Interplay back at Symphony Hall

Posted by on Feb 9, 2014

Interplay back at Symphony Hall

Interplay has been booked to play at Birmingham’s prestigious Symphony Hall in the popular Jazzlines series of Friday foyer concerts. This marks our return after a gap of some four years. This has prompted me to reflect on how the jazz scene in the city has evolved in recent times. The return of the Town Hall to major jazz events, and continuation of excellent programmes at places like the CBSO Centre, have set a high bar at their level, while exciting developments such as the jazz promotions at the Hare and Hounds and Spotted Dog have added something more ‘street’.  The growing presence and impact of the jazz course at the Conservatoire, also, stimulates a lively self-help scene among young and emerging musicians.. Creatively things are really buzzing. Is there a down side? Well, the lack of a really coordinated approach to jazz promotion in the city and the region could be one. Compared to other parts of the country we don’t seem to have the ability to pool energies or resources the way some of our neighbouring regions appear to do.  The ‘jazz community’ here thus provides a somewhat fractured and polarised environment in which to work, and this is not helpful at any level. The absence of a recognised broadcast platform for the music might be another. With notable important exceptions such as internet radio The Bridge’s Alan Musson or Theresa Kellegher at Seclow Sounds we are hardly overwhelmed by broadcasters thirsting to share our music or experiences. Outside the city itself the jazz picture is also mixed, but certainly not disheartening. Warwick Arts Centre still offers a varied programme although Jazz Coventry is but a shadow of its former self and Stratford Jazz has, understandably, scaled back its activities. At more local level Leam Jazz is still hanging in there after three years of unsubsidised promotions and only this week the new Kenilworth Jazz Club got off to a flying start, while Spa Jazz at The Clarendon is going from strength to strength.  There are no shortages of players or listeners at jazz jam sessions either – Rugby now has two – and there seems to be a steady flow of people wanting to learn to play jazz, of all ages and stages.  Much of this activity of course comes as a result of dedicated voluntary effort. So it’s clear that jazz in this region is not ‘dead’, that it has...

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New reviews for Interplay’s album ‘Global’

Posted by on Jan 7, 2014

New reviews for Interplay’s album ‘Global’

Two on-line jazz sites have just published positive reviews of the new album ‘Global’. ‘Jazz Views’ calls it ‘excellent’ and ‘a quite virile assay of post-bop modes’ while jazz reviewer Adrian Pallant finds it ‘joyful and contrasting’. Why not read the reviews in full and then let us know what you think of the album yourself?...

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Surprises in Swindon for Interplay

Posted by on May 3, 2012

Baker Street in Swindon is hosting some fine names in British Jazz these days and it was a treat to find ourselves being well looked-after by the house team as well as the jazz night organisers.  After a longish drive and set up it was also good to see all the tables filled well before the start. I was therefore disconcerted – putting it mildly – when my double bass pick-up proceeded to ‘die’ half-way through the second number! Hasty action with the screw-driver produced no results of note (or notes) and so I faced the reality of doing the rest of the gig on electric bass.  I had been warned that some of the audience at least preferred jazz standards to the mixture of originals and global rhythms we were about to play. I wondered whether abandoning the upright bass for bass guitar would be a step too far for them. Happily it seemed to go the other way. We got into our stride after the interruption and the crowd came with us!  We had selected  a global programme in honour of International Jazz Day and managed to ‘visit’ Cuba, Jamaica, India and South Africa as well as playing North American and British Jazz. A very good floor singer called Harry joined us for My Funny Valentine and adapted his delivery to our Lovers’ Rock treatment to acclaim. Even our ‘hairier’ 0riginals got a cheer.  With a couple of encores we were done. I was really pleased because I always prefer to give an audience the benefit of the doubt where new music is concerned. Let them hear it and respond, rather than presuming they won’t or don’t like it. As it turned out people in Swindon did like it, and we look forward to being back there as soon as schedules...

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A Grand Re-Union

Posted by on Mar 27, 2011

A Grand Re-Union

‘I went down to the demonstration…’ (March for the Alternative, London, 26th March) but instead of abuse I was delighted to find myself in the company of Tony Haynes and members of the very wonderful  Grand Union Orchestra.   Imagine busking in the street with such luminaries as Claude Deppa, Chris Biscoe, Byron Wallen and Louise Elliott and you will appreciate my excitement! If you haven’t had the pleasure, Grand Union is a magnificent assemblage of jazz and world musicians – literally from all over the globe.  Under the creative leadership of Tony Haynes the Orchestra performs concerts and music theatre of astonishing cross-cultural richness and ingenuity.  Over 30 years Tony has investigated and engaged with many cultural traditions, producing original works on themes as diverse as the enslavement of African people in the New World, to the history of the Silk Road.  The Orchestra has also delivered ambitious and memorable participative community and education projects that draw directly on the musical practice of the Orchestra and its musicians. Tony and I first met circa 1984 when as Director of an Arts Centre in Oxford I was keen to encourage music  improvisation among schools in the area.  I remember going to see the Orchestra performing in a Sports Hall and being blown away by the diversity, audacity and vitality of the music.  I was not alone, as the hundreds of students responded alike. Over the next few years we worked together extensively in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire schools, youth organisations and with local musicians including jazz and rock, Bhangra and orchestral players.  The finale ‘If Music Could’ involved 200 young people and adults and subsequently went on to be developed in two other Grand Union residencies. I have learned a massive amount from Tony and the other musicians about how new music can be inclusive so as to reflect and respect different cultural and musical traditions.  They also enact the sheer power of music to engage people in participation who may not have had the opportunity to undergo the  formalities of conventional training. And that brings us back to the march and the reasons for being there.  Masses of arts educational activity is going to disappear in the coming months and years as a result of current government policies, including outreach projects by organisations like Grand Union.  In the scale of all the hardships that people will experience this may not...

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