With a certain summer holiday atmosphere showing itself in the jazz calendar this week – yep, not a lot of gigs – maybe the best way to spend your time is choosing something to read during those lazy days back in the hotel or caravan while it’s raining down on the beach.
In the famous Peach and Frog sketch, Peter Cook used to claim that people were crying out for a restaurant without a parking problem. “Where, oh where, they are asking…”
But what if people were crying out for a good book about the more adventurous British jazz players in the late 1960s and early ‘70s?
No peaches or frogs here – just the trumpeter and Miles Davis biographer Ian Carr’s excellent 1973 volume called Music Outside: Contemporary Jazz in Britain, now reissued by those intrepid people at Northway Publications, and available in hardback for a mere £15.99.
There’s a new postscript from Roger Cotterell and some added pictures, but basically this is the same book and is a reminder of who was making jazz special in Britain while at the same time adapting to a rock-dominated market.
There are chapters on Mike Westbrook, John Stevens and Trevor Watts, Jon Hiseman, Evan Parker, Chris McGregor and his Brotherhood of Breath, Mike Gibbs and, no room for being self-effacing here, Ian Carr himself and his band Nucleus.
These chapters are full of excellent stuff, but it’s the introduction that is particularly worth drawing attention to here. Carr leads into the book by citing the example of Stan Tracey who, in 1972, is seriously thinking about signing up for the dole, so dire is the jazz business.
Carr quite rightly draws upon analogies in other art forms to show how absurd it is that an artist at the top of his game cannot make a living in Britain in the early 1970s. He pinpoints the fact that jazz fell in the gap between pop, which had loads of commercial attention but needed no state support, and so-called serious music, which had loads of public subsidy. He highlights the divide between BBC Radios One and Three at the time and shows how jazz suited the remit of neither.
It’s a reminder that while those in power today, both in the Arts Council and in the media, are a little more enlightened, the Cinderella status of jazz is still with us to an extent.
It’s also a reminder to give thanks for musicians like Evan Parker, who have never given up.
* Gigs this week:
Thursday: Fret & Fiddle are at Bearwood Corks Club. Start time is 9pm, doors open at 8.30pm and tickets are £4 (conc £3). The Corks Club is at 558 Bearwood Road. Birmingham. For more, call 0121 455 9454 or go to bearwoodjazz.co.uk.
Harmonica Hell is the aptly named night for harp players at the Crossroads Blues Club. They say several harp players, including Dave Smith from The Chickenbone Blues Band and Tony Stokes from the TTs and ‘58 Deluxe, have confirmed that they will be attending. Crossroads meet at The Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Cotteridge, Birmingham B30 3JX. Call 0121 486 1300 for more information, or go to towerofsong.co.uk/blues.
Saturday: The Waterworks Jazz Club has the ever-popular Savannah Jazz Band in the house with John Meehan leading from behind the drums, while strong in the frontline is reedsman Rod Chambers. Think New Orleans and have a good time. Members pay £7, and non-members £8. It starts at 8.30pm at the United Servicemen’s Club in Gough Street, across the road from the Alexandra Theatre. For more details, go to waterworksjazz.com.
Sunday: Venezuelan pianist Edgar Macias has got a regular Sunday afternoon thing going at The Scarlet Pimpernel, Tennal Road, Harborne. This Sunday he goes head to head with another pianist, John Patrick, and they are joined by drummer Miles Levin. It starts at 3pm and it’s free. More info on 0121 426 0930.
The Ralph Allin Quartet is at the Stratford Jazz Club’s Sunday evening session at the White Swan in Stratford-upon-Avon. The music starts at 8pm, and is free, so please support the raffle. More details on 01789 298607 or go to stratfordjazz.org.uk.
* If you have any news or views you’d like to share, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The blog is at thejazzbreakfast.blogspot.com.