Lock down that groove

The long intermission in live jazz stretches into an uncertain future but the discs keep coming

Remembering jazz as social music: a club night at jazzahead!, the jazz trade fair in Bremen

Jazz venues are making varied responses to the continuing proscription of live performance, with the virtual mostly replacing, for the time being, the multi-sensory experience of the real thing. Cheltenham Jazz Festival, for example, has announced a digital-only 2021 festival, 1-2 May, while hoping to bring live jazz to the town in July. Recorded jazz, however, still seems to thrive, judging by the 280+ albums submitted for review to Jazz Journal since Christmas.

Where physical events are planned, it’s noticeable, unsurprisingly, that the attractions are mostly domestic: Scarborough (scarboroughjazzfestival.co.uk) says its 18th edition, originally scheduled for February 2021, will now take place over its usual weekend of 24-26 September 2021, with a lineup including John Pearce (with Dave Newton), vibes player Johnny Mansfield, pianist Nikki Iles (with her 19-piece orchestra), Julian Joseph, Jean Toussaint, Karen Sharp, Dave O’Higgins, Rob Luft, Phil Robson and Zoe Gilby.

The next Jazz Cruise, the famed excursion through the Caribbean run by Michael Lazaroff’s Entertainment Cruise Productions (thejazzcruise.com), is planned for 17-24 January 2022, with an itinerary including Aruba and Curacao.

Jazzahead!, the annual jazz trade fair in Bremen (jazzahead.de) since 2006, is also virtual this year, with the motto “Close together from afar”. It runs Thursday 29 April to Sunday 2 May 2021.

Meanwhile, in London, the 606 Club continues to livestream (mostly for £5.95) on Saturday and Sunday evenings at 606club.co.uk/account/videos/live. Coming up in February and March are, among others, Brandon Allen doing Turrentine (20 February), Iain Ballamy w. Kit Downes (27), vibist Anthony Kerr (13 March), Mornington Lockett w. Henry Lowther (20) and Julian Stringle w. Jacqui Hicks (27).

Ronnie Scott’s club is also streaming (for free) every Monday, Thursday and Sunday at 8pm. The club’s Fred Nash puts a positive spin on lockdown music: “The only difference is that it can now be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of your home, with refreshments served from your very own kitchen” – omitting the blow to the socio-physical “blow” intrinsic to live music. Among those coming up from the club are Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra (21 February), Shri feat. Dennis Rollins (22), Ian Shaw (4 March), NYJO (14, 28 March and 11, 18 April), BBC jazz award winner Xhosa Cole (15 March), Big Band Metheny (21), Pasadena Roof Orchestra (4 April) and Anthony Kerr (25).

The Ronnie’s #LockdownSessions links are:
Website: https://www.ronniescotts.co.uk.
Donation link: https://ko-fi.com/ronniescotts.
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/RonnieScottsClub.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ronniescottsjazzclub.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/officialronnies.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialronnies/

In Battersea, at gypsy-jazz venue Le QuecumBar, things are perhaps more difficult. The manager Sylvia says “The government we know has made a lot of noise about helping the industry but the help received to date will not cover anywhere near what we have to pay out on a monthly basis when in restricted opening or when closed.

“My current landlord fails to agree any rent concession going forward to take into account lockdown and restricted trading, however they have waived the rent for lockdown but retrospectively – meaning I still do not know if February’s rent will be waived and this is not the whole story as other overheads continue regardless of lockdown.”

She urges her audiences and supporters to listen to the club’s music via Spotify – which generates a small income for the club – and to buy its CDs. Details are at quecumbar.co.uk.

Standing alone, songbook specialist Chris Ingham continues to broadcast from his living room, as severally reported by Leon Nock in Jazz Journal’s live reviews section. The latest session focused on Hoagy Carmichael.

It seems clear that had the UK government acted sooner in 2020 and instituted a stringent test, trace and isolate policy like that in some countries, it wouldn’t have been forced to institute a scattergun lockdown and could have allowed younger musicians to work as well as protecting the musical economy. Instead, the music scene suffers the double blow of an indiscriminate confinement and ongoing restrictions on work in continental Europe brought about by Brexit.