Cold Jazz?


Last night my buddy Denis and I, plus Mrs A and Mrs RB went to the Guildhall to see the national Youth Jazz Orchestra (all under 25) – and a very fine performance they gave too


The modest audience was almost a straight mix of young people from schools and colleges, many of whom had attended a workshop in the afternoon (and are probably studying music) and old jazz fans – our party in their mid-60s was at the ‘youthful’ end of that group, with many familiar faces from Portsmouth Jazz Society gigs

But there were very few people in their 30s/40s/50s. That led me to thinking about the original Pompey Pop project and the way it has developed with the post-1975 history at the Guildhall and on the new Facebook site

What’s happened – and it may well reflect what really did happen – is that styles of rock music and the electric guitar have come to dominate, to the exclusion of the far richer mix of the 1960s. We could argue for ever about whether the ’60s were really ‘better’ but in one respect – from my experience at least – I reckon they win hands down.

In the 1960s I went regularly to folk clubs, jazz concerts/gigs, R&B and blues gigs, there was soul and ska at the Birdcage and ‘pop’ was everywhere (youth clubs, pirate radio etc). The variety was fantastic, both live and on the radio. It seems to me that these days the roots of popular music are in rock and pop and pop and rock plus for a minority, electro or Hip Hop. But the variety is far less apparent. Jazz is there if you want it, but I’m not sure that younger generations do want it very much.


Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

9 thoughts on “Cold Jazz?

  1. Dave I don’t want it sat down with a load of old worthies in the stuffy atmosphere of the Guildhall(my least favourite venue for any form of music!)
    Jazz should be played in small cellar bars with the chance to dance
    When I lived in Crouch End the Kings Head did jazz every Sunday lunchtime downstairs with drums piano bass and guest vocalists horn players etc
    Very lively very raucous and an audience from 18-80 !!!

  2. I have mixed feelings about that ! Our drummer, bass player and myself frequent various jazz clubs outside of the area ie Fleet, Shepperton, Worthing, Barnes (The Bull’s Head), Bedales near Petersfield, and with the exception of the Bull’s Head( great music but very cramped), all the venues are well equipped semi concert settings with an in tune Steinway Grand piano in situ. The atmosphere is fantastic, the music nothing short of superb and the musicians of top quality. Also the audience age group is right across the board.
    To sum up, the size of the venue has no bearing on this, it’s the quality of the music that counts, be it in a small cellar bar or concert hall. Our old Pompey Guildhall can have it’s moments but that’s all down to personal preference.

    • Point taken Rod but to us non musos the whole scene has always been more important than sound quality and musical virtuosity!

  3. I’m with Rod – the two greatest jazz gigs I’ve ever attended, were Duke Ellington at the Guildhall and Miles Davis at the IOW Festival. I couldn’t really figure the latter completely at the time but I have a DVD which I’ve enjoyed many times. There were also Rikki’s great Roland Kirk and Joe Harriott concerts at the KIng’s. Would I rather dance to Kenny Ball in a small club or sit, listening toDuke Ellington at the Guildhall? That’s not too tough to call!

    • Kenny Ball?
      What do you take me for some duffel coated,college scarf wearing ,scrumpy drinking refugee from Beaulieu?
      I’m talking swing and be bop -music you can get your rocks off to in a sweaty smoky club and doesn’t take itself too seriously!
      We’ve all seen those old BBC jazz programs with the audience all seated and unsmiling to show how serious they take the music!

  4. What? Not Midnight in Moscow Mr G?

    • No mate it would’ve been Duke Ellington for me every time but preferably not at the Guildhall
      In Pompey ,the Pier would’ve been my venue of preference ,where you could watch from the comfort of the bar!

  5. I tell you another good one – briefly back around 1990 the top smallish bar at the Pyramids put on some great stuff and the bar was very adjacent (down one side). I remember once watching the excellent USA tenor player Scott Hamilton blowing a classic ballad while through the large glass ‘walls’ in the distance a liner sailed slowly past, lit up against the dark sky

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