The Archive remains closed, so we cannot respond in detail to your requests about our collections and resources. But remember that our website holds hundreds of digitised images, journals, posters, interviews and other resources for you to enjoy.
Some of our wonderful team of volunteers are continuing to work on projects from home, but their regular weekly sessions of sorting, accessioning, cataloguing and digitising are on hold for the time being. Some meetings and discussions are carrying on with Zoom.
Sadly, the fundraising concert by the Darius Brubeck Quartet due to take place on 18 April was cancelled. Very many thanks to all those of you who had bought tickets, and then donated the value to the Archive.
Details of our next concert are included below, and we will keep you informed about whether or not this can go ahead in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the links in the items that follow.
The NJA Trustees
26 April 2020
100 years of Bird – 18 July
Charlie Parker – the leading figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz in the 1940s – was born 100 years ago, on 29 August 1920. The Archive plans to mark his centenary with a fundraising concert in Loughton, featuring Martin Speake and Simon Purcell, with Calum Gourlay on bass and Matt Fishwick on drums, playing some of the classic tunes made famous by Parker.
The concert is scheduled for Saturday 18 July, but it is not clear at the time of writing whether the coronavirus outbreak will cause the concert to be cancelled. Please keep the date free, and watch out for updates in future newsletters, the NJA website and Facebook page.
Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time
Roger Cotterrell reviews the new biography by Philip Clark.
Philip Clark turns out to be Brubeck’s perfect biographer. A knowledgeable jazz and popular music journalist, he knows his way around modern classical music too and can show why Brubeck’s early classical training deeply influenced his whole career. If Dave had very wide points of musical reference (sometimes not recognised by fans and detractors alike), Clark matches them. He describes almost all Brubeck’s recorded music and delves deeply, with real insights.
The book is based on massive research. Clark interviewed Brubeck many times and at length. He has made much use of the Brubeck archives, followed contacts and visited key sites in the story. The book is chock full of fascinating information. But it rejects any strict chronology. The first chapter starts with the author travelling with the Brubeck entourage in Britain in 2003, and then lurches back to 1953 when Brubeck’s best early recordings were made. And Dave’s childhood and youth come into full focus only three quarters of the way through the text. The bravura approach to continuity is imaginative but can sometimes seem cavalier so that it becomes hard to see much logic in the ordering of material. A good index to link up scattered bits of the story is essential, and fortunately, the book has one. But Clark has a lively style, with a penchant for arresting turns of phrase. He gives us a good read.
The picture that emerges is of a decent, shrewd but not particularly materialistic man, self-confident, hugely ambitious for his music to succeed, single-minded and determined, loyal to family, friends and musical collaborators, and quietly fierce in his implacable opposition to racism. The mystery of why he was quite so wildly successful commercially still remains, but this book, surely the definitive biography, shows convincingly that, as a musician, Brubeck is far more interesting, profound and complex than has often been assumed in the past.
(A longer version of this review will appear in Jazz Rag.)
Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, published by Headline, February 2020, £25, ISBN-13: 9781472272478. Also available as an e-book.
Seen and heard elsewhere
Much wonderful music is being made and shared online during the coronavirus lockdown. Here are links to some of it.
Jazz on the Tube
The largest annotated and indexed online collection of jazz videos in the world, Jazz on the Tube delivers great jazz videos free to over 40,000 jazz fans every day and provides five free services:
• A searchable archive of thousands of jazz videos
• A free video-of-the-day service
• A world-wide directory of jazz clubs, festivals, radio stations, archives and organisations
• A podcast series of interviews with jazz scholars, educators, presenters and musicians
• An educational resource on the music of Cuba and other Latin countries.
Although Jazz on the Tube is free to enjoy, it of course takes considerable resources to manage and maintain, so viewers are encouraged to make regular or one-off donations.
The WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show
NJA patrons Mike and Kate Westbrook continue their weekly WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show, with a new film added every Friday. Moving Picture No 4, available shortly, will present a double bill, with a rare Brass Band 'short' followed by film 'on the road' with The Cortège. Moving Picture No 5, on Wednesday April 29. will be a special Ellington-themed programme 'Three for the Duke' to celebrate Duke Ellington's birthday, additional to the Friday sequence.
Liam Noble – Live from Leyton
Liam Noble has completed his engaging A to Z blog series Advice for Jazz Students with ‘Z is for Zen’, and is now livestreaming Live from Leytoneach Saturday afternoon, with wry and entertaining introductions. The first, on 4 April, presented a wide range of British music, from George Formby to Edward Elgar, and including Led Zeppelin, Richard Thompson and John Surman. Subsequent broadcasts have featured Richard Rodgers and traditional and folk tunes.
NYJO Academy online play Blackbird
This delightful split-screen video from some of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra Academy musicians was produced by Alfie Beston, who plays sax, with Alex Baker, trumpet, flugelhorn and guitar, Henry Hansen, trombone, Lucas Walters, piano, Chris Davis, drums and bass. They are playing Paul McCartney’s Blackbird, arranged by Mike Tomaro.
Black Music in Europe: A Hidden History
Clarke Peters uncovers the stories of black musicians in Europe, from the birth of recorded sound to the height of the jazz age. All nine episodes of the BBC Radio 4 series are available here.
Blues pianist Henry Gray died in February at the age of 95. He played with Howling Wolf and many notable bluesmen throughout his long life. The obituary in the Guardian includes a link to his intense version of Worried Life Blues, and a 30-minute film of an exuberant performance in New Orleans in 1984.
Roland Kirk and friends
Another memorable Blue Moment blogpost from Richard Williams, inspired by a flyer for a concert by Roland Kirk with the Ronnie Scott Quartet in Nottingham in 1963, prompted an unusually rich set of connections and memories.
(NJA volunteer Catherine has recently finished refiling the NJA collection of thousands of concert programmes so when the Archive reopens in due course, it will be interesting to check whether we have a copy of this one.)
Create your own jazz legacy
As jazz lovers of today, we owe musicians, researchers, writers, journalists, students and enthusiasts a responsibility to provide access to as much of our jazz heritage as possible. You can create your own ‘Jazz Legacy’ by including a Legacy Gift in your Will to the National Jazz Archive. This will enable the celebration and preservation of the past, present and future of jazz to continue for many years to come. Read more here ...