I’m in Manchester for an academic conference about jazz. It’s the final major event of Rhythm Changes, the three-year European jazz research project I’ve been working on, and it is, by all accounts, the largest academic jazz conference EVER (in Europe).
There must be literally tens of people here.
One of the great things about researching in a field like this is that you get to know most of the people pretty well and you tend to see them at pretty much every work-related event you go to. For the most part, they’re pretty cool people too.
They like jazz, for a kick off – and given that they’re predominantly PhDs and Professors in related fields, they tend to be (though this is by no means a rule) generally smart and interesting people.
I’m giving a paper on Saturday morning on the social, cultural, infrastructural, political and economic conditions that led to a very particular and very vibrant jazz/dance/hip hop crossover music scene in Auckland in the mid to late 90s. I’m also chairing a couple of panels on jazz and the internet.
So… I’m here to work. That said, you might not think so – but this is a party crowd. They’re a good bunch and some of my favourite people are among their number. They carry on until very late, they squeeze every last drop of jazz juice out of the local nightlife and they listen to (as well as make) sounds that would terrify most ordinary music consumers.
Take our evening’s opening entertainment, for instance. This was our polite dinner music before we got onto the harder stuff as the evening progressed.
Me, on the other hand, I’m back in my hotel room eating room service fish and chips, doing a bit of writing work and tweaking the project website. I just don’t have the stamina or the commitment to the cause needed to get me drinking schnapps and singing classic trumpet solos in the street at four in the morning.
At least, not since Vienna…