Using as our starting point responses gathered as part of a separate research project into the operations of jazz collectives, which was later developed into an article published in the Jazz Journal, Simon and I distilled the work down and applied it to a project that looked at the interaction of jazz musicians with the cultural industries of Birmingham, UK. We presented at the Live Music Exchange Conference in Leeds in May 2012.

Our research began by mapping the responses we had previously obtained from jazz musicians, alongside new interviews with a number of jazz promoters, to the location of music venues in and around the Birmingham area. Through a process of political economic and cultural analysis we found that in order to understand contemporary live jazz practice researchers must consider a number of factors, including the way in which jazz coexists with other art forms in a given space. To illustrate this further we indicated the existence of what we referred to as a jazz corridor in the city, where the operations of musicians and promoters occurred in a geographical straight line that ran from the centre of town to rural areas beyond the city limits.

Having a focus on the mechanisms of practitioners operating within the cultural industries at a local level is a thread which runs through the work of BCMCR researchers, guided by our five principle research themes: identity; history and heritage; cultural practice; technology; production, regulation and enterprise. Our colleagues Dave Harte & Jerome Turner are currently researching activities surrounding hyperlocal journalism, whilst BCMCR researcher Jez Collins  is developing the Birmingham Music Archive, which aims to maps the rich and varied history of the city’s music scene.

For this piece of research we were particularly indebted to our BCMCR colleague Andrew Dubber, who conducted a similar project when he mapped the jazz scenes in New Zealand cities[CH10] . Andrew presented this research at the Rhythm Changes II: Rethinking Jazz Cultures conference in Salford, May 2013.

At the same event I chaired a panel on Jazz and The Media, and Simon delivered his initial findings of his research into the work he had been doing with UK jazz independent record label, Edition Records. Simon has been examining the way in which the label interacts with audiences via a number of social media and others online platforms, and you can read more about that research here.

Abstract

This paper examines the conditions under which live jazz is created by promoters, musicians and audiences in one major UK city. We compare different venues, and their relationship to a number of distinct, but overlapping, scenes within the city.

Through a political economic and cultural analysis of these local jazz scenes we contrast the way that public sector, commercial and collective organisations relate to venues to create performance opportunities, sustain production cultures and negotiate their relationships with the music industries. We highlight the way in which jazz collectives, along with the use made of new social media, have become a notable organising principle through which young contemporary jazz musicians have created a self-sustaining scene.

Based on an analysis of a wide range of venues in Birmingham, and a series of interviews with jazz musicians and promoters, this research finds that the ways that these musicians engage with jazz’s past in the present, the permeability of the boundary between jazz and other forms of popular music, and the inter-relationship of this localised improvised music to its global presence are all important in understanding contemporary live jazz practice.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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