Where's the Real Jazz! (old article 2006)

If you've had the good sense to check out what's really happening on the jazz scene you'll have noticed several 'indi' jazz labels turning out great music. To hear what's really happening forget Blue Note and the likes (which nowadays represent the easy listening 'big' market for jazz, whilst still insisting on charging very high prices for their CDs ), try some of the following places: Ramboy, Provocateur,Babel ,Skirl, Omnitone, Mogno, Carbon 7 even Hat Art and Label Bleu (state funded labels), to name just a few. Some of these are run by musicians and others are 'arts funded labels'.

Whatever the situation they certainly keep the jazz music scene sounding fresh and up to date (meaning that Mr Bungle, Henry Cow or Squarepusher are sometimes more of an influence than Coltrane or Miles). Groups such as Chris Speed's 'Yeah No', John Hollenbecks 'Claudia Quintet' or Seb Roachfords 'Polar Bear' and 'Acoustic Ladyland' are difficult to pigeonhole and could be classed either in indi rock sections or in jazz!

One of these labels with a slightly more 'jazz' direction - Caber - check out Colin Steele, Phil Bancroft 4tet, Trio AAB, Brian Kellock, John Rae's Celtic Feet, Tom Bancroft Orchestra, to name just a few that I've heard - several awards from the likes of the BBC and Guardian Jazz Awards, was closing down. Run by Tom Bancroft, the label has finally decided to throw in the towel rather than bang it's head against a brick wall consisting of Arts Council misunderstandings and even worse, musicians indifference to their own fate!

Tom Bancroft expained to me over the phone how problems concerning the funding of the label by the Arts Council and the Lottery Fund, have been both a blessing and a curse at. Whilst receiving funds to make CDs no money has been forthcoming to help promote the CDs themselves (most of the funding in Scotlands arts/music world still goes into the National Orchestra (classical) leaving very little for the other small fish), and good reviews and radio play alone have not necessaraly produced high sales. Outlets selling the CDs are also becoming more demanding, asking for lower prices and a sale or return basis which makes 'profits' become a virtual word!

One of the main stumbling blocks (believe it or not) is the musicians themselves! In a world where marketing is of the upmost importance, most jazz musicians haven't the first idea about what makes a good album cover or the demands needed to follow up the sale of their CD. There is also the image to think of or how to sell yourself to the public - turning up and blowing half an hour over Giant Steps doesn't help either.

Tom explained how in some cases musicians failed to follow up interest from clubs and festivals. Musicians, he pointed out, can be their own worst enemies: not sending out CDs or bieng too distracted to make the odd phone call.

The bad side of this is that Scotland is about to loose a good independent jazz label whilst on the good side Tom has decided to use his experiences into putting his energy into his new label (made to promote his own bands) 'interupto music' - no web site as yet. There is also the 'Trio AAB' with his brother Phil which has just recorded a new CD and their educational project www.applebananacarrot.com which is also making headway.

Check out some key sites:

www.cabermusic.com
www.chrisspeed.com
www.johnhollenbeck.com
www.ramboyrecordings.com
www.polarbearmusic.com

I am sure there are many more worth checking out. Please feel free to send me any sugestions you have about sites worth adding to my list.

It would be interesting to have you reactions to some of the issues mentioned above whatever your point of view as a listener or musician.

For more information on Jazz in general take a look at :

www.jazz-clubs-worldwide.com