ABOUT THE JAZZ MANN
I’ve loved this music for more than thirty years, coming to it after adolescent flings with heavy metal and prog rock, two genres which placed as much emphasis on the instrumentalists as on the singers. When the punk revolution left me cold the next logical step was to get into jazz. The fusion of Chick Corea was one step on this path but the wilfully English eccentricity of the “Canterbury Scene” was even more important. I still love Hatfield and The North and National Health and all the other offshoots.
My early jazz listening was centred around guitar and keyboard dominated groups, a reflection of my rock background. Pat Metheny was an early favourite and the late seventies/early eighties saw me digging deep into the whole ECM aesthetic. Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek and Eberard Weber also became favourites and indeed still are.
Much of the rock music of the early eighties was, I felt, risible and soon I was concentrating almost entirely on jazz. I found myself enjoying horn players more and more as I dived into the re-issued Blue Note back catalogue. If this represented my “American” side and ECM the “European” element my weekly appointment with the late, great Peter Clayton’s radio broadcasts led to my appreciation of the great players we have here in the UK. Those half hour sessions were a source of both joy and education. What a wealth of unreleased jazz material the BBC must have in its vaults.
The way in which the Loose Tubes exploded onto the scene in the mid 80’s was tremendously exciting. This effervescent band was short lived but prolific and many members of this influential line up remain favourites to this day, among them Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Mark Lockheart and Julian Arguelles.
Living in a remote area like Herefordshire means that over the years I’ve put in thousands of miles travelling to gigs, both home and abroad. The Brecon and Cheltenham festivals have been staples of my musical calendar since their inception, joined in recent years by the Lichfield Real Ale Jazz and Blues Festival.
As a fan it’s taken a lot of dedication but I’ve been lucky enough to see many of the jazz legends over the years including virtually all the musicians mentioned above plus Jackie Mclean (at the Village Vanguard, New York), Jack Dejohnette, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock and others. Following his tragic death I guess Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson should be added to that list. The remarkable EST were one of my favourites of recent years.
This music has been a voyage of discovery and I’m still learning about it. A number of bands from New York’s Downtown scene have appeared at the Cheltenham Festival in the last two to three years leading to some exciting new discoveries.
Jazz is an ever-evolving music and I think it’s great that after listening to it for all this time the emergence of exciting young musicians still gives me a thrill. I think we have some fantastically talented players in this country, right across the generations but sadly many of them are deeply undervalued.
If my work on this site helps in any way to gain greater recognition for new musicians I will be more than satisfied.
Geographical isolation has meant that I’ve not had many people to bounce ideas off or to be influenced by. Perhaps it is a good thing for a reviewer.
They say that in jazz you need to find your own voice. With this website I hope that I’ve found it.
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
It's good to see a â€ścutting edgeâ€ť festival returning to Birmingham again, especially one that is so supportive of young, up and coming musicians.
Guest contributor Trevor Bannister on a "a fascinating day spent at a church near Shepperton, where producer Andy Cleyndert was recording Scott Willcox's ten-piece big band for his Trio label".