28 September 2010

A runaway artistic success

Jazz Uncovered, JU2010, the second apparition of our local modern jazz festival, was a runaway artistic success. We’d fallen on a theme of variety in promoting the event in the run-up, and this turned out to be the key to the day. Modern jazz is a broad church and JU2010 was clear evidence of it: cool or smooth or experimental or hot, vocal or instrumental, duo or band or large ensemble, richly arranged or free, even circus music or rockabilly. There was variation and exploration everywhere, with both seriousness and joy. I can only bow to the level of creativity and skill shown by our local students and professionals and our visitors. We’d invited the performers with these words: “We are seeking a broad range of inventive modern jazz in varied formats, large or small ensembles, even solo artists if you have something special to offer. We are hoping for original compositions, special performances like replaying renowned albums, retrospectives of famous performers, cross-genre styles like NuJazz, jazz-poetry, breakbeats. We have a definite preference for original compositions, so get your pencils and manuscript paper to work and get in touch.” It was pleasing how eagerly and competently they responded. I know the local scene, but even so, I was floored to see and hear it all together, in one place, on one day, and I was overjoyed with the visitors and their contributions on the day.

The culture was reinforced with the dedication of committee and volunteers, the good will and easy interaction of musicians and audience, the recording prizes donated by ArtSound and Infidel (and the ACT Government’s funding support), the low-key but effective sound work by Guy, and of course the involvement of ArtSound throughout the event. ArtSound broadcast live to air early in the afternoon, then recorded most of the rest of the event. You’ll no doubt be hearing sets on Friday Night Live over coming months, and there’s even talk of a JU2010 sampler CD in the wind. Certainly the music deserved it.

But where was the audience? It was a meagre turnout. The committee will ponder the lessons learnt. Was it the long weekend, the two consecutive long weekends, Floriade, the warm spring weekend, school holidays, marketing, Canberra’s habit of pushing off down the coast when the weather’s good? Probably a bit of all those things, but audience is the sine qua non for events and JU2010 was sadly wanting. This is not unknown in jazz. I was chatting to Matt McMahon who observed that some of his favourite recordings are live and with an obviously small audience. It’s a common experience: fine art is a challenge. Not everyone’s up to it or interested in it, and perhaps no-one’s up to it every day. For now it’s over to the committee to discuss the outcome of the day. But on the positive side, here are a few pics. And thanks again to the committee: Brenton Holmes, Cameron Smith, Lauren Black, Reuben Lewis and Eric Pozza.

BTW, congratulations to Matt Thompson who won the ArtSound FNL/Mastering prize, and “lucky Luke” Sweeting and Rachael Thoms who won the Infidel recording session.

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