LondonJazz News looks back at 2020

Just over a year ago we were celebrating. We marked LondonJazz News’ 10th anniversary with a party. Liane Carroll, Claire Martin, Georgia Mancio and Kate Williams (hidden in the picture below) performed. That now seems like an age ago, and a very different world. Here Sebastian looks back at 2020 through some of the pieces we’ve published, some of the events that have marked us in year like no other… 

Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

THE YEAR 2020 In one of her first newsletters after the first lockdown, LJN’s friend Danielle White wrote: “Jazz people are amongst the most adaptable of our species as life mirrors art and we improvise our way through – we’re uniquely qualified to weather the storm.” So, what we have tried to chronicle consistently since March is the strength of this community, the efforts made to climb back, to re-invent. That has formed an important part of what we have been reporting, even if a lot of those efforts have resulted in cancellation, frustration… – We interviewed Mark Davyd, a central figure in the support networks for live venues – We had “Jazz in the time of Coronavirus – models for livestreaming gigs” (thoughtful analysis from Sam Leak). – We reported the opening of the 606 Club’s online portalSteve Rubie already had it up and running in May. – A very well-read piece came from Encore Musicians: “64% of musicians are considering leaving the profession” (from August) – And when the going gets really tough, as they say… , yes,  that’s right… Nigel Price announced a 29-DATE TOUR in September. (image below) IN SADNESS….  This has been a year in which some great figures in jazz have left us. Among the most poignant was the loss of Peter King. We presented him with a bouquet of 80th birthday tributes on 11 August. He read them, and commented to a friend: “Oh Man!! I feel humbled…..” Then, 12 days later, he passed away : Peter King (1940-2020)

Peter King. Photo credit: Tim Dickeson

There is a sad roll-call.. Geoff Castle (1949-2020)in January Julia Craik of Premises Studios in April Don Weller (1940-2020) a tribute by Art Themen in June Gary Peacock (1935-2020) a tribute by Marc Copland in September Ron Mathewson (1944-2020) Tributes from Dave Holland, Stan Sulzmann and Liam Noble in December. INTRODUCING NEW TALENT We have also had features about new talents emerging onto the scene which have been very widely read: Bassist Isobella Burnham (a feature included in our annual, extensive International Women’s Day series by Christine Hannigan) Pianist Deschanel Gordon (announcement of winner – BBC Young Jazz Musician – November – we had also run an INTERVIEW with him ahead of the competition) John Fordham did a great interviews with Bex Burch and Andrew McCormack THE YEAR AT LJN. WE KEEP GOING  Basically, we keep going. This is published piece number 9,997. The core team’s devotion to helping LJN to keep functioning this year has been totally inspiring. One team member combines a major contribution to our activity with regular shifts of work starting at 5am. Another has suffered redundancy. Another has had medical woes. Another family bereavement. And yet we have produced a massively informative weekly newsletter appearing every Wednesday. The newsletter has rates of engagement of 40% of subscribers. We have just been able to do the first reliable comparison of site traffic since the site was revamped and migrated to the WordPress platform in June 2019: Second Half 2020 page views are up 72% compared with Second Half 2019. THE OPPORTUNITY TO PUBLISH GREAT REVIEWS… We have a fantastic roster of regular writers and contributors (apologies to those there hasn’t been space to list here) . There are often days when a new piece comes in from someone that just feels like receiving a gift. Our most prolific reviewer is Jon Turney, and the sheer joy of this piece about Matt Wilson’s Hug! leaps off the page.  Peter Bacon‘s thoughtful presence at the site is exemplified by a piece about Pat Metheny’s  From This Place. John Bungey, who started writing for us in May, caught the mood of Keith Jarrett’s Budapest Concert  superbly, and also the fact that it coincided with the pianist’s announcement that he probably won’t play in public again. Mark McKergow (one of three LJN writers in Edinburgh) did justice to the team around Gregory Porter for his new album All Rise . Peter Vacher made the case for Ray Blue. Mary James (one of no fewer than fifteen regular contributors to the site who are women) loved Dominik Wania’s Lonely Shadows And Mike Collins used all his deft magic to avoid any mention of his namesake …who is actually the hero of Michael Wollny’s new solo album.  Brian Blain is writing for us at the age of 91: he captured the vibe of a Duncan Lamont memorial evening at the 606 superbly. Thank you Brian. While Rosa Sawer, seven – yes SEVEN decades younger than Brian (!), reviewed Jordan Rakei. … AND TO PROMOTE THE MUSICIAN’S VOICE One aspect of the site we truly value is the musician’s voice. I was thrilled to receive Tessa Souter’s take on the new Billie Holiday film. Is there a more cogent or better written appreciation? I doubt it. And Nicky Schrire‘s wide-ranging chat with Gretchen Parlato about her new album, which is also being published in French, Dutch and Polish by friends across Europe, is a gem. And Alison Bentley‘s review of the LJF livestream from Linda May Han Oh is a delight. And who better to write about Brubeck than Liam Noble. And Olie Brice’s take on Mingus was always going to be worth hearing. And for the Parker Centenary, we asked alto players from all over the world to give us their thoughts and lend us their ears HERE, including Bobby Watson, seen above, performing in Kansas City where Parker was born, on the actual day of the anniversary in August. THANK YOU Thank you to everyone in this broad community who has worked with us this year. Thank you to our advertisers, to musicians, friends, promoters, publicists, labels, in many places all over the world. And thank you readers and listeners (and especially to anyone who has taken the trouble to read this piece to the end!)… all best wishes to you and yours for the holiday season and for 2021.  

Categories: Features/Interviews

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7 replies »

  1. That 10th anniversary do was such a blast and so perfect for what LJN has become. Huge congratulations again and thank you so much, Seb and the whole LJN team, for making 2020 that little bit more bearable…

  2. I’ve long been a great admirer of Peter King and was sorry to hear of his death. I’ll be reminded of him, as a member of the Harry South Band, every time I hear him given a namecheck by Georgie Fame on one of his album tracks backed by the band: “Take it away, Pete!”.

    Thanks for bringing me this sad news but…..in a review of 2020, how could you not mention the passing of another British jazz star…..ANNIE ROSS? I realise she was Scottish but she spent plenty of time in London. Please mention her in the next newsletter.

  3. I only started subscribing to LJN around the start of the pandemic but have found it a good guide to what is still going on in the absence of the usual activities.
    I was unaware of the death of Geoff Castle till I saw it above. A fine player who contributed to some of the best British jazz particularly in the 1970s.
    In the brief window of relative freedom in October I managed to get to Nikki Yeoh’s solo performance at the Vortex. My only other live experience was the “Loosen Up” project by Dennis Rollins for outdoor performance which Derby Jazz commissioned.

  4. Another name to add to the sad roll-call, great pianist and composer, Wolfgang Dauner, who died in January, aged 84.

  5. Great job, LJN. It is a pleasure to read you. Congrats to all those behind what is – apparent in every edition – a true labour of love.

    Some of the others whose lives we must celebrate: Ellis Marsalis, Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath; Lee Konitz; Cándido Camero; Tony Allen; Annie Ross; Freddy Cole; Henry Grimes; Bucky Pizzarelli and McCoy Tyner.

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