I recently met with Tony Dudley-Evans (pictured above), who is chair of Birmingham Jazz, Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and a visiting tutor on the jazz programme at the Birmingham Conservatoire. We met for coffee (one of my favourite pastimes), to see if there were any useful ways that the team at Interactive Cultures could support Tony’s work in promoting jazz.
If you read other blog posts from IC members you’ll know there’s a strong interest in music in the team, and much of the work we do is with the music industry, or music cultural projects. Some of these projects relate to jazz, and a few of us are keen on jazz. With me, it’s close to an obsession. So, I’ve recently been thinking of ways to bring the different activities we do in this area together, and then push them outwards to try and team up with people like Tony.
Jazz is an interesting music (to me at least), at the margins of popular and art music. Its place in the Conservatoire certainly gives it the status it deserves as a music created out of a high standard of musicianship. But it is a music which developed in the commercial music industry and, of equal importance, in the lives of its music makers and music fans. There’s a surprising amount of jazz made in Britain, and much of it matches the standard of jazz produced in other parts of the world. But jazz does not have a large audience. It’s hard to count such a thing, but it isn’t far off classical music or world music, though obviously far behind other forms of popular music.
Tony is one of those dedicated characters who have ensured that some of the best jazz music is available in Birmingham, and Birmingham Jazz is widely viewed as one of the best run jazz arts promoters in Europe, and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival one of the most interesting you can hope to attend.
It’s great talking to someone of Tony’s experience, because he has so many great stories to tell, and he is so generous in conversation and encouraging in demeanor. I floated some ideas to him: a day seminar around a jazz theme; some work with Birmingham Jazz, maybe on their online presence; and maybe a collaboration on some research. He was keen on all the ideas.
So, over the next few months I hope to get some of these going. I’ll keep you informed as we go.