In praise of regional jazz clubs… revisited October 2013

It is three months since I first sang the praises of regional jazz clubs and their vital place on the jazz scene as platforms for all levels of talent.  I have been thinking, and I admit, worrying, about their future.  Neil Yates announced the end of Jazz at the Cayley in Rhos on Sea in October.   Personal phone calls and texts to regulars could not save it, numbers declined and so it closed.   I have often asserted that jazz holds itself far too cheaply, that some people wince at paying £12 for a ticket yet will spend nearly that on two glasses of wine whilst there. I am coming to the conclusion that if we are going to save our small jazz clubs then we all need to band together to help each other and be more vocal about the good things we offer.

So I was heartened to read about the recent creation of the Jazz Promoters Network (in the UK). I will join and will state on our application that we can offer the network decades of experience (between us anyway), boundless enthusiasm, genuine love for the music and its musicians, and the desire to learn – learn how to grow our audiences, learn how to offer opportunities for new work to be commissioned, learn how to support other jazz clubs and not compete with them, find sources of funding.

And then I look at our schedule at Stratford Jazz for early 2014:

  • Alan Barnes on 8 January to blow away the cobwebs;
  • TG Collective on 22 January, guitar-led ensemble;
  • Bryan Corbett Quartet on 12 February, a local trumpeter with a haunting sound;
  • Duncan Eagles/Mark Perry Quintet on 26 February, exciting young saxophonist and trumpeter, making waves in London;
  • John Law’s BOINK!  on 12 March. This is John’s move in electronica, subtle and clever as ever; and
  • Maciek Pysz Trio on 26 March, my favourite guitarist with his life-enhancing, stunningly good trio of Asaf Sirkis and Yuri Goloubev, playing compositions from his very well -received album Insight.

I would travel, and have travelled, to London to see these bands and here they are, gracing our small jazz club! Our evenings have two sets – great value for the audience and an opportunity for bands to experiment with new material, safe in the knowledge they have two hours of performance time.  We have an attractive venue with a bar, nice subtle lighting, decent sound, a big screen on which artists can project their own films or images, so adding another visual stimulus.  Sadly we have no piano. But we are a place where you can hear exciting new work in a very intimate environment.  We listen, we are appreciative.

Take the example below by John Law – his Boink!  project  – we are so lucky to be able to present John Law’s latest project next year. This is a sound that will project as well in our small room as in a larger venue and I for one am already wishing the time away til his gig.

If you have listened to the clip and enjoyed it as much as I do, then maybe you will see regional jazz clubs in a new light – as places where you can see boundaries pushed, which don’t just rely on a diet of standards. We are as hungry for new music as fans in cities. Where world class artists seek us out. Time to stop bemoaning our lot and time to shout very loudly ‘We are a great night out, come and join us, hear fabulous music close up, pay a little bit more  – because we are worth it!’.  Do you agree?

Mary James

Album review: Oddarrang: In Cinema (released Oct 2013)

Oddarrang_In Cinema

It never occurred to me that Oddarrang might not be a Finnish word! It turns out it stands for Odd Arrangement, or so band leader Olavi Louhivuori told me.   I was captivated by Cathedral last May and dazzled by Oddarrang’s performance at London Jazz Festival last year so I came to this album with a great deal of baggage, with high expectations. We have a similar line up (the ‘odd arrangement’) of stringed instruments, trombone, electronics and Olavi on drums, like a sprite conjuring magic in this strange landscape.  Perhaps in keeping with the more sombre environment in which we now find ourselves, this album doesn’t have much of the fairy tale to it on first listening.   Seeing the band at Kings Place in September, where the walls shook with the volume of The Sage and my blood ran cold with fear at one point, the unearthly vocals of Osmo Ikonen rising above the cacophony, it would be reasonable to think this was a very different band, that they have left haunting, spiritual, glacial delicacy behind.

And then suddenly Olavi sat at the piano for just a few bars, a xylophone tinkles and I am sitting in a sleigh on a midnight ride through a snowy moonlit forest, back in that mythical landscape.  How cleverly they play on our emotions.  The album is the score for four films. I have not seen them yet.   In my mind they are all achingly sad or full of terror.  It is always cold, the wind howls. On the ethereal Missing Tapes from a Highway Set the delicate guitar sounds Japanese, a lament from Turandot, there is a sad feel to this track, the trombone’s lovely melody speaks of loss.   Other tracks are anxiety laden, full of foreboding, there are shrieks, the trombone yowls in pain, it is quite nightmarish.

This album grows and glows, it is not glacial at all but fiery.  It is striking in its breadth of emotion and the beautiful physical landscapes it evokes, where subtlety and sheer explosive power are perfectly balanced (as in Self-portrait). And when tranquility morphs into a stadium-filling wall of sound, you feel a sense of shock and loss when it ends.  Masterly.

Oddarrang:   In Cinema

All music composed by Olavi Louhivuori except track 7 by Lasse Lindgren

Olavi Louhivuori, drums, piano, synths, harmonium
Ilmari Pohjola, trombone, guitar
Osmo Ikonen, cello, vocals
Lasse Sakara, guitar
Lasse Lindgren, bass, synths

Oddarrang is available from

Mary James