[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Exhibition

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Sun Jan 20 13:20:23 PST 2013

Hi Jim et al,

Your picture of an "exhibition" which fails tell anything like the real story is all too familiar. We've had similar experiences here in Scotland where so little of the factual story was portrayed that a totally distorted picture was presented.

At the root of the problem is the lack of a representative archive facility for data, artefacts etc to be stored and curated. This goes hand in hand with the lack of anyone having done adequate research to produce a book or published article on the history of jazz at regional or national level. To a small extent this has been addressed in Scotland with the writing of a book by local bassist Graham Blamire about the traditional and mainstream scene in Edinburgh from about 1950 onwards. Jazz in Scotland has largely been ignored when the story of jazz in UK has been written about, so it's therefore a valuable work, although in my view, the exclusion of other jazz styles and everything pre-dating 1950 leaves a lot of potentially useful and important data off the radar. Graham and his team in Edinburgh have worked with the Central Library there to start a curated collection of materials, but again this concentrates on trad/mainstream jazz post-1950. Where does that leave such hugely talented people like Johnny Keating, Henry McKenzie and Tommy Whittle?

I'm about to start researching and writing the story of jazz in Glasgow and the west of Scotland with a view to getting it down on paper and CD before we lose another generation (and my generation is already being targetted by the Grim Reaper). It wouldn't be so important if Scottish jazz had been adequately documented in UK studies but these have tended to mention Scottish players only if they moved to London or abroad. Nothing exists about the local scene here which nurtured them, or about the musicians of pro standard who elected to stay here for family or other reasons, so it's a case of now or never. From everything Jim has written about the "exhibition" in Madrid the same situation applies there: jazz isn't central to mainstream national culture and so is marginalised, misunderstood and ignored with the result that its history is unknown beyond the jazz community.

It sounds to me, Jim, that you should ask around the local jazz community to see if there's anyone with good narrative and research skills who could start the process of getting the real story recorded at regional and national levels. It also raises the issue of what happens to all our personal jazz possessions when the Reaper comes to visit. I know of wonderful personal collections of records (commercial and priceless, unique private recordings), libraries of jazz books, sheet music, arrangements etc going into dumpsters (skips) simply because those left behind had no use for them or had idea how important and irreplaceable they were.

I was a trustee of the Scottish Jazz Federation until very recently and one of the projects I was enthusiastic to progress was the establishment of regional archives across the rest of Scotland beyond Edinburgh covering all styles of jazz, the important players, writers, promoters etc in the various areas and including a narrative telling the story. Unfortunately the Federation didn't share my enthusiasm for the project, so I decided to go it alone and make arrangements for my records, arrangements, sheet music, books, concert programmes etc to go to The Scottish Music Centre, which is a properly-curated repository for all things musical in Scotland. All I've got to do is index everything I've got and write the various documents. Should be a cakewalk! Just don't tell the Reaper I've got a lot planned!



More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list