New fortnightly gig: ‘Jazz Mondays’ at the Fox in N13

Pianist/educator Simon Purcell has recently started “Jazz Mondays”, a new Monday gig with top jazz players at the Fox in Palmers Green. It is doing well. Simon is also a pro-active supporter of “Fair Trade Music”…Interview by Sebastian. 

Last Monday: Simon Purcell, Steve Watts, Anita Wardell, Mark Taylor. Phone snap

LondonJazz News: First, congratulations on making this happen, what’s the story?

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Simon Purcell: Thank you Seb… I approached the Fox because I was fed up with moaning about lack of opportunities. I have experience of setting up community gigs and fortunately for us, the Fox has a community focus, running events nearly every night. Tony the guvnor was happy to accommodate us for a 4 gig pilot programme. (next dates below)

As readers know, there isn’t a lot of work for jazz musicians, especially post-COVID. Even if we perform at the high-profile venues in central London, there are many nights of the year to fill, so that jazz musicians are always massively “underemployed”. I have always advocated the value of self-managed, grass-roots jazz gigs not only to create performance opportunities but also to develop and serve an audience of musically curious folk who might be new to jazz, as well as committed jazz fans. This is good for live music, contributes to the cultural ecology and was the successful modus operandi of Jazz Umbrella in the 1990s.

LJN: I went to your second gig with Anita Wardell, Steve Watts, Mark Taylor and yourself. You already seem to be attracting a good-sized audience…? 

SP: So far, so good. The room is a good size, neither too too big nor too too small, just right for a Monday night. At present attendance is good with enthusiastic listeners. Following the Jazz Umbrella model, our objective is to generate local interest and local expectation for high quality but affordable jazz. There are discounts on food and we start earlier than most jazz venues, ending at 10:30 to make it easier for people to attend. We are also beginning to generate interest in the local business community through free advertising on our media and by being proactive with local news sources. Of course, jazz musicians in North London are very encouraging and supporting the project.

LJN: The words “Kaiyo Jazz” appear in the title. What is that?

SP: KAIYO is a duo and trio project with bass player Amy Baldwin and drummer Jon Scott (www.kaiyojazz.com). As well as scouring the UK for gigs, we are also developing KAIYO as a host for community jazz projects. If the project continues, we will liaise with local music departments and community groups and in all likelihood set up a community jazz workshop.

LJN: I noticed a few top drummers in the audience. The secret of how amazing Mark Taylor is seems to be getting out…for readers who don’t know, can you explain his story and your connection? 

SP: To be fair, this was Jon Scott’s gig but he is now on an extended international tour with Gogo Penguin. However, we are more than delighted that Mark Taylor is doing all the dates. We go back a long way, Mark playing in the last version of my bebop septet Jazz Train in the 1990s. However Mark moved to New York and played with literally everybody – Benny Carter, George Coleman, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Roy Hargrove and Jimmy Witherspoon to name just a few! We are very fortunate that he recently returned to the UK and I am especially enjoying renewing our friendship on and off stage.

Simon Purcell. Publicity photo

LJN: What is FairTrade Music and what is the connection?

SP: Long story, please can we do a feature about this as it is exceptionally important? The music economy is in flux, some would say crisis, the vast majority of musicians unable to generate significant income from product due to dismal streaming revenue and freely available music on YouTube and Spotify.

Regarding FairTrade for music… In the same way ethical alternatives exist for buying food, clothes and electrical goods, increasing numbers of artists believe that a similar change in attitudes and values must be achieved in music. We can begin by being proactive in advocating the vital importance of live music (regardless of genre).

Some folk already resist the dreaded Spotify/YouTube and support artists by purchasing their product directly. Fairtrade Music International  (www.fairtrademusicinternational.org) is considerably more active in its advocacy and campaigning. Web 3 offers a massive realignment in revenue (see jazzfuel.com/web3-for-musicians) but lacks profile at present. As a result, where possible we are disseminating information about constructive solutions through our media and by using the gig to engage in informal discussion.(I can provide more info if required – see below)

LJN: I guess your ambition for Mondays at the Fox is in the first place to at least make it sustainable…? 

SP: Definitely, hence the community focus, our approach to programming, our intention to engage with the local community, the local Music Service and the many jazz musicians who live in North London… but if this continues, it will be a team effort!




LINK: Mondays at the Fox

Fair Trade Music International

Simon Purcell’s website

Categories: Features/Interviews

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