Rethinking Jazz Cultures, Thursday night concert offer, Band on the Wall, Manchester

Apr 10 2013 Published by under Events

And here is another good deal for delegates coming to the Rhythm Changes conference this week in Salford. After the opening reception at CUBE Gallery in Manchester city centre on Thursday, we’ve arranged a special discount for a terrific jazz gig at one of the city’s leading live music club venues, the Band on the Wall. (25 Swan Street, in the Northern Quarter.) It just keeps getting better and better …

A very special jazz double bill featuring the spectacular and visceral mash-up of rock, jazz and dance music of Troyka plus the Anton Hunter Trio whose debut at last year’s Manchester Jazz Festival got everyone talking about this immensely creative new outfit.

Troyka

Troyka are Chris Montague (guitars and loops), Joshua Blackmore (drums) and Kit Downes (organ), three young musicians based in London whose intense live shows have seen them hotly tipped to follow in the foot steps of Polar Bear and Portico Quartet and become the next young band to explode from the capital’s fertile jazz scene. A multi-textured trio with a febrile imagination where no role is pre-defined, their music twists and mutates in an ongoing dialogue inspired by a shared love of Aphex Twin, the angular world of iconclastic New York saxophonist Tim Berne and the blues-jazz-rock groove of legendary Steely Dan and Billy Cobham guitarist Wayne Krantz.

Anton Hunter Trio

The Anton Hunter Trio made its debut at Band On The Wall at Manchester Jazz Festival 2012 and showcases material at the borders of composition and improvisation. More introspective and spacious than his work with HAQ or the Beats & Pieces Big Band, there is, as ever, still plenty of room for freedom and exploration within the structures, whilst not letting go of strong melodies. The trio is completed by his ‘Skamel’ bandmates Johnny Hunter on drums and James Adolpho on bass.

This concert begins at 8pm but the venue’s Picturehouse Cafe Bar is open earlier for delicious food and drinks. Full price tickets at the door are £14.00 but Rhythm Changes delegates pay £8.00. Yes, in these hard economic times, we are still supporting venues, live musicians, but also looking after our delegates!

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Paul Floyd Blake ‘Rethinking Jazz’

Apr 05 2013 Published by under Events, News

In 2012, Rhythm Changes commissioned Paul Floyd Blake to produce a photography exhibition based on his experiences and impressions of three leading European jazz festivals. As the 2009 Taylor-Wessing National Portrait Photography Prizewinner, Floyd Blake has gained critical acclaim for his unique studies of identity and place, and his work often seeks to challenge existing photographic practice.

The brief from the Rhythm Changes team was simple: Floyd Blake was to present an impression of music and its relationship to place in three international festival settings – North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and the London Jazz Festival – and to capture aspects of festival life that were either unique, counterintuitive or which captured a sense of social ambience. Rather than capturing shots of musicians on stage, we invited Floyd Blake to explore jazz from different perspectives, from the views of audiences to examinations of festival settings.

The resulting collection of 30 images on display at CUBE encourages the viewer to rethink their relationship to jazz and consider the role music plays in very different festival, and social, contexts. Click here for more images and to read Floyd Blake’s reaction to the commission.

Paul Floyd Blake’s ‘Rethinking Jazz’ runs from 5 – 14 April at CUBE Gallery in Manchester.

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Rhythm Changes Conference 2013

Jun 14 2012 Published by under News

Call for Papers
Rhythm Changes II: Rethinking Jazz Cultures
11-14 April 2013, Media City UK/University of Salford
An international conference hosted by the Rhythm Changes research project at the University of Salford.

Keynote Speakers
E. Taylor Atkins, Northern Illinois University
David Ake, University of Nevada, Reno

‘From its beginnings, jazz has presented a somewhat contradictory social world: Jazz musicians have worked diligently to tear down old boundaries, but they have just as resolutely constructed new ones; jazz provided one of the first locations of successful interracial cooperation in America, yet it has also served to perpetuate negative stereotypes and to incite racial unrest.’ Continue Reading »

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Rhythm Changes at the London Jazz Festival

Nov 24 2010 Published by under Events, News

Rhythm Changes hosted its first UK public event on Sunday 21 November as part of the London Jazz Festival.  The event, a panel discussion entitled ‘Another Place?  Why Jazz Festivals Matter’, included contributions from John Cumming (Serious/London Jazz Festival), Tony Dudley-Evans (Birmingham Jazz/Cheltenham Jazz Festival) and Hannibal Saad (Jazz Lives in Syria) alongside Anne Dvinge and Tony Whyton from the Rhythm Changes team.

Taking place at the Barbican Centre in London, the panel attracted an engaged and knowledgeable audience ranging from international festival directors to jazz journalists, writers and jazz advocates to enthusiasts, and the discussion focused on the contribution that festivals make to the creative economy in Europe and beyond.

The panel discussed how festivals can provide a celebration of place and encourage innovative programming and also gave examples of jazz as a catalyst for social change.  John Cumming, for example, discussed the way in which the London Jazz Festival had expanded its reach in recent years to encourage new communities to participate in festival events and also described the scene in Istanbul, where a jazz festival and venue had transformed part of the city through creative programming.

The panel addressed the relationship between year round programming and festivals programming, and also talked about the way in which festivals relate to a sense of cultural memory (for example through using established venues and tapping into the legacy of previous events) at the same time as offering musicians and audiences visions of the future.  The audience responded enthusiastically to the notion that jazz offered a model for celebrating diversity and cultural hybridity, and the panel concluded with a lively question and answer session where the audience exchanged ideas and experiences.

As Rhythm Changes first Knowledge Transfer forum, Another Place? Why Jazz Festivals Matter demonstrated the relevance of the project’s research questions which explore the changing Europe and the value of jazz as a transformative force.  As Anne Dvinge stated, jazz is a conversational medium that, in certain contexts, has the ability to offer alternative notions of place and identity.  Anne described the way in which jazz festivals offer audiences a means of encountering things that are outside their everyday experience and also argued that the view of jazz as ‘high brow’ (or difficult) did not play out in reality once audiences engage with the music first hand.  Festivals in particular can encourage people to take risks or to sample things that are unfamiliar; in this respect, jazz festivals really do offer access to another place where people can feel differently about both the music and their environment.

Click below to hear an audio recording of the event:
Another Place? Why Jazz Festivals Matter by Tony Whyton

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Rhythm Changes Conference 2011

Oct 12 2010 Published by under Events

The first Rhythm Changes Conference will take place in Amsterdam from 2-4 September play casino online 2011.  The international event, co-hosted with the Amsterdam Conservatory, will focus on the theme of ‘Jazz and National Identities’.  Keynote speakers will include Professor Bruce Johnson (Universities of Macquarie, Turku and Glasgow) and Professor Ronald Radano (University of Wisconsin-Madison).  For further information, click on the Call for Papers 

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Tchicai in Town

Oct 05 2010 Published by under News

Last week I experienced the full force of cultural dynamics at work…  and all within walking distance of my home in a Yorkshire Pennine town!  For me, the visit of the John Tchicai Trio to the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge demonstrated how jazz can take on a significance that goes beyond the physical and temporal parameters of performances themselves.

The event threw up a range of interesting examples of how jazz scenes are not only born out of cultural exchanges and the convergence of widespread influences but also how performances themselves can develop a symbolic quality, enabling people to experience their environment in a different way.

The event had a particular resonance for me as a scholar and jazz fan – Tchicai’s work is of direct interest to my two main ongoing research projects – my book project Beyond A Love Supreme for Oxford University Press, which examines the impact and influence of A Love Supreme and late Coltrane recordings, and the Rhythm Changes project, which continues to provide insights and analysis into jazz practices and the dynamics of European culture.  Tchicai was one of the central players of the ‘New Thing’ in jazz in the mid-1960s.  His playing featured on a number of influential albums including Archie Shepp’s Four for Trane and Coltrane’s iconic album Ascension and he was the founder of the New York Contemporary Five and a member of the Jazz Composers Guild, immersed in a vibrant and politically-charged scene that included musicians and artists such as Archie Shepp, Sun Ra and Amiri Baraka. 

Meeting John the morning after the gig, it was fascinating to talk both about his life in the political hotbed of the US in the 1960s and about his experiences as a Danish national living in different locations and working with musicians from different cultures and settings.  Tchicai talked about his cultural influences and the concept of national sound – moving from Denmark to New York in 1962 and now living in France, he had clearly developed a number of valuable insights into national jazz scenes and transnational interactions.  As part of our conversation, we talked about the way in which, as an artist, you become aware of subtle differences in approach between musicians working in different scenes and national settings.  However, there is an obvious romance and pigeon-holing associated with national sounds, particularly when discussing European jazz; Tchicai made some interesting observations about the jazz scene in Scandinavia in the 1960s, claiming that, in Copenhagen in particular, there was no sense of boundary or policing of different types of jazz, and this creative environment led to some valuable interactions, cross-fertilisations and cultural exchanges.  During this time, Tchicai encountered figures such as Albert Ayler and Bill Dixon during their visits to Scandinavia and received personal invitations to move to the US.  Relocating to New York, Tchicai commented on the race politics of life at the time stating that, as a Dane, he was surprised by the change in context but didn’t feel the same way about the black nationalist agenda as colleagues such as Archie Shepp.

Tchicai’s appearance at the Trades Club was also the result of other types of cultural exchange taking place.  Now living in the South of France, Tchicai has developed a friendship with neighbours who are also of Danish descent, and those neighbours happen to have a daughter living and working in Hebden Bridge.   In turn, Tchicai’s performance brought together a small Danish ex-pat community, a film maker, a German record producer who had previously recorded Tchicai as part of a German festival, and a variety of musicians and artists, all of whom live within five minutes of the venue but who had not met until the event itself.  Finally, and in some remote way, the fact that that the performance took place in a venue such as the Trades Club, with its Trades Union history and socialist ideals, offered a window in to thinking about the political backdrop of the 1960s, and an appreciation of the power and impact of performances of jazz musicians working as part of the New Thing itself.

John Tchicai Trio from Tony Whyton on Vimeo.

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Another Place? Why Jazz Festivals Matter

Sep 26 2010 Published by under Events

Join us for ’Another Place? Why Jazz Festivals Matter’ at the London Jazz Festival 2010.  The public event, held at the Barbican Centre in London on 21 November, will be the first of five Rhythm Changes panels designed to explore key research questions with industry professionals. The event listing can be found at:
http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk/events/2010-11-21/another-place-why-jazz-festivals-matter
More details to follow once the panel line up has been confirmed…

 

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Festivals and the dynamics of culture

Jun 29 2010 Published by under Events

During the Live! Singapore event in June, I participated in some interesting panels with international festival organisers and arts professionals on the state of jazz.  During the event, it became clear to me how timely the Rhythm Changes project is and how the project research questions tie into so many issues that are of direct relevance to jazz programmers today.  For example, how jazz festivals and venues feed into the transformation of scenes and societies, how they can reinforce a sense of civic pride, how jazz events can act as a catalyst for social change etc., are key questions not only for the Rhythm Changes team when examining the dynamics of culture but also for festivals and venues, especially at a time when the value and contribution of jazz to society is often downplayed or misunderstood.

As part of my presentation on programming, I argued that the magical and essential thing about any successful festival or venue is the relationship of music to place.  What makes a festival unique are its surroundings, circumstances and the way in which its programming works within these settings.  At their best, festivals can act as catalysts for change, transforming everyday spaces into magical worlds or encouraging people to see their environment in a new way or, indeed, they can make us think about the new possibilities our everyday surroundings can open up. 

Jazz programming can serve to galvanise communities and feed into a sense of civic pride.  It can also help us to experience things that wouldn’t normally occur on our doorstep.  Indeed, programmers offer audiences positive experiences of diverse cultures and demonstrate firsthand the benefits of cultural collaboration and exchange.  In this respect, international jazz programmes have the potential to go beyond the performance to provide audiences with a new and inspiring cultural experience.  Successful programmers tend to capitalise on this, encouraging the reception of jazz as a lifestyle choice.

One of the critical tensions at play within the increasing internationalisation of music programming and the growth and domination of artist agencies and touring schemes, is the question of how programmers differentiate themselves in a market where the same international acts tend to prevail, and touring schedules of musicians with fixed offers tend to overwhelm programming models.  The ‘one shoe fits all approach’ might have some benefits to local jazz scenes, giving people in remote parts of the world a rare international experience (believing we are hearing the same things as people in New York for example), but the homogenisation of programming should be treated with caution and misses the opportunity to create special and innovative events and unique festival experiences that celebrate place and the unique characteristics of scenes.  Arguably, a festival that just accepts artists who are performing the same repertoire in a number of different locations is not a festival but a promoter or booking agent who facilitates touring and groups a series of unrelated events together under the brand of a festival.  The critical tension between the global, the local and the politics of place is of central importance to Rhythm Changes.

Within the Rhythm Changes project, we are also interested in how cultural policy and state subsidy informs the development of jazz scenes and will be using our project to demonstrate why jazz works in certain settings and not in others, highlighting the integral link between art, politics and the dynamics of culture.  In my recent visit to Maijazz Festival in Norway, for example, I was interested to observe how the programming for the event said as much about jazz as it did about the city’s desire to showcase its own talents and civic aspirations – to show off the Stavanger region and to demonstrate that it was an international player capable of welcoming acts from around the world to participate in the event.  This experience showed that programming is as important to politicians as it is to arts professionals and audiences, and that successful programmers are becoming increasingly aware of the far-reaching implications of their events.

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