Talking Jazz

This has been a strange year for British jazz. In many ways, a good year - one in which forgotten glories from decades past were resurrected and brought to new audiences; some fine indigenous groups continued to build on their work so far; and at least one stunning new player emerged.

This has been a strange year for British jazz. In many ways, a good year - one in which forgotten glories from decades past were resurrected and brought to new audiences; some fine indigenous groups continued to build on their work so far; and at least one stunning new player emerged.

But it has also been a year in which mass marketing hype about a great revival of the British jazz scene has concentrated attention on a few artists with dubious jazz credentials. The oeuvre of some of these, in fact, is so far removed from what the word has hitherto been understood to mean, that if this new, wider definition came to be accepted one might as well say that Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" was a jazz tune just because he sings it in a film called The Jazz Singer.

Although many jazz aficionados find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for all the singers who have grabbed the limelight and the record deals, it has to be to the good of jazz if Clare Teal, Gwyneth Herbert, Jamie Cullum et al bring something of the music to those whose only exposure so far was the clichéd saxophone in the old Blend 37 coffee adverts. Likewise, however much one may complain about Michael Parkinson's conservative taste in jazz, it's still better if he's giving a platform to, say, Michael Cincotti, than to the latest boy band. Like listening to Glenn Miller, it's an easy first step into unfamiliar territory. One must hope that at least a few will be encouraged to explore further.

The problem is when confusion arises from the marketing. Cullum's album, Twentysomething, was on any objective assessment only partly a jazz recording. His track "All At Sea", for instance, is a beautiful, affecting tune, but it's a pop ballad. But because Cullum is marketed as a jazz artist, the general public fails to make this distinction, and so we've had the absurd spectacle of artists such as Katie Melua and Joss Stone being lumped in the same category (especially as the latter's debut album is called The Soul Sessions).

And all of this obscures the more interesting developments. Gilles Peterson's role in helping to re-release British jazz recordings from the Sixties and Seventies has been invaluable. Many of these records only had extremely limited pressings in the first place. The result was that a distinctively British jazz tradition, pioneered by the likes of Michael Garrick, Graham Collier, Harry Beckett and Ian Carr, was unknown to most people, including many younger jazz musicians.

Although Britain has produced many fine players since, I'm not certain that in terms of composition the succeeding generations have come up with anything quite so original. Garrick remains busy, recently recording a tribute album to the late saxophonist, Joe Harriott, with his big band. Bringing the work of Garrick and his peers to a wider audience has been tremendously important.

Someone who has been compared to Harriott is Soweto Kinch. His claiming of the best instrumentalist and best group prizes was the highlight of the BBC Jazz Awards. He and his Dune records labelmate Abram Wilson should be the ones representing any British jazz revival, as their mixing of bop and rap is an inventive triumph. Wilson's Jazz Warrior is my album of the year. What are the chances, though, that he gets the call from Parkinson to appear on his show?

In clubland, Ronnie Scott's celebrated its 45th birthday, and the Vortex in Stoke Newington closed. But a new Vortex should open early next year in Dalston.

There was a lot of hot air about British jazz this year, but some substance behind it too. And whatever seems to be in favour, justly or unjustly, there will always be disagreements about it in the small but highly disputatious world of jazz.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border