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Ahmad Jamal: Interview 1

Adrian Green

Adrian Green, promoter of Southend Jazz Club, tells how he was originally inspired by the New Orleans roots of jazz. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s it was easy to be directly motivated by the music available. With many live venues playing jazz as well as blues, young people could experience the emerging jazz genre more organically. Adrian reflects these memories as he works to keep traditional jazz alive today through promoting live performance.

 

Audio Details

Interview date 2nd August 2016
Source National Jazz Archive
Reference number NJA/IJR/INT/2

Interview Excerpt

Interview Transcription

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Okay – so – if we just start with a little bit of background information then – so if we could just start very basic with you just stating your name and then spelling that for-

Adrian: Right – okay – my name’s Adrian Green – A – D – R – I – A – N – that’s Adrian – and Green is spelt G – R – double E – N – with no E on the end as some people like to put it. But – that’s me.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah – perfect – if you could just state your date of birth and place of birth as well?

Adrian: I was born in Chelmsford in 1946 – the 5th of June 1946.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Okay – just moving on then – if you could just tell me a little bit about your background – early background in music and your parents as well - if that’s linked to them at all?

Adrian: Right – in terms of music – I had a basic music education – learning the piano and the trumpet from a fairly early age and fairly – I think my parents wanted me to be musical – I don’t think I was [laugh] very much – I sat with some very good musicians when I was in the school orchestra – and – so I didn’t carry on actually being a musician – I’m not a musician now at all – I turned to writing – and – so that’s a very different thing – but I maintained an interest in music but formal musical education sort of ended somewhere after O Level.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: And so were your parents involved in that?

Adrian: Not so much my parents – my sister went on to be a music teacher and – carried on – choral work as well for quite a long time, yeah.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: [01.43] Yeah – so in terms of your actual jazz activities over the years – can you just describe those a little bit for us, what your jazz activities were?

Adrian: Yeah – over the years my first – got in – well I first started listening to jazz in the 60s – obviously growing up in the 50s and 60s I was aware of the – British trad revival and there were bands such as Kenny Ball – Terry Lightfoot – Chris Barber – all those bands you know were becoming popular then – I enjoyed the music and I started buying records and I found – started finding records by people like Mutt Carey etc. from the 1940s and the American – revival tradition – and – started listening to those – I always enjoyed listening to those – from a historical point of view there was a book which is, I suspect, a little bit dated now – but there’s a book by Rex Hill called ‘Jazz’, which detailed the history of jazz from New Orleans and – and I read that and that gave me an insight into the way that jazz music had not only developed but had then permeated the rest of popular music from that time onwards and the relationship between the jazz and the blues – as I say from a historical point of view I realised that sort of – various subsequent historians have – updated some of Rex Hill’s – findings and - so on – but it for me, it was a seminal book you know in terms of understanding where jazz came from.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: [03.23] Perfect - in terms of then what motivated you to invest so much in your jazz activities – can you just expand on that a little?

Adrian: In terms of my current jazz activities or in terms of my very old ones –in terms of my old jazz activities I was probably more of a listener – part of the audience – I like to think a little more informed than some – but – very much a part of the audience – I really got involved – in being involved with jazz – running a club – more recently – because I’d been going to a local club for a time and I started helping out the chap who was running it by writing some press releases and doing some work like that. And when he moved away from the area – along with a couple of others he sort of handed over the running of the club to – as I say there were 3 of us at the time and we carried on from there and that’s been going on for the last 5 or 6 years. So – I got to know quite a lot of the sort of local jazz musicians and quite a lot of the local people involved in jazz through that.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Is there a particular reason that it was jazz do you think?

Adrian: I think there are a number of reasons – one is the – the rhythms – the fun aspect of jazz – that applies particularly to traditional jazz – other aspects of jazz relate to – or seem to relate to other aspects of the arts as far as I was concerned and it seemed to be a good fit where there’s the sort of people who like one aspect of the arts also like another and jazz across various elements of the arts – intrigued me – this was particularly the case in – the 1950s and the 60s where there were some experiments of jazz and poetry – juxtaposed and put together – and those were 2 things that really interested me in - in various ways and – so the interest in what is just the music – you know – separately – sprung from that as well. I think – I think – I still listen to other forms of music as well – I’m not one of these people who just only ever listens to one particular genre. [06.05]

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah - that’s great – thank you – just moving on a little bit then in terms of your own investment in music – so could you just tell me a little bit about the actual organisation and coordination of your own activities?

Adrian: Yeah, we run in Southend a weekly traditional jazz club – when I say weekly that’s spelt W – E – E – K – L – Y and – so we like to put on local musicians – we like to bring in other musicians as well when we can afford them etc. – partly to keep the – genre alive and partly because we enjoy hearing the music live rather than just record – hearing recordings. It’s all very well listening to classic recordings but you hear the same bit of improvisation and then you hear it again but it’s exactly the same whereas live musicians are actually doing something – that you don’t get on recordings. A recording sort of sets in stone a one-off experience. With live music you get that experience every time you hear it – so we run a variety of – things – as I say it’s a weekly programme – every Monday night – that is quite difficult sometimes both to fill in terms of the bands it’s quite difficult to afford because one of the things we don’t get in terms of jazz – particularly traditional jazz – is any sort of arts funding – which various other branches of the arts tend to rely on – I think there are various reasons for that – but it does make it more difficult to sustain the – live aspect of that sort of music.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: How do you try to get around that then – is there a particular-?

Adrian: We rely a lot on local musicians – many of them are not professional – or they are professional but they don’t actually make their living by it – particularly in terms of the traditional jazz field because it has to be said a lot of the – players and the audiences are of a retirement age – so they’re not relying on it necessarily for their living even if they have done in the past and many of them do it because they really like to – and I think that’s a good thing because if you don’t – it’s the sort of music that if you don’t really like and enjoy playing or listening to you don’t enjoy it at all – you know – so – why would someone do it if they didn’t enjoy doing it – and that’s – that I think is what we want to do and I think – you know – to have live music where we can have a variety of people – playing live – keeping that skill alive – particularly the traditional – side – the collective improvisation of a traditional jazz band is of a different nature from the sort of improvisation you get from a modern or experimental – combination [pause] so – yeah.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: That’s great – thank you – so are there any other structures in place to help support your activities there? So obviously you talked a bit about funding but what else do you use to help support your activities?

Adrian: Very little – in fact there’s very little support – in terms of – either publicity or – funding – or even really infrastructure – there’s – there are a few publications like The Jazz Guide for instance which lists – traditional jazz across the country but geographically it’s fairly limited – we have a – as I say – a weekly traditional jazz club in Southend – there’s another one in Hornchurch but that’s a few miles away – there’s another one in Colchester – that’s not to say there’s no other music because there are some excellent jazz clubs and jazz outlets in Southend but they’re playing a different sort of jazz – there’s a club locally that tends to play a lot of Latin jazz – fairly modern jazz – there’s a club another a few miles away plays mainstream jazz but not traditional – you know – several – pubs and so on have bands in – again – not usually traditional – there’s a pub, sort of a couple of hundred yards away from here they have a regular jazz night but it’s all very modern or even free improvisation there – again – different genre – gets generally a different audience.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: So do you have the same group of people organising your events week on week or do you have a lot of different people imputing at different times?

Adrian: No it’s usually the same – same people – there – there are 3 of us who run the club basically and 1 or 2 others who are sort of fairly regularly involved in making suggestions or – or whatever – but largely it’s up to just a few people to do the booking – sort out the publicity and so on and so forth – yeah.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: So you mentioned then that there’s obviously a magazine that you can use to communicate information about jazz events – is there any other means that you use to get out the word about your weekly nights?

Adrian: We use – we try and use the local press – they’re not very impressed by traditional jazz at the moment – again ditto for the local radio etc. – it’s not news in a sense – we use social media which gets us some coverage – we tend to – use Twitter and – Facebook – for both recording pictures of events that happened and also for – giving people notice of what is happening – you know – publishing the programme etc. – having said that the demography – demographic of the people who tend to support the club also includes a fairly high proportion of people who haven’t actually caught on to social media – or – or in some cases caught on to electronic communication in any form [laugh].

Interviewer [Nicolle]: [laugh] So how - do those people just know already about it through other networks then? How do you reach them?

Adrian: We – I mean one of things I do is I put a straightforward email out every week giving the programme and telling the people who are on our mailing list something about the band – but we also publish a programme – which lists – who is coming on in the next couple of months and we – we put this around in various places – but it is it is a challenge – again – if I send this to the local paper or the local radio the list of things they say ‘well yeah well we’ve got lots of other lists of gigs going on – which – you know – you’re fighting for position all the time.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: So you’ve talked quite a lot about it already but are there any other obstacles to your activities other than the ones you’ve stated?

Adrian: I think one of the [pause] difficulties and I don’t know quite what the answer is because it’s a social – phenomenon really – that the general age of the audience - and I alluded to this earlier on - is quite advanced – I think young people are not coming into – there are people coming into jazz through the music colleges and so on – they tend to learn a particular sort of jazz – you know – rather than the traditional stuff – they tend not to come in as audience in the same way – there is a sort of ‘oh jazz’ you know it’s – various satire shows on the television etc. have almost given jazz a bad name in – in the sense – as either being very pretentious or irrelevant now. It’s often conflated with the sort of idea of elevator music or shopping mall music you know. That’s not to belittle artists like Kenny G or anything like that but people sort of hear what you – hear when you go into Pret a Manger or something like that and think that’s jazz but it’s all in the background and it’s not something you would listen to. So there is a sort of perception whereas if you called the music anything but jazz you know people might be more receptive to it. I don’t subscribe to that and I don’t see why people should but I – I just get the feeling that that’s there somewhere.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah – okay thank you – is there any other obstacles or is that the main one that you see?

Adrian: I think that’s one of the main barriers – you know – I don’t know whether it’s because people think that jazz is too highbrow – too – elitist – too – you know away from their own sort of perception of their social milieu – so – yeah – don’t know.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Just moving on a little bit then to looking at cultural impact a little bit now – so could you tell me a little bit about if you’ve had any particular association with for instance British jazz or American jazz?

Adrian: I personally haven’t had any particular association with either – I think everyone’s aware that jazz originated in America and – or the jazz as we know it originated in America and has come over – from that – as far as the British jazz revival is concerned – yes I think there’s a clear link to the sort of New Orleans – Chicago – roots of jazz and I think that people don’t tend to sort of intellectualise on this at all – it’s just whether they like it or not – and [pause] I don’t I see – well when I was over in the States I hardly heard any sort of traditional jazz like that – I don’t know how common it is over there – because you get the feeling that – with the mainstreamers of the – 40s and 50s – associated with the art movements over there – that jazz sort of moved into a different sort of social area altogether – so and I don’t know whether this is translated – clearly with the development of Ronnie Scott’s in the 50s 60s and so on and they started bringing over a lot more Americans – with the change of the – national musicians union sort of agreeing through the Americans there was more of an influence of Americans like Scott Hamilton and so on you know coming over as indeed now – you know – and playing with British musicians - but again that seemed to bypass the traditional jazz movement.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah – same question again really but in terms of association with white ‘Dixieland’ jazz or even African American jazz?

Adrian: Yeah – white Dixieland or African American – it it’s a great irony isn’t it that in terms of white Dixieland jazz in the UK you almost never see a black player or a black musician – yet – the mainstream, the moderns, the Latins the bands are full of some wonderful players – you know – I don’t know the reason for that and it’s always seemed to me a supreme irony that so many – middle England – white – I’ve got to be careful what I say here haven’t I when we’re talking about these sort of things – but so many people have adopted the music of the Deep South without adopting any of the sort of social attitudes or really seeming to understand the society that they came from – you listen to a song like – Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit and you see all the levels of – agony and social dislocation embodied in a song like that and you think how can you play jazz you know without having some sort of feel for this and yet it seems to happen.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Okay – thank you – obviously you’ve already talked a lot about traditional jazz but just expand upon that maybe – your association with traditional jazz in particular and if you’ve had any links with modern jazz as well? I’m not sure-

Adrian: I have very few links with modern jazz live – although again I listen to it [laughs] and I hear it and I go and listen to it live when I can – and I would [sic] certainly would listen a lot to mainstream jazz from the 40s 50s – from Miles Davis onwards you know - any of those players. Partly because I liked the sound they were making – partly because I felt they were moving the music on – they were developing from the basis of the traditional jazz that had come up from the South and come up - which was helpful I think, you know – and also because it took the music along from being a purely rhythmic and – a music which was improvised around the tune into a different level because the improvisation then started encompassing the harmonies as well as the tune and also they were stretching the limits of the instrumentation they were using a bit more, you know. The bop players were playing faster than the instruments were designed to play almost, you know – and they were sort of really catching hold of the imagination of the audiences at the time and I felt that was an interesting development – rather than bands which were happy just to play – a tune for people to dance to – you know – there’s a place for both.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: No that’s great – thank you – just moving a little bit on then to if you could discuss a bit the effect of rock’n’roll – The Beatles – on jazz activities?

Adrian: [laugh] Ah – yeah – the orthodoxy is that the Beatles killed off jazz as far as the – pop parade is concerned – that’s what you’re gonna hear from musicians – particularly musicians who might have been around at the time [laugh] but – again you need to look at it in the context of popular music – throughout the 20th century – jazz as it was first developed and used was always taking popular tunes of the day – popular ballads of the day – and playing them in a certain way and improvising along that – so why shouldn’t a jazz musician take something from a popular tune and play it – Coltrane, Favourite Things – and you know – this – this sort of thing – you know – occasionally you get a band will play something which is taken from a popular tune of today – you know – and play it in the jazz style and people say ‘oh that’s not a jazz tune’ – where in fact the band are doing just what a band would have done in the 1920s or the 19 – 19s – you know – so – yeah – I mean I’m open about that sort of thing but I have heard you know people say sort of say why should that happen – I don’t – I don’t think you can let the music get stuck – you know – I think – I think it’s good that people still play like that and still take current popular tunes – as far as The Beatles was concerned they were a phenomenon that was going to happen because they introduced harmonies into the British pop scene that hadn’t been introduced before – in the same way that Elvis Presley and various others at that time introduced the rhythms from the black labels into mainstream white popular music – and introduced music that people danced to – then The Beatles came a long and added a different layer to that – you know – it was immediately recognisable that the harmonies in the Lennon and McCartney songs were so different from what was in the British pop scene before then but – but in a different way – it wasn’t just doing the same thing it was introducing something completely new and I think music has to recognise this.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Thank you – and just finally – I mean you’ve kind of alluded to this a little bit already in one of the other answers but just to expand on it a little bit – what you would say the effect of these activities have had on attitudes regarding immigration and race?

Adrian: I’m not sure that they have – I don’t – I don’t see any evidence that they have had a lot of influence on that at all – I think – if you’re talking about the current and contemporary attitudes towards immigration and race I think that’s more driven by economic – social and economic things rather than by music – again – it’s almost like when someone has to describe someone they don’t know they will use a characteristic to describe that general body of the person – when they know the individual they will know him or her as a person – and they will look at it very differently – I – I don’t think – I think – I’d be very surprised if particularly jazz music – had any real influence [pause] I suspect it may [pause] I don’t know – no - I can’t – I can’t think of any reason why it should – I don’t think – I think this sort of drivers that influence peoples’ attitudes towards race – immigration – or any of the other contemporary levels of thought are stronger away from music than what music is.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Thank you – just moving into – well kind of linked but kind of different area now so – just looking at political implications – so were your jazz activities in your case associated with any particular political views at any point?

Adrian: [Extended pause] No – I think is – is the answer – I mean clearly political and socio-political views – are influenced by the sort of general activities you get involved in which I suppose - again - going back to the 1950s early 60s places, things like the CND marches – the ban the bomb marches – and yes I do remember them and being involved in them – tended to have jazz bands with them – but there was more the sort of feeling that the sort of left wing – left bank – left wing – you know – slightly alternative interests whether it be music – poetry – you whatever – you know – tended to sort of go for a sort of culture – you know – people listening – reading – people like Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg or whatever were likely to be the sort of people who were also listening to Miles Davis – listening to all the others – of that era – which comes first – the politics or the or – or the lifestyle or – or, or whatever [laugh]? I don’t know.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah – I mean you actually mentioned CND marches there – so were you at any point linked with that through jazz or-?

Adrian: No – no.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: No – that’s fine – just moving on a little bit then to social implications as well – so what was the reaction then of the older generation to your activities or even your parents’ generation?

Adrian: [Extended pause] I think sort of slightly bemused tolerance – and I can only think that because it’s sort of my reaction to my own childrens’ sort of – taking up of things like heavy metal [laugh] – yeah – I think that’s probably about it – bemused tolerance would be as far as it goes I think.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: So when you first got into jazz then was that much more a younger generational thing back then?

Adrian: Oh absolutely – absolutely – yeah – because in the 50s, 60s you know I mean it would be the younger - younger people doing it – the very same people who are still going to the jazz clubs today – except they’re 50 years older.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Makes sense – and just then the reaction of your own peer group to your activities – what was that like?

Adrian: My own peer group [sigh] I don’t think there was a reaction at all – because again throughout I would listen to jazz, I would go to jazz clubs or blues clubs or I would listen to things like that you know and I suppose in the early days in the 60s I’d probably be just as likely to listen to people like Georgie Fame – Alexis Corner – you know – Herbie Goins – all the – the blues singers as much as the – the traditional jazz singers, you know - or traditional jazz players - bands and so on, you know. I would personally get as much enjoyment out of going to listen to Kenny Ball at The 100 Club as I would listening to Georgie Fame at the – Georgie Fame at the Flamingo or something like that, you know. I mean it’s different genres -slightly different genres - but still based on that, you know – so I don’t think – of course the people I would meet in these sort of places would be the same sort of people who had the same sort of musical interest.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah and I mean nowadays for your activities were the people who are also involved in them because you said there are also 3 others – are they also people that you knew beforehand?

Adrian: No – no – no – no not – not really – I mean one of them is I knew beforehand – but only through a friend of a friend and – you know – again through the jazz club – so – yeah.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: And just finally like how would you describe the status of your activities – would you say it’s amateur – professional – semi-professional by this point?

Adrian: [laugh] Amateur - all through - yeah – I mean I got involved in running the jazz club by the time I was retired – I got involved with the running or being involved in the – jazz centre at Southend that’s sort of sprung from the National Jazz Archive – you know – so we’re setting that up at the moment in Southend as an information and resource centre for jazz – but I’m also involved in other things as well – so – I mean retirement is one of those things where you sort of start off with thinking I’ve got a lot of time to myself – you know – and then things come and find – find you to do them [laugh].

Interviewer [Nicolle]: That’s great – thank you – and just moving on then to final questions really about long-term contribution really – are there any particular achievements of your activities that you could name?

Adrian: Oooh – achievements is sort of – I - I think at the moment it seems like an achievement just to keep going in terms of keeping live music live – etc. – yeah.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: And would you say that - what would you say the effect on British culture has been of jazz activities and maybe even your own jazz activities?

Adrian: [Pause] It would be nice to think that jazz activities had an effect on the British culture but I think they’re more an effect of British culture – I think it adds to the diversity of the sort of musical experience that is there for people – and clearly at the moment there are so many different forms of music and different types of music and different shades of different types of music – that people have an opportunity to sort of get involved at almost whatever level in what type of music – I mean just think about jazz – we have clubs in Southend that do jazz Funk, Latin, Mainstream, Modern, Traditional – you know – there are all these activities and that’s - that’s just a shade of jazz music – I don’t know how many country music clubs there are still around – probably fewer than there are jazz clubs now but – and you know – and there are all sorts of other – pubs – clubs and venues sort of doing music – a lot of live rock music in Southend – some of the bands from way back some of them new – you know – again so many different types of music around - so many different opportunities for the people to perform in different – types of music that the culture is very mixed – and I think that’s a good thing because it gives people choice – the difficulty with that is it could in any one society spread the whole thing a little bit too thinly and make it difficult to maintain an audience.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Thank you – and just finally then – how do you see in terms of the future – what are the future of your activities?

Adrian: One future is – in my case to keep this traditional jazz going because I think if we – if we stop then there’d be nothing in this area – other than Colchester or Hornchurch – you know – to - keep traditional jazz going – as far as jazz generally is concerned I’m very opportunistic because as I say being involved in setting up of the jazz centre in Southend which – I don’t know how much you know about that – it’s part of or it’s the offshoot of the National Jazz Archive which was set up and – we’re hoping to develop that into a resource centre as well as partly an archive but mainly a resource centre for the development of jazz. The encouragement of younger people to get an involvement and an interest in jazz and if they’re players - you know – to give them opportunities in that way of all sorts of jazz – so that I would see as an opportunity – at a very personal level I’d quite like to see a revival of an interest in the juxtaposition of poetry in jazz as there was in the 50s and 60s – but that’s – I do realise that that’s a big ask to find an audience for that sort of thing [laugh].

Interviewer [Nicolle]: No that’s great – and just because obviously that was the final structured question that I had for you but is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you wanted to speak about or?

Adrian: I can’t think – I think we’ve covered most things – you know – infrastructure – support – funding or lack of it – you know – development – I think we touched on most of the things there.

Interviewer [Nicolle]: Yeah – well thank you very much then.