Talking Jazz

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The Independent Culture

Thus, although the awards have grown in confidence and credibility, they received the most piffling coverage in their five-year history. So I hope that readers will forgive my returning to the subject, which I touched on last week when I wrote about Oscar Peterson getting the lifetime-achievement prize at the ceremony. Others were honoured, too, in an evening that covered most of the areas that come under the broad heading of British Jazz.

The sweet clarinet warblings of Acker Bilk, for instance, may seem to have little to do with the punk jazz of Acoustic Ladyland. Both won prizes, the latter taking "Best Band", and Bilk the new "Gold Award" for... well, no one can say quite what, apart from the general splendiferousness of being Acker Bilk, and the fact that his 1962 No 1, "Stranger on the Shore", remains a rare and notable intrusion into the pop charts by a jazz musician.

The conjunction of the two was rather as though King Oliver had been raised from the dead and placed on stage next to Anthony Braxton. They're both part of the same family, but only in as much as you're related to a fourth cousin once removed.

The shortlists for the various categories contained similar explorations of different ends of the spectrum. The composer and pianist Michael Garrick, shortlisted in the "Best of Jazz" category (whatever that means), has created some of the most startling and haunting "British" jazz since the 1960s, never compromising with the commercial. His music bears as little relation to the populist trio of Jamie Cullum, Ray Gelato and Clare Teal (left), who made up the "Radio 2 Artist of the Year Award" shortlist, as Messiaen does to Mantovani. But perhaps one shouldn't expect purism in the Radio 2 category, and the point is, at least Garrick was up for a gong.

I must confess to one disappointment. In November, I wrote that if the trumpeter Abram Wilson didn't win Best Newcomer, the jury should eat their berets. Wilson didn't win; but I'm happy to spare the jury's digestion, for his group was shortlisted for Best Band, and that's a serious achievement for a band that only arrived on the scene last year.