobs hard to get, had not the choice of joining a radio station's staff band or a classical orchestra, of work as a staff composer or arranger in films or on the air, or simply of settling down to sell insurance or to journalism or business, like those middle-aged Chicagoan former jazz players who still meet annually, as 'Sons of Bix', to commemorate the idol of their youth. The colour bar stopped them. Most of them could not even retire into ordinary, prosperous pop bands-to bands like White-man's, Roger Wolfe Kahn's or Ted Lewis's-for the African American equivalents to the big white pop enterprises were fewer, much less prosperous, and very much less stable.

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