What happened? We went to Australia for two weeks but it’s a blur. It was like we’d never left. Good to catch up with everyone. The Jazushi gigs were fantastic – great to play with Chris Alexander again. We know each other’s musical style so well the sounds weave effortlessly. It’s very spontaneous. Jazushi has the best Japanese food in Sydney (with Sushi Bar Rashai standing right next to them). But Jazushi has one thing over Sushi Bar Rashai or any other restaurant – live jazz every night of the week. The live jazz venue is a rare animal in Sydney. You may see one hiding under foliage or buried underneath the ground but jazz music is certainly fading from Sydney’s consciousness. It has been for a long time. Live music generally – whether rock, folk or jazz – struggles in Sydney. A few major jazz venues closed down over the last years. People have to make their own venues.
You can catch the Darren Heinrich trio at the Excelsior Hotel where Jazzgroove (Sydney’s jazz promoters) have appropriated a rock staple and house some of the most amazing jazz you will hear in the world. It is a small, dingy room with beer-soaked carpet. There’s always The Basement however the once-groovy underground venue, which had the feeling of a world-class venue, isn’t so special anymore. It’s not as dark, not as bohemian, not as clever and needs to host comedy nights and pop music bands just to stay afloat. I saw Betty Carter sing there about 13 years ago and it was awe-inspiring to be so close to a giant. Today, it is difficult to get so close to top international performers in Sydney. They’ll go straight to big venues like the Opera House or the State Theatre.
Japan isn’t so different. Audiences for live music are dwindling. The Blue Note hosts pop stars and private functions (much to the chagrin of the promoter). My generation and the ones that follow have minute attention spans. We want to be involved in the performance. We want the complete sensory experience – not to sit still and watch someone. So we pack venues with DJs and loud thumping music where we can dance and drink. Sweden’s Koop have managed to combine the two bringing live music and music you can dance to via Bossa Nova back to venues. England’s The Cinematic Orchestra have been able to catch everyone’s attention combining fine music (cello, violin etc) with beats. Nostalgia 77 are a brilliant example of the new jazz beast mixing house beats with jazz vocals and music. The technological age is absorbing the musical past to create the new. I know this is not new in itself. DJs and artists have been sampling classics for decades but there is more a trend towards live musicians creating the sampled sound so the live experience of dance music is much more exciting to watch. Australian band Pivot are a good example of this. Their computer-tinged sounds use samples and live musicians to create sometimes intricate sometimes heart-pounding melodies.
I look forward to the evolution of live music. Ultimately, people will always be intrigued by witnessing greatness so no doubt live music in its many manifestations will survive – hopefully the venues will too.