Project Archivist’s Blog: The Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence Project
Well into the New Year now and the IJR Project has accrued a hive of activity already.
The Essex Youth Jazz Orchestra at Hornchurch Jazz Club
Three lively celebratory events have been held at Colchester, Hornchurch and Southend Jazz Clubs. Essex Youth Jazz Orchestra, and the National Youth Jazz Collective did great work of performing a traditional and modern jazz repertoire to appeal to an intergenerational audience. Many attendees were even inspired to dance the night away at the venues!
The last community reminiscence workshop was held, this time, in Brixton, London, at the Vida Walsh Centre, with Age UK Lambeth.
Saxophonist Camilla George (who can be seen in the picture to the right) set the tone by performing some jazz music particularly special to her and answered questions from the audience.
Many of the participants had come especially for the event, even travelling across the city, keen to take part in the workshop about music and jazz. We were grateful to steal an impromptu interview with writer and saxophonist Dave Gelly, which will add to the archive collections.
Elderly participants included a man passionate about his previous career instructing dance, a couple who dedicated themselves to a pastime of trips to New York to tour around the houses of jazz greats, and a local lady who loves the Brixton character with live music in the streets, and who’s known by her peers as the lady who loves to dance!
Behind the scenes work has been just as busy too. Two new additions to the volunteer team have been working remotely to transcribe oral history interviews, while those onsite help to prepare for the May exhibition at the Southend Forum space.
Let’s hear from the transcribers, a little about themselves and how they connect with the project from a distance.
I’m curious about all things music. I work in an Art Deco variety theatre; I volunteer with oral history projects and have been involved with the interpretation of Library special collections into audio form. I retrained in Music Technology – a snap decision made after seeing E.S.T. – a Swedish jazz band at the Buxton Opera House.
On Pam’s interpretation of interviews she’s transcribed:
Inspiration came from within the family: Chrissy from her father who brought a pair of drumsticks home; Alan from his brother whose band won accolades in Melody Maker, as he himself went on to do. Both started out in brass bands – the interviews reveal not only insights into jazz musical heritage but social history too.
Chrissy and Alan were both war babies, so by the time they were heading for teenagers, the UK was moving on socially and economically. Alan talks of playing jazz to his father who fought during the First World War – he used to sit in his chair and not speak about it.
Chrissy faced many obstacles as a female drummer – a band she was ‘depping’ for quit upon finding out she was female. Chrissy also talks of playing in South Africa and facing the prejudice of Apartheid.
Alan has played across the world and speaks about playing in Iraq – a reminder of the political situation at that time. Both regale stories of playing with famous musicians, including: Ronnie Verrell, who was Animal in the Muppets!; the Count Basie and Sid Phillips Orchestras; Tom Collins band; Art Blakey, and relations of Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra.
I graduated from university this summer after spending four years studying Classics. I started volunteering at the National Jazz Archive as I’m interested in pursuing a career in archives – and I’m a big fan of live music! My favourite place to go is probably the 100 Club. It’s been really interesting transcribing interviews for the project. Some of my favourite moments have been: Mike Rose’s description of Ronnie Scott’s back in the 1960s, Jackie Free’s anecdote about trying to find a bass player in Soho, and hearing about the blue plaques that have been put up around Waltham Forest in recognition of the musicians who lived there – I’ll be sure to look out for them if I’m ever in the area!