Do some UK jazz musicians have an “island mentality”?

“One thing though I do get bored with, after eight years living here, are those musicians in the UK who have what I would call “island mentality” and are always on an “anti-other-non-UK-places”, or even “anti-american-jazz” kick…”

Whose talking? And is he right? Read the full interview here.



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8 replies

  1. Michael Janisch?

    The observation may be correct – I mean, it’s not right in my case, but still – is the observed behaviour actually a problem? I shall read the interview now!

    • It was!

      I think there’s a nuance from Michael’s comment that’s missed in the quoting: it’s not a blanket label he’s giving.

      I don’t think Michael rejects that the same sort of attitude can occur from anywhere else; after all, he acknowledges that good musicians can come from anywhere.

      But then, I think scenes need people who are primarily concentrated on home turf.

  2. I don’t know but I wonder instead if some critics do…

  3. It’s always good to go over to the US, when I went over there they promptly told me I couldnt swing, so I learnt the hard way-I still am! However I think I know what Micheal means…Jazzwise and related publications seem to put a leftist view forward somehow politicising the art of jazz. This may be part of what he means. There is enough material for an entire conference on that issue. It’s Europe vs America in Jazzwise…the question is ‘is it time Europeans got something back for our subservience to American jazz colleagues in the past’? I dont know..maybe that’s not the issue but it must irritate the Americans. If you will, please let me give you an example; I like Wynton Marsalis as an instrumentalist and I’m aware he is a controversial figure on both sides of the pond but In all the years ive put his music on for my own enjoyment and read his voluminous opinions on the ‘current’ state of jazz (which always seems like its on a war footing) im actually convinced what he’s really railing against is the race issue in jazz-hence his support for the democratic party. Liberal minds also would laud such a view in its isolated form.
    So if Michael is going on about this, I can see why, and I hope he clarifies a bit more about his views in future. If this is due to his experiences in London then I can say that they’ll probably reoccur and as time goes on he’ll no doubt reflect and get the complete picture of what he wants to say and put it into segments that one can digest from whichever angle it is looked at. I, for one, would find such views very interesting and if he wishes to ignite a debate about this, I’m sure we’ll be able to gauge the strength of feeling from all sides for what it’s worth. After all, with our leading jazz publication ‘Jazzwise’ harping on as they do with Stuart Nicholson ranting in every issue about how there is a shift of power vis a vis how the US is diminishing in this way or that, then let’s have someone stand up and have the guts to express an opinion that doesn’t have the appearance of the perceived bullishness of either side.

  4. Where’s northern island!!!?

  5. Great interview and I completely agree with Michael. I’m a student at uni in London studying jazz and I know what he’s talking about. There are so many different groups just in London who all feel they are the best and the other collectives aren’t valid, and then there are musicians from Leeds who feel they are more creative than the ‘conservative londoners’. All one has to do is read articles in the jazz press in the UK to catch a glimpse of these attitudes. I think this just stifles creativity. And I personally really want to get grounded in the history of the music and many of my peers tell me not to study jazz history or to check out the american lineage of jazz (swing is boring, blah blah) at my own university and in some ways some of my tutors do as well, so there is some of what Michael says going on about anti-american jazz I expeirence in the UK. But I also agree that the overwhelming majority of musicians in the UK look beyond the ‘island’ to find inspiration and that’s how music advances. I find it a shame that musicians feel the need to assert certain types of jazz are valid and not valid, and agree with what Michael says that it shouldn’t be important where someone is from or what kind of jazz they play, but if they can actually play their instruments and music with high quality. If I hear an amazing bop group, I don’t judge them on the style, I just enjoy great music played at a high quality. Same as when I hear a ‘free’ group play at a high level, I’m just enjoying music. I wish people would get out of their little bubbles they create this is nothign more than ego. The world of music is much bigger than this, and I’m sure these attitudes happens everywhere, which is a shame.

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