Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Long Time Between Drinks

Can't believe it has been so long since I last posted. At least no one is monitoring this space yet to know how bad I am at keeping current with my posts. Anyway, the doctoral journey is almost over. I am in the final days of edits and hope to be away for examination very soon. Unfortunately my questions about what happens next are not so easy to have answered. It has been suggested that the work I have done will lead nicely into a book so I may well find myself picking away projects based on my research. In the meantime I will try to be more active in this space so as to fine tune my thinking. More soon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Defining Jazz

If my list of NZ jazz artists seems to be a little eclectic then I make no apology. I believe that this is both the nature of jazz and a limiting factor of definitions. There have been countless efforts to define jazz from critics, historians, musicians and educators, that have resulted in artists being omitted from the historical record. Luckily there are as many of those listed who seek to create spaces where jazz can be diverse, eclectic and indefinable. So as I went through and tried to create a list of websites for people to access my only criteria for selection was that jazz was used in a descriptor of the artists music.
My firm belief is that outside of the classroom jazz is an orientation and a way of musicking. For a definition of musicking seek the work of Christopher Small - another ex-pat Kiwi who has written extensively on the nature of musicking. The difficulty is that classroom jazz must operate within the confines of twentieth century educational pedagogies and curriculum concepts. For jazz to be taught within schools, universities and other post-secondary settings, jazz needs to be broken down into assessable and manageable chunks, with defined and prescribed canons. And for this very reason jazz education, with its prescriptive formulas, has a tendency to act like a factory, turning out technically proficient clones of the faculty.
These criticisms of jazz education are worldwide so I am not aiming them at NZ jazz education providers in particular. I do think that NZ jazz educators have had and in some cases taken up the opportunity to think beyond these restrictions and I will seek to elaborate more on this in future postings. However, jazz oriented and influenced musicians have existed in NZ for a lot longer than jazz education has. They have created a unique body of work and a diverse industry. It is pleasing to note that NZ jazz musicians are making the most of new technologies and are working with and beyond the recording industry to create new markets for their work. But there are also long traditions of dance musicians who are often forgotten in archives who created the foundations of the industry on which these new talents stand. Therefore I will not discriminate against anyone who is playing jazz within their lounge bar piano repertoire or against fusion artists who owe more of their sound to hip hop than jazz. If there are others out there who believe they belong on my list please send me your information for inclusion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where is the jazz in New Zealand?

Having spent a thousand years wondering about this I have arrived at no definitive answer - not one that will satisfy anyone out there looking for it. Of course there is every chance that no one particularly cares. I can say that JAZZ in its various forms is alive and well in the Land of the Long White Cloud, however, there is a prevailing wisdom that says nothing existed of this nature prior to 1950 (an oft cited date for the first JAZZ concert at the Town Hall in Auckland). Ask Dennis Huggard about JAZZ prior to this - he is one of the few that we know about who has collected ephemera from the past century on Kiwi Jazz. Luckily if you don't know Dennis personally you can access some of his vast archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library - - not that accessing New Zealand archives is particularly easy or cost effective from a distance. But what of all those private collections stored in dusty boxes of old musicians' basements. Wouldn't it be nice to get them out in the sunshine for everyone to look at. I just wanted to let those old collections and collectors know that I care and if they feel the need to expose themselves I am happy to hear from them.

With three years of writing and research under my belt I have much more to say on this topic - and more - so as I enter into my first online blogspot I look forward to expounding theories, venting spleen and JAZZing in this space. More later...