Pandemic or no pandemic, London-based gig promoters Mood Indigo have not let the grass grow under their feet. With a series of streamed events over the last year, co-organisers Terence Collie and Janet McCunn have kept going throughout the lockdown and are excited for a full return to live gigs. Juliette Kay found out more:
London Jazz News: What are your plans for the return of in-person Mood Indigo events? What Covid precautions will be in place?
Janet McCunn: Our first event back will be at Riverside Arts Centre in Sunbury on 6 June and then we’ll be doing monthly concerts there; we will be following the Covid rules with a socially distanced audience.
Terence Collie: The first concert will be with guitarist Maciek Pysz and the quartet with whom we did an online video collaboration paying respects to Chick Corea after he died a few months ago [see video below].
LJN: Do you think there’ll be challenges in winning the audience back or do you get the impression people are keen to get out?
JM: I was quite surprised, as most people who come to us are in a vulnerable age group and I thought they wouldn’t feel comfortable, but last autumn they couldn’t wait to come back. So I think they’ll be enthusiastic. A lot of people online are asking when we’re coming back.
TC: We’ve seen a split in the reaction of our audience during the pandemic. We’re still in touch with everyone as we do a monthly mail-out, so our audience knows what’s going on. And some people are quite happy with staying online. We’ll still continue with our livestreams even after the events are in-person again, to get the best of both worlds.
JM: We reach people from different parts of the world and different parts of Britain who wouldn’t be able to attend our events normally so there are some advantages.
LJN: How did Mood Indigo begin?
TC: We started working together in 2012. We met at a local jazz night in our area which is the Kingston/Hampton area. Janet was asked to host a monthly jazz night at a French bistro which wanted to bring a Ronnie Scott’s experience to Teddington. Janet got to know the owner and asked me if I wanted to join her and I jumped at the opportunity. A few months after that we decided to go really big and to put on a jazz festival based in Hampton Hill, called the TW12 Jazz Festival.
LJN: Are there any plans in place for the TW12 Jazz Festival to return this year?
TC: Not this year, it’s a lot to organise. Since we already have our monthly events such as our livestreams, those have taken precedence. We find it’s easier to handle these monthly, smaller chunks as we go.
LJN: What have the highlights been for you as promoters?
JM: Doing the festival was both amazing and terrifying at the same time. Being on the stage introducing famous musicians, well I really had to pinch myself to make sure it was all real! I also loved our smaller gigs at intimate venues such as the Café Yukari in Kew and the 1901 Arts Club in Waterloo. Both of these venues have an intimate atmosphere and have beautiful grand pianos, perfect for acoustic duo and trio concerts. But being invited to put on ‘Janet’s Jazz Night’ at Jazz Café Posk in Hammersmith was in some ways my baby and I hope we will go back eventually.
TC: At the festival we had an 18-piece band, Femi Temowo and The Engine Orchestra, perform for us and Radio 3 came down to record it for broadcast – that was definitely a highlight. We also had the Kyle Eastwood band as the headline act; the audience was in a frenzy, it was like we had Sting with us!
JM: The local paper printed a headline saying that Clint Eastwood’s son was going to be at Hampton Hill’s Jazz Festival! I believe this helped to get the word out to locals and probably contributed to the crowds. It was amazing seeing such long queues!
LJN: Janet, what was your favourite part of Janet’s Jazz Fridays?
JM: I’m a very social person and so I loved welcoming audience members before the concert started. I enjoyed listening to the instrumental set at the beginning of the evening with a special instrumental guest each month, which took a lot of pressure off me and I could calmly listen to them play. I also enjoyed introducing the guest singer of the month after my set was over, many of them were students or part-time vocalists and it was often an exciting adventure for them. The jam sessions were fun but we were often working against the clock to finish on time. We tried to accommodate everyone on the list, so it was always a relief when we managed it!
LJN: How have you managed to carry on with community building during the pandemic?
TC: We’ve started a Patreon account so we have people that support us monthly. I’ve being doing Patreon-only concerts, where I put on specific concerts for that audience, which I think helps to nurture that special relationship between us and our top fans.
LJN: Did the two of you envision yourselves having careers in music/music promotion?
TC: Music grabbed me from the first time I put my hands on an instrument as a child. I’ve got an uncle who is a professional musician; when I was 14 I saw him play and I knew it was something I wanted to do.
JM: I never had any music lessons as a child unfortunately but I always enjoyed music and worked for some years in the record industry. In my twenties I really got into classical music and ballet through my former boss who was a ballet critic. I always liked jazz, but I never thought too much about it, except that it gave me a warm feeling of freedom when I heard it. But in 2004, I joined the Richmond Jazz School as a beginner vocalist and soon after that I started going to regular gigs. This lead to organising my own jam nights and running a small intimate monthly gig at a café/tea shop called The Tea Box in Richmond which ran for a few years, featuring different musicians and vocalists each month. Hosting these events became my absolute passion!
LJN: Terence, do you have any new music in development?
TC: I’ve been pretty busy in the whole lockdown period, doing lots of arrangements and reharmonisations. I’ve recorded an EP alongside Esther Bennett, which I produced, and there’ll be a livestream launch gig on 25 April. I’ve just finished doing an arrangement of Midnight Sun.
LINKS: Mood Indigo Events website
Categories: Feature/Interview (PP)