|Haus Humboldtstein by the Rhine|
Radio Jazz Research had its 33rd meeting over two days in a splendid location, the Haus Humboldtstein, overlooking the Rhine at Rolandseck near Remagen just south of Bonn. The RJR meetings often have papers grouped around specific themes, but this one was a “wild card” session, an invitation to members of the group to present work they are currently doing.
* For the UK audience the main event was a first screening of a rough edit of a filmed interview with John Jack by Oliver Weindling in which John reminisced about his varied activity in jazz as promoter, as record label owner and distributor for other labels. The interview took place mostly in the Vortex just a few week before John died. He talked about the genius of Bruce Turner. He remembered organizing – and recording – a gig by David Murray. He talked about Dobell’s: “more than a job, more than a shop”. It ended with Jack saying: “By nature I am an improviser. I don’t know how to do anything else.” This short, professionally produced film is being further edited but will be made available when it’s ready.
* Bernd Hoffmann of WDR gave a paper situating the TV documentaries commissioned and produced by that ubiquitous figure in post-war German jazz Joachim-Ernst Berendt concerning the amateur scene and the national competitions, with some very powerful images of some of the amateur musicians in their day-jobs: a hairdresser, a steel-worker in a forge, a train driver and a lathe worker, giving the message of jazz as a mass movement.
* In a session entitled Progress and Regression – Perspectives on German Jazz the most interesting common thread was instigated by Stefanie Marcus of the Traumton label who stressed how long-term the work with artists needs to be in order for profile and recognition to start to build.
* One speaker chronicled Leonard Bernstein’s fascination for New York as it comes through in the musicals On The Town, Wonderful Town and West Side Story. It was in fact Bernstein’s adoptive city: he was born in Boston and studied at Harvard and Curtis Institute in Philadelphia
* A film studies specialist looked at various innovative uses of improvised live music to accompany silent film in live contexts.
* And a slightly surreal moment: an academic from the University in Halle has been researching the phenomenon of indigenous reggae bands in Belarus as part of the opposition in the period that the country has been led by Lukashenko.
* A lecturer from the conservatory in Frankfurt looked at jazz and flamenco links, with notable reference to the recordings of Chano Dominguez. The discussion was mainly focused on the extent to which flamenco purists resist such