The only jazz utopias we can know are the ones we have lost” – Krin Gabbard
More’s Utopia rests on an underclass, which resonates with jazz history, slavery” – Alyn Shipton
At the wonderfully rich and varied (as well layered, nuanced and intermittently Guelphian) 4th Rhythm Changes international conference in jazz in Birmingham a number of different versions and glimpses of what might be thought of as the idea or problem of utopia in relation to jazz have been offered. Here are ones I heard and thought of from the four brilliant days. Others that you heard/spoke/glimpsed/played? There must be. Please do contribute! Together they give a sense of how utopian thinking can inform jazz studies, perhaps of the limits of utopia thinking, perhaps of the limits of utopian thinking in jazz and musicology.
- Space of jazz (especially in repressive regimes) for instance, jazz happening in underground clubs, multiracial spaces in racist societies, jazz dance floor as site of pleasure and freedom. Also jazz and festivals, and the utopian possibility of transformation at festival.
- Jazz challenges in its early days: the music’s reception in the early 20th century in for example European countries to national categories of identity and national (cultural) institutions. Jazz changed what it meant to be German, French, British, say.
- Jazz as diasporic cultural practice and its relation to utopia (utopia = no place = transit culture, rooted in initially Atlantic middle passage). Also other later nomadic narratives.
- Related social cultural practices and metaphors of sociality (food, dancing, though I didn’t hear much about sex, which I thought strange).
- Jazz as music for social justice: the radical as well as liberal politics of the music. From civil rights to Breathless, as well as the music’s place in activism in countries outside the US.
- Jazz as transnational music, exploring and making dialogue between and across nations.
- Jazz and childhood: innocence (?), playfulness (we saw merry-go-rounds and swings at jazz festivals–yes, jazz swings!), toy pianos.
- Utopia not as perfect but as imperfect: flaunted imperfection of (instrumental) technique in some musics (some free improvisation, some trad jazz).
- Jazz as dystopian sound: one early reviewer described it as possessing ‘the buzzing rattle of a machine gun, only not so musical’.
- Utopian strands in the music itself? Something utopian in the sounds themselves, the dialogic process of the bandstand, the collective, and in the (live) music’s improvisational impermanence.
- & magic? Black magic?
And I thought of this too: what about the conference itself as a utopian intellectual (social, cultural) compressed time-space – we here at Rhythm Changes are in a “good place” for jazz research, one we thought up (dreamed) then made with you over the past 6-7 years. (OK, I am writing this at the very end of the conference so am both bleary-eyed and wearing rose-tinted glasses: such a view needs qualifying by reminding ourselves that utopia is also functionally exclusive; we need to acknowledge the event’s dominant whiteness and the notable male presence of delegates.)
Birmingham boasts a wide range of independent restaurants and bars. Click here to for a link to Independent Birmingham’s website, which offers summaries of the eateries available in Birmingham.
Recommended by Nick:
Cherry Red– John Bright Street, City Centre
Bill’s– Bullring Shopping Centre
Brew Dog- John Bright Street, City Centre
With the conference fast approaching, we are pleased to announce the conference schedule for this year’s Rhythm Changes conference. Please click on the link below to view a PDF schedule. Schedules will also be provided as part of the conference booklet, available upon registration.
Registration for Rhythm Changes: Jazz Utopia through the Eventbrite has now closed. If you are still waiting to pay the delegate fee, this will be possible at the conference venue from Friday morning onwards. Please ask the conference support staff on the registration table to provide you with more information. Day tickets are available on the day, priced at £45. Card and cash payments will be accepted and receipts available.
Registration opens on Thursday the 14th of April at 5pm in the foyer of BCU’s Parkside Building, City Centre Campus and will continue throughout the conference from 8.30am on Friday. All conference delegates are invited to attend the reception on Thursday evening (6-9pm), also to be held in the Parkside foyer.
External delegates will be provided with Wi-Fi log in details (to be found on the back of your name badge) and all delegates will receive a conference pack.
The fourth Rhythm Changes conference, Jazz Utopia, will take place at Birmingham City University from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 April 2016.
Nicholas Gebhardt and the conference committee are pleased to invite all conference delegates to attend the opening reception of Rhythm Changes IV – Jazz Utopia, between 18.00 and 21.00 on Thursday 14 April 2016 at:
The Parkside Building (Atrium)
Birmingham City University
5 Cardigan Street
Award winning alto-saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians in both the British jazz and hip hop scenes. Undoubtedly, one of the few artists in either genre with a degree in Modern History from Oxford University he has amassed an impressive list of accolades and awards on both sides of the Atlantic – including a Mercury Music Prize nomination, two UMA Awards and a MOBO for best Jazz Act in 2003. In October 2007, he won his second MOBO Award, at the O2 Arena, London where he was announced as the winner in the Best Jazz Act category- fending off stiff competition from the likes of Wynton Marsalis.
His skills as a hip hop MC and producer have also garnered him recognition in the urban music world: having supported the likes of KRS ONE, Dwele and TY, and being championed by the likes of Mos Def, Rodney P and BBC 1-Xtra’s Twin B.
Kinch’s projects also extend beyond recorded albums. Writing the score for Jonzi D’s Hip Hop Theatre production Markus the Sadist (2010), and Sampad’s In The Further Soil (2010), a dance-theatre. Kinch also wrote and acted in the latter piece, which toured throughout India for a month.
Jazz Utopia are pleased to present the plenary performances for Rhythm Changes 2016. Buses will transport delegates from the conference site to the venues, as noted in the conference schedule (available in delegate pack). Tickets for both performances are included within the delegate pack. Saturday night’s performance will follow the conference supper, hosted at Bar Utopia- please sign up for the conference supper by clicking here.
Sean Gibb’s MOSAIC
Friday 15 April 5-6:30pm – Symphony Hall Café Bar
MOSAIC is a band led by Sean Gibbs featuring some of the most exciting players from the Birmingham jazz scene. They play compositions of Sean’s that encompass influences from the jazz tradition alongside the earthy grooves of blues, rock and whatever else takes their fancy.
Sean Gibbs – Trumpet
Ben Lee – Guitar
Andy Bunting – Piano
Nick Jurd – Bass
Euan Palmer – Drums
Mike Fletcher Jazz Orchestra
Saturday 16 April 8pm – Adrian Boult Hall
Multi-Instrumentalist and composer Mike Fletcher leads his 12 piece jazz orchestra in a performance featuring the premiere of a ne
work written by the acclaimed Scottish composer Anna Meredith.
Alongside this new work the orchestra will perform music written by their leader whose primary interest is in balancing composition with improvisation, creating music that has a “free-wheeling, experimental atmosphere and the real vibrancy that music being created in the moment can have.”
As a nominee for the ECHO Rising Stars 2014/2015 programme Mike Fletcher has recently appeared at the Barbican Centre as part of the London Jazz Festival, Hamburg’s Laiezhalle and the CBSO Centre in Birmingham.
Anna Meredith is a composer, producer and performer of both acoustic and electronic, whose sound is frequently described as maximalist and uncategorisable. Her music has been performed everywhere from the BBC Last Night of the Proms to flashmob body-percussion performances in the M6 Services, PRADA fashion campaigns, numerous films, installations and documentaries, pop festivals, clubs and classical concert halls worldwide and broadcast on Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6.
Performances Birmingham Limited gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Britten-Pears Foundation, the Hinrichsen Foundation, John Feeney Charitable Trust, and PRS for Music Foundation.