The Global Jazz Scene and the Pandemic.
Jazz. The Ultimate Survivor.
It was the conclusion of the usual Tuesday evening session at ‘The Music Village’ Brussels. The was some casual talk about COVID, but nothing particularly alarming or serious. Even a regular and familiar face in the crowd, a senior consultant Oncologist, did not seem particularly perturbed.
“See you you next week” was exchanged purely in token expectation. How wrong we all were. Many months would go on by before we were to meet again and even then in much restricted circumstances.
Musicians and jazz musicians in particular, do not choose, with very rare exceptions, to function in an isolated bubble. Self-contained instruments piano or guitar for example can and do perform alone, for horn players, brass or reed, this it not really a satisfactory option.
Why do musicians playing on every level of ability, put in time and effort to enhance their performance skills? To play in front of, and in doing so, communicate with an audience. It is of small consequence the venue being ‘Carnegie Hall’ or the backroom of a local bar, the motivation remains the same. Live performance, at its best, provides pleasure for the listener, for musicians self-fulfilment of what they are essentially striving to achieve, and on occasion, unforgeable moments of the unexpected.
The Pandemic forced musicians, amateurs through to top-draw performers into increasingly uncomfortable and depressing isolation.
I have spent a great deal of my life in jazz clubs, as a listener, and as a performer. My work often took me to the major cities of Europe and on occasion the United States. Checking out the local jazz scene was always a priority. Some cities had excellent ‘What’s On’ monthly printed guides. Even better was to find a jazz club, and there would always be someone with an in-depth knowledge of the local scene.
Almost by default around the year nineteen ninety six I found myself designing websites. In nineteen ninety seven I created ‘Jazz Clubs Worldwide’ https://jazz-clubs-worldwide.com The very first information submission I received was from ‘ The Hot Club of Lisbon’ arguably the oldest jazz club in Europe. From then on, an almost daily profusion of information followed. Over a period of years the site became a key global resource, listing thousands of clubs, located in more then one hundred countries.
About seven years ago I redesigned the structure of Jazz Clubs Worldwide. A public, comprehensive listing of jazz clubs, with basic information and Web links. To this was added a Subscriber database of very comprehensive information, to provide an invaluable tool for jazz professionals, and committed jazz aficionados.
The database consists of fifteen spreadsheets covers every aspect of the global jazz scene including: Clubs. Festivals. Agents. Societies. Radio. Zines. Plus a ‘Relational Database’ with a ‘Search Function’ on-line for subscribers
Then the Pandemic. Due to uncertainty the flow of regular new information almost ceased. For the majority of individuals and professional enablers what was the point of trying to fix gigs, tours, make new contacts. So matters languished. In late twenty twenty one I decided that perhaps the time had arrived to commence a comprehensive reappraisal of the international jazz scene. It was a somewhat depressing thought. Not particularly because of the work involved, but just what such an exercise might reveal about the state of the global jazz scene. In January, twenty, twenty two, I started work on the project.
What I anticipated, was something of a blood-bath. In this respect I I found myself increasingly both surprised and optimistic. There is no doubt that some very important jazz venues worldwide had closed their doors, but in general the scale of closures was in fact much less severe than I had anticipated. Even amongst clubs who had not yet opened, but intending do so, there was a viable strata of optimism. Revising the international festival scene was similar narrative. Some losses, for sure, but not anywhere on the scale I had expected, plus a very definite feeling of optimism for the future.
In conclusion, one must admit that we are still some way from what was taken as normal prior to the Pandemic. On a personal level, having completed a complete revision of Jazz Clubs Worldwide, I find myself very heartened by the tenacity of jazz as an art form and its ability to survive.
Peter Maguire // June 2022.
Creator of https://jazz-clubs-worldwide.com