Welcome speech at Jazzahead

I spent the last few days in the town of Bremen in Germany at an annual jazz industry trade fair called Jazzahead. It was pretty good, actually – a lot of good music across a number of venues, and lots of stands where people were promoting their bands, their countries, their festivals and their jazz-related wares.

I was there with my colleague Tony Whyton, who had his own research to do, so we split up to go do our work, and then reconvened later when there was socialising, listening to music, drinking and dancing to be done.

My task was to do a bunch of interviews with the heads of national jazz agencies such as Jazz Danmark, the Swedish Jazz Federation, UK Jazz Services and so on, for a research project I’m doing as part of the HERA Rhythm Changes European Jazz research project I’m involved in.

In fact, I’m going to be fairly intensively European Jazz-focused over the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be off to Stavanger in Norway next week to work on the other bit of my research project. More on that soon. In the meantime, it was all about talking to public arts organisations about whether they have a Facebook page and so on.

Finnish jazz

It worked out pretty well, and I managed to get separate interviews with fourteen of the key players in national jazz organisations including France, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Catalonia and Norway – which was brilliant. Getting access to all of them in the same place just by wandering up to their stand and chatting was well worth the trip.

The research I’m doing (or at least, this part of it) is about how these national agencies use the internet, and what they use it for. I’m in the process of transcribing the interviews now, and will write up a report that will be circulated amongst them all, hopefully sharing ideas and examples of best practice.

I also have a book chapter lined up out of this as well, due early next year (for publication late 2012).

It’s amazing how many of the organisations are in the process of updating their website right now, how many of them have started opting for open source solutions, and how many of them were really excited to talk about the great ideas they have for using the internet to make things better for musicians in their country.

All except the man from Luxembourg. He simply said “I am not interested in the internet.” So I left him to it.

CDs and Records for sale

Of course, being a major jazz event, there were records for sale and I had a very good rummage through and found some real rarities – original pressings of records by John Coltrane, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davies, Coleman Hawkins, the Charles Bell Contemporary Jazz Quartet, John Lewis and the Johnny Lytle Trio.

I spent money mostly down the 2-5 euro end of the spectrum, but there was also an 80-100 euro end of the spectrum. I had a look, but was not tempted to buy, though watched while others did by the armload.

Jealous, perhaps – but not tempted.

Pile of giveaway CDs

In a sense, I needn’t have bothered. I mean, it’s not like I was going to be short of music to listen to in the near future. One of the things about music industry trade fairs is that you tend to end up with quite a lot of promo CDs. Normally I try not to grab too many, but I knew that mostly I was going to like these ones – and in fact, I sought out particular booths for their jazz. The Scandinavian promos are always brilliant and I find great stuff on their compilations.

Some real highlights from independent artists and labels too. I was really impressed with the Berthold Records album I was given. It’s an audiophile label, distributed in the UK by Linn (which, if you know Linn, will give you an idea of the sort of stuff), the Helge Lien Trio album Natsukashii is also superb, as is the sampler I picked up from Edition Records.

In fact, I immediately recognised the guy from Edition Records. About five years ago, I’d done a research project that had taken me around the country, and I’d interviewed a lot of musicians about what it is they do and how they make money at it.

In Cardiff, I’d met jazz pianist Dave Stapleton. He’s now running Edition – a fantastic label featuring several of my current favourite albums: Golden Xplosion by Marius Neset, Blissful Ignorance by Meadow and Alive by Phronesis – to name just a few getting five-star reviews all over the place. Dave’s own albums are definitely worth checking out as well.

He and I sat down and had a good long chat about the internet, and did a bit of a catch-up. He’s doing some really great stuff with the label – some of it really clever, and I’ve also made a few suggestions for some other things he could try.

Bremen fun fair - black border

And of course, the rest of the time was spent listening to jazz from around the world, hanging out at the adjacent fun fair, dancing to ska bands at 1 in the morning, eating sausages in bread, sampling the national drinks of many different countries (though I kept returning to the Scottish stand), celebrating Queen’s Day with the Dutch, meeting other bloggers and just trying to spend as much time with as many interesting people as possible.

All in all, a very productive, and very enjoyable weekend in excellent company. Lots of invitations to some very cool stuff too… though I’ve had to decline an offer to attend 12 Points festival in Dublin later this week. I’ve got my fingers crossed for an invitation from Paul who runs the Penang Island Jazz Festival in December. That would be amazing. Jazz by the beach in Malaysia.

Wonder if there’s a research project in that?