What's on this week

Recommended this week Tonight Nishla Smith, The Yard, Manchester Tuesday Steam Down, Exchange, Bristol Wednesday Yussef Dayes, Stylus, Leeds University Thursday Christine Tobin, Sin É, Dublin Friday Julian Lage, EFG London Jazz Festival, Cadogan …

Published: 8 Nov 2021. Updated: 9 months.

Nice work if you can get it or are we all going too niche?

Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra no less introduced the Gershwins' classic 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' done as a foxtrot in a dance band version in 1937 a tad bizarre to our ears these days it must be said. Not so 20 years later …

Published: 8 Nov 2021. Updated: 9 months.

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Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra no less introduced the Gershwins' classic 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' done as a foxtrot in a dance band version in 1937 a tad bizarre to our ears these days it must be said. Not so 20 years later dating far better is Carmen McRae's treatment on After Glow, one of many great versions of the classic.

So much for a trip to a time before many of us were born. But standards are still significant when you go out and hear jazz and the Gershwins' contribution as a working harmonic and lyrical resource is still massively important. And yet jazz can beyond all this be far too niche, playing just to an insider jazz code even if, and it is, hip to know loads of stuff to get that bit closer. So a jazz audience well-attuned to hearing the music live, knows about contrafacts (using chord changes of existing songs with new melodies on top), the right places to applaud, when someone is trading fours, entering into call and response and can tell what a freak-out is and know what isn't. They know their Beresfordian plinky-plonk from their Les Dawson bitonal. The great pianist James Pearson (Ronnie Scott's musical director) does a wonderful Dawson homage by the way.

They can spot the improvisation sometimes when it seems to move away from the notated although cannot know if the routine has been memorised or not. They might know about honking, bar-walking and other tricks of the trade, what funkiness is and isn't, what the groove is and how it's different from the beat. They will spot Coltrane changes a mile off and know their Gershwin-derived rhythm changes too.

The list goes on and on. The lingua franca and not forgetting the ''real book'' type repertoire is important as are the rites and rituals of the bandstand whether conventional blowing sessions or customised ensemble interplay that borrows more from the classical avant-garde or hip-hop and indie-rock and that then influences new structures.

But you can't blank out the wider audience, although it's a gift to comedians if jazzers end up doing this. If it's too niche it's too much! The main thing is to make newcomers welcome. We were all new to this great music once and it's still a brand new day as the music evolves. No one, do we, wants to make the whole thing a clique within a niche?

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