In this feature /interview, SARAH CHAPLIN, co-founder of JazzLondonLive updates LJN Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon on the latest news from the online and App-based listings guide – and also talks about the ideal jazz club:
It has been a busy 12 months for Sarah Chaplin. Not only did she record an album, Firehorse, last February and released it in March, but the saxophonist/flautist made her debut at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho, in October. Alongside all that she and fellow musician Mick Sexton have been developing the digital successor to the monthly Jazz In London listings booklet that ceased publication after four decades of being the capital’s what’s on jazz bible.
The online listings guide resulted, Sarah tells me, from “one of those four o’clock in the morning panic moments: how am I going to know what’s on now that there’s no Jazz In London any more?”
The first steps were not too difficult.
“I’ve organised a lot of things in the past, I’ve not always been a musician – I trained as an architect and then I was an academic, and did a lot of publishing, desktop publishing as well – so the kind of activities that are involved in producing a digital successor to Jazz In London were quite familiar to me.”
Sarah’s first thought was to put together a free, and easy, website. JazzLondonLive is the result. The idea of an App seemed like a natural development.
“But I had no idea how to go about that… and there would be a price tag involved.”
A crowdfunding campaign, via Kickstarter, was the next logical step.
“That was another steep learning curve, but it was brilliant because it really engaged the jazz community. We had just shy of 400 backers. Some pledged incredibly generously. And we realised there was that whole ambassadorial thing because once you become a backer of a project you tend to tell everybody about it.”
The aim was to get the JazzLondonLive App up and running in September last year and be able to iron out any problems before the London Jazz Festival in November, which was Sarah and Mick’s launch goal.
“In the end it didn’t launch until the Friday morning that the festival was starting. But it worked really well. And then, of course, you realise that you’ve launched it during the week when the spotlight is really on jazz in London but at the same time it’s the one week of the year when people don’t need an App because they’ve got this lovely printed brochure that the jazz festival puts out tucked under their arm…
“So it was only after the festival was over that people realised that they needed this thing.”
The JazzLondonLive App is currently available on Google Play and Amazon for download to Android phones and tablets, as well as Kindle Fire. The Apple version is due in February. And in the meantime, Apple devotees can still access the bright and cheery JazzLondonLive website which contains not just listings of all that’s on in London and within driving distance of the city, but links to more details of musicians, reviews and other useful links.
What has been the reaction of jazz lovers so far?
“The website has had 140,000 visits – they used to print 10,000 copies of Jazz In London every month so that was our initial target. But in fact the audience is far more extensive than that – just the fact that LondonJazz News has 40,000 Twitter followers suggests that – and currently 17,000 people have found the website. So we want to keep building that.”
Finally, since she lists so many I wondered what Sarah’s ideal jazz club would look like.
Well, an intimate venue. One where you can get up close and personal with the musicians, where you can see the interaction on their faces – and where they feel they can really free up and play their own material.”
And how about a favourite London venue?
“I really like (Jazz Cafe) POSK, I really like the Spice (of Life), and I’ve enjoyed jazz live at (Café in) The Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields as well.” (pp)
Peter Bacon will also be road-testing/reviewing the Apple version of the JazzLondonLive App as soon as it becomes available.