Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Jazz in London.

Well, it happened - the last issue of Jazz In London came out this month;

It's finally over for me, a love affair of 36 years!

It's hard to write how much this little, free, listings magazine has meant to me over the years.

I like lots of different kinds of music but Jazz has always been there and it's very much a part of being a MOD - as much as wearing a parka!

For the last 43 years, 'Jazz in London' has come out every month, for most of that time produced single handed by Mary Greig herself. 

The thing about the Mag was that you couldn't buy it, you couldn't order it, you couldn't subscribe to it......you had to be part of the scene to get your hands on it.

So if you went to a gig or wandered into a club or a record shop you'd see a little pile of the mags in the corner.

If you had it in your pocket you were in 'the scene' and if you weren't?

Well, you were just nowhere.

I remember going up to London in 1977 and feeling the warm glow of carrying around this little listings mag and feeling I'd finally arrived in the big, big city.

When I was broke the big clubs would be out of reach but having that list of tiny venues and struggling clubs meant that for every night of the week there was somewhere you could afford to go, something to listen to.

Jazz has been big and at times it's been almost invisible but with a JiL in your pocket it lived..... because the London Jazz scene was really made up of an interlocking network of small clubs and venues.

The oil that kept it all moving?

The loss of the mag is huge.

Recently Mary Greig's husband has needed more help managing and there's just no one else to carry it on, so this month, for one last time I have a copy of 'Jazz in London' in my pocket.

To say thank you for all the issues over the years I thought I'd republish Mary's own article telling the story of the little pocket sized magazine for herself;


"The story of Jazz In London started in 1971, forty years ago . . . at a time when contemporary Jazz was even more of a minority music than it is today. At that time, there were only two major clubs ( Ronnie Scott’s and the 100 Club ) although, interestingly, the jazz audience could support three specialist Jazz record shops within walking distance of each other (Dobell’s, Asman’s and Collet’s). It was a very intimate, small sub-culture in Soho in those days, and it would be no surprise to find yourself drinking alongside the great American musicians who were performing at Ronnie Scott’s at the time, or alongside luminaries of the art world like Francis Bacon.

Jazz in London was started by John Jack, a record producer and champion of the contemporary end of Jazz music. He lived, as he does now, in Charing Cross Road, and ran the jazz sessions at Ronnie’s Old Place in Gerrard Street, which provided a showcase for many of the young players who have since gained international recognition:- John Surman, Mike Osborne, Mike Westbrook and many others.

This was pre Time Out London, and information on where to hear Jazz was mainly word of mouth and posters, so John started to produce a folded A4 sheet called Jazz in London, with a strapline of “Mainly The Newer Trends In The Music”. The early editions listed around a dozen venues, two of which were weekly venues run by Jazz Centre Society, the forerunner to Jazz Services.

In 1973 John took on the full-time commitment of Cadillac Records, so Jazz In London was passed over to me. I was very involved in the jazz scene and was active in running clubs for Jazz Centre Society, and working in Collet’s Jazz Record Shop. I knew a lot about the Jazz scene, but nothing about how to produce a publication. In this pre-technology era, I learned to use cut-and-paste typed text and Letraset to compose the layout, pasting it all out on boards and taking the boards to the printer. Some of the early issues look extremely clunky now, but nobody seemed to mind at the time.

I’ve continued to produce Jazz In London single-handedly since then, and over that time it has grown from a single A4 sheet to the multi-page publication that it is today. Although a bit of a technophobe, I’ve managed to get to grips with the fundamentals of desk-top publishing, so these days it gets sent to the printer down the phone line, rather than on bits of card! In recent years I’ve been immensely aided by Mick Sexton, who since 2003 has been the person who puts the publication online and also helps me with the distribution.

I think the extraordinary longevity of Jazz in London is essentially down to it having been a one-person operation, and being very pro-active about getting information. Also, I’ve always kept to the simple format of providing information, rather than branching into editorial content. And by keeping it simple, costs are contained and therefore advertising is very affordable to small promoters. It reflects a genuine network of promoters, performers, punters etc. who all contribute in their separate ways to a healthy scene. So that now, something that started as a labour of love seems to have become an important underpinning of the London Jazz community, and I suppose I’m rather proud of that.

The Jazz scene has, of course, now changed beyond recognition, with the huge expansion of wonderful young talent and the recognition of the music conservatoires that jazz is a music worthy of their curriculum. These days I find myself typing the names of many musicians that I’ve never even heard, whereas 35 years ago, they were all my mates!"

                                                                             Mary Greig.


Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
Home: helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com
Contact me: neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

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