I honestly didn't think there would be a third one of these; but here we are. I was made aware of the following comment made on "Later with Jools Holland":
The UK jazz scene is based on mashing all the cultures that live in London
And I posted some public thoughts to Facebook, but I'm going to post them here as well, and add some more words.
Let's be really clear: above quote is wrong. There may be more to it, but — the above quote is just wrong. And I'm saddened by how wrong it is. However, I am not surprised it has been said. I have already written about the worrying issue of narrowing the narrative; the comment above is just an outcome of that.
I'm all for people talking about their own perspectives. But it's damaging to talk about a personal perspective as a general one, especially when that personal perspective is factually inaccurate.
THE RHIZOME shows a necessarily incomplete yet very thorough representation of musicians and groups in Britain and Ireland. It's currently at 423 groups. Filtering THE RHIZOME to display all bands in London formed since the year 2000 looks like this:
There are sixty-nine groups in the chart above — 16.3% of the dataset. And within those bands, there will be groups that will not fit the definition given in the above quote.
What we have here is an issue of exclusion by geography, which is a long-standing problem I (among others) have with London musicians and the jazz and improvised music media. It's a built-in feature of commodification.
London is not totally representative of the "UK" (whatever THAT means any more); and one group of musicians in London is not totally representative of London either. Once people start forgetting these plainly obvious facts, then we start forming barriers, and hierarchies, and canons; and then all sorts of silly things are said.
Anything outside is seen as a glitch, an imperfection; and thus discarded. Everything has to be polished a certain way. And, because the media pushes those things, they are then easier and more attractive to sell (or write about).
This is why the critical and/or journalistic framing of the musical activity that is happening here is so important. That quote didn't come from thin air. It may be that that is exactly what the person who said it believes. But that belief has been reinforced by some very lazy writing over the last five years, dominated by a lack of curiosity and a drive towards what is selling.
In no way do I blame the musician who made the comment for saying what she said. It is just what happens when we fail to correct the press about the nature of our activity. Maybe it is time that we started doing that.