In summer 2016 a small number of us attended and spoke at the 12 Points Festival of European improvised music, which was held in San Sebastian. It was consciously scheduled alongside the annual city jazz festival, as part of a bumper package of summer music befitting the San Sebastian’s status as 2016 European Capital of Culture (along with Wroclaw).
We were with friends and the music was great—we’d already listened to three avant-garde acts from a box (yes) in the Victoria Eugenia Theatre as part of 12 Points Festival, and now we were in a hurry to join in and enjoy the generous free stages of the 51st Jazzaldia, San Sebastian’s impressively longstanding jazz festival.
We followed the people and the music across the river and down to the beach. It was one of those magic nights. The crowds swirled around the various stages, the live music from one stage bled creatively into that from another, there were packed beer tents where you had to shout for a drink, the rain mostly held off and there were glimpses of stars through the clouds, the sound of the waves crashing against the beach could just be made out in a lull between numbers. It was dark and packed like a rock festival, yet the lights of the city and the shade of the sea were all around in brilliant contrast.
We had a few drinks, it’s true. And the music! Someone said Marc Ribot is playing here tonight and I was like, Marc Ribot, I love Marc Ribot! And it’s free, really? In fact it was Ribot and his star Young Philadelphians band, doing the disco project, as cool as uncool can get (for those who preferred punk to soul back in the day). I mean, the bass guitarist, thumping out powerful and heavy lines, was Ornette Coleman’s bassist, Jamaaladeen Tacuma.
The night was so good that there are no photos. We all shouted possibly a little too loud for an encore, and the band came back on. Ribot sat down and alone played the guitar figure from Van McKay’s (I wish. OK, McCoy) 1975 hit ‘The hustle’. Well, we were thrilled and loved it, cheering and doing the hustle for all our worth. It was a perfect choice, for a perfect encore—funny, clever, knowing, respectful of a disco-soul-jazz tradition some of us had not given much thought to.
Fantastic memories of a special night of music, friendship, and festival. Whenever we meet now someone will burst into ‘The hustle’ and we smile, laugh, do a little dance. We were touched by the music, at the jazz festival. It was intangible, in a temporarily transformed public space for culture, a pleasure for everyone there.
Finding myself in San Sebastian again after the summer, I went to look at the public cultural space by the beach where we had had our transcendent collective dance, the recent landmark Kursaal complex (opened 1999) on Zurriola beach. But where were our memories and pleasure, where was the place of our memories and pleasure? Surely not here! We had been Kursaal Flyers in July, but by October this seemed to me a silent barren place, magnified by its own scale and emptiness.
The Kursaal complex from the outside seems a place that is designed to demand transformation, hard and hard up against the golden sand, by an influx of people, by music resounding off its walls. To me, looking for the festal trace, it dramatises the potential of transformation, alongside the difficulty of articulating the intangible. It needs a festival, to live. It really needs to do the hustle.
With my co-author, postdoctoral research assistant Dr Emma Webster, I’m pleased to draw attention to our newest output from our AHRC-funded project, The Impact of Festivals. This project is in collaboration with our research partner the EFG London Jazz Festival. The new output is a peer-reviewed article for Jazz Research Journal focussed on the impact of jazz festivals in particular. (The wider project embraces pop, folk and classical music festivals too.) The abstract is below, followed by a short film in which I talk about the research. You can access freely a copy of the article here.
The full citation of our article is: Emma Webster and George McKay. 2016. ‘The impact of (jazz) festivals: an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research report’. Jazz Research Journal 9(2), pp.169-193. We hope it will be of interest to CHIME-rs and our international community of jazz researchers at Rhythm Changes.
Festivals are an essential part of the jazz world, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which jazz musicians, audiences and organizers plan their lives. Funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the purpose of this report is to chart and critically examine available writing about the impact of jazz festivals, drawing on both academic and ‘grey’/cultural policy literature in the field. The review presents research findings under the headings of economic impact; socio-political impact; temporal impact and intensification and transformation of experience; creative impact—music and musicians; discovery and audience development; place-making; the mediation of jazz festivals; and environmental impact. It concludes with a set of recommendations for future research, which identifies gaps in the field. To accompany the article, a 100-entry 40,000-word annotated bibliography has also been produced, which is freely accessible online.
In panel conversations between musicians, researchers, journalists, organisers and promoters we found and heard about a range of approaches to trying to revitalise the (jazz) festival experience and the jazz scene during the 12 Points Festival discussion days on ‘Jazz Futures 2016’ here in San Sebastian this week. This was felt important for a number of reasons, including that in some countries the big all-star jazz festival is fading, its audience diminishing, while elsewhere, perhaps ironically, perhaps in a connected way, there is a surfeit of festivalisation of culture, in that festival in its ubiquity has become everyday, even banal, and no longer the intense, heightened and exceptional. Here are some of those diversifying approaches, familiar and perhaps not so.
Jazz festival or event as immersive experience—music, yes, but also costume, design, actors and dancers, food, theatre and masque, historical reconstruction of scenes from jazz past with a promenading audience
Jazz apps, and audience interactivity via mobile digital technology
Electronic deconstruction of the live music event in the very next concert that follows, so the audience hears fresh the new music it just heard, where sometimes the remix is better than the original (though, yes, “sometimes it’s shittier”)
An emphasis on creative curation rather than simply programming or organisation and presentation of a series of concerts
Cross-cultural and cross-arts dialogue. Whether improvised arts (music, dance, animation) working with each other in the moment, or a festival of improvised music that must include literature and vice versa
A continuing struggle with the Jazz word: a European jazz festival director says I don’t want to use the term “jazz festival”, it’s off-putting for a new audience, others saying we lose something worth cherishing and celebrating if we reject it (i.e. a century of live and recorded music)
The on-going core relevance of jazz and music education: new musicians, new networks and events, new energy, and new audiences
The regular inclusion of academic research in the festival programme, an openness to it in the scene more generally.
The 10th edition of 12 Points kicked off in San Sebastian last night. This year, the nomadic festival (that alternates between Dublin and different European locations) is being delivered in partnership with San Sebastian’s own Heineken Jazzaldia Festival, meaning that two jazz festivals are being presented simultaneously. Whilst this might seem strange at first, you soon realise that there is a genuine complementarity between the programmes of the two festivals; Jazzaldia features a number of leading American and European artists, from Diana Krall to Jan Garbarek, whereas 12 Points celebrates emerging talent and the diversity of improvised music from 12 different European locations.
There was clearly an appetite for the new among San Sebastian audiences last night, as people were queuing around the block waiting for the doors to open prior to the event.
The Victoria Eugenia Theatre provided a stunning backdrop to the event, as music from Denmark (The Embla), Spain (Marco Mezquida) and Germany (The Eva Klesse Quartett) enhanced, blended with, and confronted the space at times. Sound has a transformative potential both inside and outside the concert hall, and 12 Points encourages us to engage with a sense of place, to think about the similarities and differences between people and cultures through music, and to consider the importance of improvisation in art and everyday life.
In San Sebastian there are several jazz bars and clubs as well as restaurants that feature live jazz. In addition to the large Jazzaldia stage on the beach, you can also encounter street musicians playing jazz and view a number of colourful posters that advertise both festival events and local jazz gigs.
Being here, you are continually reminded of the importance of improvised music and its ability to transform our environment; jazz clearly supports cultural tourism and provides the perfect soundtrack to the city with its beautiful beaches, historic buildings, fabulous cuisine and nightlife.
But the music also has a lot to say about San Sebastian’s place in the world and the city’s aspirations as the 2016 European Capital of Culture.
There is something special about San Sebastian’s place in the Bay of Biscay, not only with its distinctively Basque character but also with its proximity to France.
Just being here makes you think about different identities, the politics and the connectedness of people in Europe past and present, and the way in which culture clearly flows in multiple directions; like 12 Points, it cannot be reduced to simple boundaries and border controls.
The history of the jazz festival in Europe goes back to the early post-war years, when one visionary city organised a set of concerts over a few days in seafront venues round the resort. These featured both national musicians as well as a sprinkling of US headliners, including the transatlantic star Louis Armstrong. We can think of it as a gesture of cultural futurity, with the aim of sounding a better international situation after the war years. They called it the ‘festival international du jazz’, the year was 1948, and it happened in—Nice, France. Thus the European ‘jazz festival’ was born, in Nice.
In England the earliest jazz festival would be Beaulieu Jazz Festival (1956-61), while perhaps the most famous European event, Montreux Jazz Festival, was founded later still, in 1967. (A book marking 50 years of Montreux is published this year.) But it was Nice Jazz Festival, in the late 1940s, that set the template.
Within a few years Nice would do something else marvellous for jazz, for jazz’s heritage and sense of place and relation to the past: Nice located its festival of jazz, that clashing music of modernity, in the Roman amphitheatre to the north of the city. Go there today and you can see busts of famous jazz musicians who played there in the park next to the amphitheatre, a neat public recognition of that jazz moment in that great city by the Mediterranean.
This year’s festival was due to start today, hundreds of musicians and thousands of festival-goers coming to Nice, under the sun and stars, by the sea, for a celebration of a music which, at its very best, is an outernational music of dialogue and listening where we might just for a second glimpse or hear another, better world. I know that sounds like a jazz utopia but, you know, we had a conference recently on the very theme of #jazzutopia, so it’s in the air.
But the 2016 Nice Jazz Festival was cancelled yesterday, as a result of the terrible atrocity on the Promenade des Anglais on Thursday night. Nice est en deuil. We should listen to the silence of the jazz not happening there this weekend. From another festival city, Edinburgh, where a group of scholars and musicians is meeting this weekend during the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival at a conference marking ‘50 years of European jazz’, we send wishes of sympathy and solidarity, anger and love, and the desire for peace and a different sort of future that jazz can sometimes still sound, and that a festival can still capture. Vive Nice Jazz Festival.
Chime is teaming up with Wonderfeel, a three-day outdoor festival in the Netherlands that brings classical music on the estate of ‘Schaep en Burgh’ in ’s-Graveland.
The program includes over 250 musicians, 100 concerts and music documentaries, lectures, children’s activities and food trucks. On the 25 hectares of the estate, you will find six Wonderfeel stages, a mini stroll away from each other. The repertoire ranges from Mozart to Steve Reich, from Rameau to Pärt with hints towards jazz, world and pop music.Wonderfeel closely cooperates with Natuurmonumenten (Society for preservation of nature monuments in the Netherlands). As part of the Flessenpost (‘message in a bottle’)lecture series, Chimer Nick Gebhardt will read his message called ‘Playing for free (or almost for free)’.
Wonderfeel will take place on the 22, 23 and 24th of July on the estate of ‘Schaep en Burgh’ in ’s-Graveland (near Hilversum).
I’ve just returned from a field trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. True, New Orleans is not in Europe, but other than that the event ticks all the boxes of our CHIME acronym: Cultural Heritage, Improvised Music, and Festivals. Spread out over two extended weekends, Jazz Fest, as the event is commonly referred to, is fully focused on celebrating New Orleans’ and Louisiana’s cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Of course, the most obvious local music heritages are jazz and NOLA brass band culture, and despite the usual complaints that the acts on the main stages are not jazz but something else (Pearl Jam, Steely Dan, Red Hot Chili Peppers), there are many concerts on the smaller stages that are dedicated to musics that live up to the festival’s epithet, including jazz, brass band, zydeco, cajun, blues and gospel.
The main stages trumpet the names of the main sponsors (Acura Stage), yet other stages carry more descriptive names (Blues Tent, Gospel Tent), while yet others emphasize the connection with local traditions: Jazz and Heritage Stage, Congo Square Stage, Lagniappe Stage (the local term “lagniappe” refers to a gift or an extra), and Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage (a “fais do-do” is a Cajun dance party). The festival also exhibits folk crafts, arts and traditions in its Louisiana Folklife and Native American Villages. It celebrates local cuisines, too, for instance at the Grandstand, which “gives Festgoers a chance to take an intimate look at the vibrant culture, cuisine and art of Louisiana.” In addition, the festival has become a tradition itself, and many Festgoers have become regulars, who have developed their own traditions and rituals on the festival grounds.
Helen Regis and Shana Walton discuss in “Producing the folk at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival” the many tensions that center around questions of ownership, agency, race and authenticity. In Roll with it: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans Matt Sakakeeny points up similar tensions, specific to the brass bands that perform at Jazz Fest.
Of special interest to me was the second-lining that takes place at Jazz Fest. Second-line culture in New Orleans centers around the many active brass bands in the city and the so-called Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs (SA & PCs), societies founded as black self help organizations. SA & PCs parade in their annual processions and at funerals. In a parade, the first line consists of the club members and the brass band. The bystanders who join in after the first-liners form the second line. Regis (2001, 13) points out that the term second line is ambiguous, as it refers to “multiple dimensions of the same phenomenological reality. It refers to the dance steps, which are performed by club members and their followers during parades. … [but] the term second line often is used to refer to the overall parade, including club, band and followers.”
SA & PCs parade at the festival grounds as part of the programming, but the local brass bands can mostly be heard at the Jazz & Heritage Stage and the Economy Hall Tent. Here too, second-line culture is put on display, but with the brass band on stage rather than leading the parade. As soon as the band hits an up-tempo song, the regulars at the Fest spring to their feet, open their umbrella’s–often self adorned–and start parading the tent, moving to the music. There is little here that resembles an authentic second-line parade in one of the city’s communities, yet it is as close as many of the Festgoers will ever get to this vibrant culture. Interestingly, these tent parades have become a festival tradition in themselves, and it is clear that to the participants the practice is an authentic expression. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrates local traditions, but has become a locus of newly created and invented traditions itself.
Festgoers second-line in the Economy Hall Tent to the music of the Paulin Brothers Brass Band
Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge University Press.
Jones, David M., (director). 1995. New Orleans Jazz Funerals from the Inside. Documentary film. DMJ Productions, DMJ1018.
Regis, Helen A. 1999. “Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro-Creole Festivals.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Nov.): 472–504.
Regis, Helen A. 2001. “Blackness and the Politics of Memory in the New Orleans Second Line.” American Ethnologist, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Nov.): 752–777.
This new report about the impact of British music festivals, launched at CHIME partner Cheltenham Jazz Festival in April 2016, is now available online. We hope festival researchers and organisers will find it of use and interest. This is what some people are saying about it already:
“This report is an irrefutable qualification of the value and impact of our sector and an amazing resource for anyone involved in the organisation of a music festival.” Steve Mead, Artistic Director, Manchester Jazz Festival
“Within festivals we need and value the criticality of academic research. A report like this helps us shape, make sense, rethink what we are doing.” John Cumming OBE, Director, EFG London Jazz Festival
“This report is excellent—a pleasure to read, and I will be recommending it to my students and colleagues.” Professor Stephanie Pitts, Head of the Department of Music, University of Sheffield
The report was produced as part of The Impact of Festivals, a 12-month project funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Programme, working with research partner organisation the EFG London Jazz Festival. Professor George McKay is the Principal Investigator for the project, as well as AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities at the University of East Anglia. Dr Emma Webster is the Research Associate for the project, and co-founder and director of Live Music Exchange.
The findings are drawn from an extensive literature review of existing work in the field, from academic research to ‘grey’ policy literature, economic impact assessments to festival and industry publications. Not only that, but there is a 170-entry annotated bibliography of these outputs accessible here. We think that, taken together, the report and the annotated bibliography will be an important reference point for industry and academia alike in the future.
The report is is freely accessible here. If you would like a paper copy please contact Rachel Daniel, email@example.com. Do let us know what you think of it!
A report from Merja Liimatainen, University of Gothenburg
According to the members of the Classic Jazz society, Gothenburg is the New Orleans of the Nordic countries. When jazz music became known over large parts of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, it also found its way to Sweden. Jazz music probably came to Gothenburg via Svenska Amerikalinjen, the New York-Gothenburg shipping line. Gothenburg was thereby jazz music’s first port of call in Sweden.
“One important contributing factor was that we had the “America ships” here in Gothenburg and Swedish musicians took jobs on these boats purely so as to be able to get across to New York and go and listen to famous jazz musicians, buy records and bring them back to Sweden. Likewise, many of the jazz bands from the USA came over on the ships to Sweden and often played in Gothenburg when the ships were berthed in the port.” (Tom, Classic Jazz society)
Around 1920, there were several foreign bands in Gothenburg and probably local bands as well that played at underground clubs, restaurants and cafés. At that time, jazz was associated with modernity, sophistication and decadence. This part of the city’s jazz history has been very sparsely documented. The main focus has been on the 1940s and 1950s which was the heyday period of traditional jazz music in Sweden. By then, musical influences were coming from England, not New York. The Swedish term tradjazz comes from the English term traditional jazz. Referring to Dixieland, Tom explains that many influences have been exchanged between Gothenburg and London and there were strong links between jazz scenes.
“That is perhaps why the music that is called traditional or classical jazz has been somewhat more firmly anchored here in Gothenburg than in Stockholm and many musicians here play in the same way as this kind of jazz was played in England.” (Tom, Classic Jazz)
The 1940s: the wave of traditional jazz
The 1940s saw the start of the era that Ingemar, another of Classic Jazz’s mainstays, calls the revival period. The young musicians of that time went back to the roots of jazz music in order to rediscover the original and genuine style of jazz and revive the music that black musicians played in New Orleans in the early 20th century. It was during the revival period that modern jazz, bebop, came to Gothenburg. This was also a reaction against “commercial” swing music. Ingemar explains that bebop changed jazz from dance-friendly popular music to innovative art, the music of musicians, that is to say, music to be listened to which was regarded even then as being of a better and finer class than the old, traditional jazz. Both camps believed they were “tremendously hip” in the early 1950s. At the same time, people were not so obsessed with different styles initially. There were several jazz competitions where the same musicians could perform in both the modern and Dixie categories.
Today, there are no active bands from the 1940s anymore. My informants and many of the Classic Jazz society’s active musicians and members were born in that decade. They were not active on Gothenburg’s jazz scene until they were teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1950s: the golden era of school band jazz
“This is for those of you who remember the school dances of the 50s and 60s” proclaimed one of the members of Peoria Jazzband from the stage at a jazz evening on S/S Marieholm, organised by the Classic Jazz Göteborg society. In the 1950s, most musicians and traditional jazz bands got to know each other at upper secondary school and they started out by playing at school dances. Later, new constellations could arise via meetings and jam sessions at jazz clubs.
It was almost exclusively young men who played in these bands. Most of the traditional jazz musicians were self-taught and after upper secondary school and then studies at university/college, some of them continued to play in their spare time alongside their professional careers. For most of them, music-making has never been a job; it’s been a hobby that has been pursued together with the people they socialised with. Several of the people who started playing in school bands at the end of the 50s and in the early 60s are now members of the Classic Jazz Göteborg society.
In 1950, Gothenburg’s most talked about and famous traditional/ revival jazz band, Landala Original Red Hot Stompers, was started up (1950-1969). The band is described as being a collective of art students and Valand pupils who played New Orleans/revival jazz and lived together in Kåken, a large, dilapidated house in an old part of Gothenburg. The house became a meeting place for art students, artists, writers, actors and bohemians in Gothenburg. It no longer exists today, nor are there any recordings of Landala Original Red Hot Stompers. The band played for the last time at the end of the 1960s, at a time when pop and rock music had begun to take over more and more of the music scene and had become the new popular music in Gothenburg. Jazz began to be increasingly seen as being highbrow culture and art music. Very few traditional jazz bands survived but Peoria (1960) and Tant Bertas Jasskapell (1963), founded in the early 1960s, are two of the oldest traditional jazz bands in Gothenburg that are still active today.
1970s and 1980s: a new chapter
In the 1970s, school band musicians from the 50s and 60s had grown up and many of them had left the jazz scene or gone over to other forms of music. In 1977, the Tradjazz Göteborg society was founded; it later changed its name to Classic Jazz Göteborg. The Jazzhuset club organised many activities including jazz evenings several times a week. In 1988, the owner of Jazzklubben, Ulf Albrektsson, organised the first jazz festival in Gothenburg, Tradjazzfestivalen i Göteborg, which was the predecessor of today’s Göteborg Classic Jazz festival. In the 1990s, Jazzhuset was struck by the recession, the changing tastes of the general public and declining audiences which led to 1960s rock music coming back and taking over the scene. By the end of the 1990s, there was no longer any jazz at all in Jazzhuset. Since the 1990s, traditional jazz has been called “rocking chair jazz” and is viewed as “no longer being culture” in the media and by reviewers. Nevertheless, every year Classic Jazz organises a handful of activities that are linked to classical/traditional jazz in Gothenburg: jazz evenings on S/S Marieholm, jazz cruises to Denmark, summer jazz in the city’s parks and church concerts. Little attention is paid to these activities by the “official” Gothenburg and the city’s cultural elite. There is also a new generation of young musicians and bands, such as The Gentlemen & Gangsters. This band plays traditional New Orleans hot jazz with a touch of swing. Playing mainly for the lindy hop community, they perform all over Europe on a regular basis.
An interesting closing comment is that up to now, the jazz history of the city has been written almost exclusively by men and about men, but women have always been present as dancing partners, listeners, mothers, wives, girlfriends and daughters with their own memories. From the perspective of cultural history, people who have been on the side-lines of the traditional jazz scene should also be given their fair share of space in the history of jazz.
Translated by Helene Brembeck
Wågerman, Ingemar (2010) Down by the Riverside: den traditionella jazzen i Göteborg med omnejd. Hönö: Ingemar Wågerman
We’re at Cheltenham Jazz Festival piloting a digital interface that is intended to capture elements of the experience of a group of visitors, festival workers, and artists. More details on that will appear shortly. Planned activities include similar projects at a number of other, European festivals in 2017 and beyond.