This coming weekend (23-26 April) is the main trade fair/mini- festival/ gathering/showcase for European Jazz. It’s called Jazzahead and it takes place in Bremen – around a Culture Centre called the Schlachthof (above), which means slaughterhouse or abattoir. Yup. Some jazz people indeed do have a (metaphorical) tendency to get slaughtered on such occasions.
Jazzahead is in its fourth year, and is growing. Last year there were a hundred exhibitors, and the only Brit was Christine Allen of Basho. This year, thanks to industrious people like Allen – again – and Joe Paice of Jazz Services, there is much more of a presence. Which can only be good news for our jazz scene.
Two UK artists are featured headliners at the mini-festival of public concerts, which attracts an audience reaching into the thousands.
–Norma Winstone‘s trio with Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier are in that. Winstone is also going to receive an award, the Skoda Prize. “This one actually has money with it,” she told me gleefully on the phone last week.
-The final concert will be from Gwilym Simcock and the NDR Big Band. It will feature the piano concerto whoch the NDR have commissioned from Simcock, and which is being performed in several venues in Germany this summer.
There is also a quick turnaround showcase for all the promoters attending. Maybe only German organizers would fix start times for bands just 20 minutes apart (!) This showcase has appearances by:
-the Huw Warren Trio
– Brass Jaw from Scotland featuring Ryan Quigley (trumpet) Paul Towndrow (alto sax) and Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor sax)
-the Arun Ghosh sextet featuring Shabaka Hutchings (tenor sax)
A bit of background: Paice organized a British showcase in Jan’08 at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ (IAJE) in Toronto. IAJE is no more, and as Paice tells me this absence has implications for Bremen: there will be a lot more non-Europeans, and Americans in particular, at Jazzahead this year, and Paice’s guess is that – if they are clocking the European jazz scene for the first time – they will be “surprised by its strength and confidence.”
I’m always impressed that Paice as organizer (and also as pianist!) always has another trick up his sleeve: “Do you know about Rochester?” he asked me.
I was about to put my phone in the drawer (that’s a joke) while he talked about the delights of the Medway. But I realized in the nick of time that he was talking about the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival in upstate New York, where with the support of Arts Council England he has another showcase coming up. Loads of Great British musicians. Check out the link, and you’ll see what I mean!
These showcases, this presence at international events helps to get the word out: the UK, and London in particular does have the most vibrant jazz scene in Europe. Initiatives like this are breaking new ground. Joe is setting the Paice. (Groan).