Smaller audiences, a bookish year

Audiences have been fairly small at grassroots club level this year still not out of the Covid woods completely. When you think a typical jazz club has space for around 100 people, some are even smaller, and there are only 30-40 or fewer turning up …

Published: 29 Dec 2022. Updated: 30 days.

Audiences have been fairly small at grassroots club level this year still not out of the Covid woods completely. When you think a typical jazz club has space for around 100 people, some are even smaller, and there are only 30-40 or fewer turning up day-to-day that's not a lot but not particularly unusual even in some of the most famous clubs out there. But it's good that some of London's top clubs have doubled down to spruce themselves up with the Pizza Express Jazz Club gaining a refurb and the Vortex improving the club's desk and sound. Let's hope the downstairs cafe there gets a new tenant to build the second space more for even more acts to get heard and that the club returns to 6 or 7 day opening, still a good way off.

It's been a better year for books. Usually there are so few worth reading. Philip Watson particularly carved the way ahead for a new breed of authors to model itself on with his Bill Frisell book Beautiful Dreamer.

Looking ahead there is a fine Sonny Rollins biography around the corner. And Brad Mehldau's extraordinary memoir coming in the spring Formation is a literary achievement the likes of which has not come along in many years.

On the artist front how do you quantify success? It's not about winning awards, selling as few or as many as a few thousand CDs in the first few months of release or even doing a morale boosting tour when there proves to be more bums on seats than raving beyond on the street.

Quantifying success surely is more about creating something either in the studio or on a live recording that connects on a real-life personal level whether the music sells or not and somehow is built to last. What is crucial is that it proves meaningful, life changingly so. Artists who create only to chime with some version of the past meaningless to their own experience or what they think is expected of them is more churn than monumental urn and can't reach anyone's inner life.

Finally, we may have waved goodbye to Sons of Kemet who finally broke up in 2022. But what they achieved burns on in our collective folk memories. That's, dear myth taker ready as ever to read the runes, what really counts.

In the house of lovers, the music never stops, the walls are made of songs and the floor dances - Rumi

Brad Mehldau, photo: press, released his Rush influenced Jacob's Ladder this year and whose Formation is to be published by Equinox in March

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Track of the day: East Axis - Metal Sounds ****

The defiantly uncommodified lead-off track 'Metal Sounds' from the upcoming East Axis album No Subject (Brother Mister) does not disappoint in the least. The crux a first listen certainly suggests is the role of bassist Kevin Ray and more obviously …

Published: 28 Dec 2022. Updated: 31 days.

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The defiantly uncommodified lead-off track 'Metal Sounds' from the upcoming East Axis album No Subject (Brother Mister) does not disappoint in the least. The crux a first listen certainly suggests is the role of bassist Kevin Ray and more obviously the extraordinary soliloquising of saxophonist Scott Robinson who afer a long piercing and repeated held high note early on goes further to ride the livewire spikiness of pianist Matthew Shipp in the atonal undergrowth like a tightrope walker. Drummer Gerald Cleaver after about four minutes begins to swing the out-there trajectory behind Shipp's rippling anarchic solo line to take the tune in another direction. Certainly there is a lot going on in the construction of the piece as the quartet internalise the aching moan of the plangent lead lines. Give or take a bit of metaphorical licence the blues and the abstract truth tantalise in equal measure freely spreed about. A track that's a trip worth revisiting again and again.

East Axis - top, left-right: Matthew Shipp, Kevin Ray, Scott Robinson, Gerald Cleaver. Photo: Bandcamp