|Interview date||1st January 0001|
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Interviewer: Okay. So if we could just start then very generally with your name and could you spell your name for me as well please?
Annie: Yes, it’s Ann Elizabeth Taylor so A-N-N E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H T-A-Y-L-O-R.
Interviewer: Perfect, thank you. And could you let me know your date of birth and where you were born?
Annie: Where’s that going? [laughs] Is someone going to find out about that? My date of birth, is that going to be published?
Interviewer: Well, it’s up to you. If you’d prefer to not have that on record that’s fine.
Annie: 20th of the 4th, 1958. Colchester.
Interviewer: Perfect. Could you just tell me about your early background in music and what your parents did? Were they involved in music?
Annie: My dad was actually quite an accomplished pianist although he didn’t really play piano…once the children were born, he didn’t really play piano. But he was piano to grade eight, I think, and violin to grade eight. He did eventually get an organ in the house, which I sort of messed around on. I didn’t really take it that seriously unfortunately - I wish I had. He had quite a good voice, my mum had a really good voice and they used to sing together in the choir and things like that. They didn’t do anything on a professional basis music-wise. My earliest memories of jazz music was from some of their records – in particular Ella Fitzgerald, Rodgers and Hart songbook, some Dixieland, trad-y bits that my dad had. In terms of music, what else? Yeah, my early influences obviously came, as they do, you hear your parents’ music - although nowadays it’s not the same, is it? Kids are much more tuned into music, aren’t they? Yes, so that’s it really. [00:02:27]
Interviewer: And did you used to go around music venues yourself when you were younger?
Annie: No. [laughs] No, I didn’t. I mean, how young are we talking? Are we talking pre-18 or after 18?
Interviewer: In your teenage years.
Annie: A bit. I used to love the musicals on TV and I loved Judy Garland in particular. I first started singing when I was copying songs from musicals. So Judy Garland in particular; because she had that really belt out voice I would try to emulate her, I suppose. So it was that that was my early influence and when I started being involved in music in terms of buying my own records and being interested in going to see shows, it was as a direct result of my early influences of Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli. So my first LP was Liza Minnelli, as opposed to my friends who were probably David Bowie. That was it really: my first musical purchases and influences were related to songs from the shows and kind of that jazzy genre. Swing.
Interviewer: That’s great, thank you. And how would you say over the years your jazz activities have developed both professional and your interests as well?
Annie: I started singing quite late, really, on a semi-professional basis when I was about 27-ish, something like that. I answered an advert in the local paper which was a keyboard player looking for somebody to sing a song that somebody had written that they wanted recorded. And I wasn’t suitable for that because it was a punk thing but he said to me ‘would you like to work with me?’ So we then started getting together quite late at night because he was a teacher, so I’d have to go round there at half past 10, something like that, to practise because he didn’t have any time any other time. So we put sets together ready to go out to clubs, pubs, restaurants wherever they’d have us, basically, hotels. It was a few popular tunes but it was still when the clubs were quite vibrant with people that wanted to dance, so it would be the classic standards. Cuando, Cuando and that kind of thing. A lot of that and Nat King Cole and then the easier ‘60s songs, the easier Rock ‘n’ Roll type of songs. My voice has always lent itself to the kind of jazzy standards and I had that obvious early influence of the Ella Fitzgerald, Rodgers and Hart and during the course of my own singing development I came into contact with a couple of jazz musicians and then I entered a couple of competitions and went to a few places that had jazz, got up and sang a few songs. I was incredibly nervous in those days, it was really terrible. And it went from there, really. A local jazz musician in this area who you’ve probably heard of from other people: he had two names: Ray Ward - does that sound familiar? And Terry something, forgotten his surname actually. He gave me a couple of gigs actually. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he was very instrumental in helping people come on in jazz and I actually did quite a bit of work with him. And then I sort of gradually met some other jazz musicians and I then started to put scratch jazz bands together and was trying to get work singing jazz standards for myself, as well as singing the other pop stuff as well. Do you want me to do the whole thing now or do you want me to break it up? [00:07:36]
Interviewer: That’s fine, you can continue. Progression is fine, yes. It would be interesting to hear how it changed over the years.
Annie: I was working semi-professionally and then I had problems with my health so I actually had to stop. At one point I was earning my living just from singing but I had to stop work because of my health. I didn’t do anything for quite a long time and then that was when the backing tracks came to the forefront and the MIDI files and those kind of things. Originally there was hardly anything jazz but because people like Diana Krall became quite famous and Jamie Cullum, people like that, then they started to filter down some jazz MIDI files and jazz backing tracks and mini discs and whatever. So I was actually able to get some of those and then I kept my hand in singing with some of those and doing events for charity. And then a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to sing at his pub, which I did a couple of times, and then he asked me if I’d like to start a jazz evening – which leads to Annie’s Jazz, basically - at the pub. It was there for six years: it moved briefly then it came back. It basically went from there. Because I’d been out of it, I had no contacts. I had about four phone numbers maybe so you know how you network – give me ten pianists’ numbers and that’s how it went from there and I started booking for the Jazz Club every week. It was very successful; at times it was absolutely full up. That went on for over six years, I think, and during the course of that time it was quite amazing at the pub, you know, the stuff I managed to get at the pub. I became friends with Liane Carroll because she was drinking outside the pub and I had only just been introduced to her music by a guitarist friend of mine in Kent and another singer, who was in the local area, she said ‘you’ll never guess who’s outside!’ And I said ‘who?’ She said ‘Liane Carroll.’ I said ‘oh my God, really?’ Because I’d just been introduced to her stuff and she’s phenomenal. So I kind of took the bull by the horns and I went outside and I introduced myself and said how great I thought she was. And she said ‘oh, someone’s supposed to be singing here tonight, aren’t they?’ And I said ‘yeah, it’s me.’ [laughs] Anyway, I said ‘would you like to sing a song?’ And she did. She sang a couple and she sang with me and she sang with this other singer because she’s such a great, generous person in that way. And I then asked her if she would do an event for the charity at the pub because I think that was not long after the jazz started. And she did. Then, because we became friends, she started coming regularly to The Smack. You know, to have Liane Carroll at the pub was amazing. The people that managed to get to the pub was just incredible. Buddy Greco played there – not as a whole evening, but twice. [00:11:30]
Interviewer: Was it much the same way of contacting them – literally just calling people up and trying to get them in?
Annie: Well, it’s both, isn’t it? Because once they know that you’re running something they’ll contact you. Sometimes when a band come in I might say…if I like a particular instrumentalist I might say ‘do you have any other projects?’ There are some artists that have quite a few projects and you know that. Several of them might be of interest to book - and with different personnel and therefore it’s not a problem to book them. Sometimes people recommend; there’s a few musicians who I trust to recommend something and that’s happened – not much, but a few times. Buddy Greco, I met him and Lesley, his wife, and became friends with them because they’re in the area. I asked them if they’d come and sit in, which they did twice, which was great. So that was it: it was at the Smack for that long but then they withdrew the funding. They changed personnel, you know, the manager changed. It went on for a while then the brewery withdrew the funding - they were messing around a lot to be honest. I kept it going by the raffle and having people come in for less, local people. Then the funding did come back but they decided in their infinite wisdom that they didn’t want any jazz, which was quite amazing because sometimes on a Tuesday night they took £3,500, which is phenomenal for a pub. Some pubs don’t do that in a week. But that was what the head office decided. I also used to book all the weekend acts there as well. In fact, that was it: me gone. Unceremoniously chopped. And everybody didn’t want me to let it drop so a friend of mine suggested the O’Neill’s pub in Southend. Somebody else said ‘I’ll come in with you at the beginning and help you out a little bit money-wise’. So I started it at O’Neill’s. It’s a nice venue upstairs and we had a couple of successful evenings but it didn’t really take off there. It was the wrong location. The parking wasn’t good and a lot of the old people obviously need to park immediately outside. And a couple of people got accosted – not badly, but at night, you know and so it was obvious it wasn’t going to work there. I was getting to the point where I was thinking ‘we’re probably going to have to let this go now’ and one of the customers that had been at The Smack and carried on at the O’Neill’s used to belong to Thorpe Hall Golf Club – or does belong to Thorpe Hall Golf Club. And he’d long ago thought it would be great to have jazz there. He asked some of the committee members to come down to O’Neill’s a few times: they then decided to ask me to take it there, which was a no-brainer, absolute no-brainer. And it’s been really quite successful there – and still is. It’s not even two years old yet. In fact, it’s this month - two years this month. [00:15:28]
Interviewer: And do you find that a lot of the people that were at the original venue have now switched over and come up to Thorpe Bay?
Annie: They did to O’Neill’s but some of them won’t pay for music. Obviously now it’s an on-the-door club whereas it was free at the pub. And O’Neill’s it was on the door. So there are some people that won’t pay for music, there are some people that would pay for music but object to the fact that actually they didn’t use to pay for it down at the pub and some of them it’s just that little bit too far. From Leigh obviously it’s a few miles further on so some people were coming from further afield and it was just that bit too far for them. So there are some that come and there are some that are straggling back to us. But not that ensemble of people. Also at the pub it was convenient for them because they would walk down from where they lived and that kind of thing. So it is a new audience really – mostly of golf club members and outside people from the huge amount of advertising I do at the moment.
Interviewer: That’s great. Thank you. Obviously you’ve done quite a few different things over the years and obviously now you’re still involved with jazz: what’s motivated you to keep going with jazz in particular, in terms of investing in it and giving your time to it and having it as your career? [00:17:21]
Annie: You know how you kind of fall into things – you’re in the right place at the right time. I mean, I fell into running the Jazz Club and it’s obviously it’s something I can do quite well and I suppose it just fitted. It fitted me quite naturally. I love being in a position to be able to offer musicians, you know, some work. That’s great and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to meet them. Most of the musicians that come in are absolutely lovely people, and the singers. I’ve hardly had any problems in eight years now. There’ve been a couple of dodgy moments but not even they were massive. So it is a true privilege to meet them and work with them and be able to offer them work. And obviously I get to hear them every week. I get to hear this hugely high standard of musicianship; I mean, world-class - very often – musicians. Somebody once said to me about going to see someone; I said ‘no, I won’t go and see them, I’ll just book them because then I could see them anyway.’ So it is that. I like all aspects of it really. It is a business for me, now. It is a business. I want to expand as well but I do like all aspects of it and sometimes it can be never-ending, the promotional thing that you have to do – especially the online stuff as you’re probably no doubt aware. You could never stop online, couldn’t you? We’re sticking it on all the free what’s-on-here and what’s-on-there sites. The Twitter, the Facebook. The things that take time, the research. Computers are not my forte at all, so anything I do takes longer than, you know, somebody that it is there forte. But I do actually like all aspects of it. And I produce these [shows something to interviewer] – this is my idea rather than having lots of loose sheets. And these are the ones I’ve produced over the period of time. [00:20:20]
Interviewer: So when you get these made up then – just for the tape, it’s like a leaflet with things coming up each month then – is that what you do?
Annie: Originally I started doing it three-monthly: this one you’ll find is three-monthly. And then I thought ‘I have to find a way of saving some money here,’ so I’ve cut it down to an eight-side rather than a 16 and doing half a page for each one.
Interviewer: And these then, do you distribute them in the club itself or do you put them in other places as well?
Annie: They get collected at the club, obviously, and there’s a few places that take them. I haven’t properly exhausted that avenue, partly because to produce them costs so much money and therefore you need that many more. But, yes, there’s a café in Thorpe Bay called Ciao that will happily have them along with the dentist in Thorpe Bay. I think the butcher in Westcliff has them. He’s very on-board, him and his son. They’re always telling everybody about it and people come in to them and tell them how good the evening was. So there are a few places that do take them. Poster-wise, I’ve not really had much success with that. And the libraries don’t take them because it’s not a charitable event. But, yes, they can go anywhere and the customers take several of them and they’ll distribute them amongst their friends. The customers are great, generally. They’re all trying to get extra people to come so they can keep going. The people that help me on the door, you know, they’ve been very instrumental in bringing people. Ivor, who was the gentleman that introduced me to the golf club in the first place, he’s in and out of the golf club all the time so he’s chatting to people all the time. He’s been quite instrumental in persuading some people to come. Jan, who used to go to The Smack and help me at The Smack, she does…this week, for example, we had some customers come from the Reader trips, which she does. She’s a courier. So they’re all on-board, they’re all on the case, they’re all trying to get more word of mouth. [00:23:02]
Interviewer: So, would you say, then, that there’s something special about this community in this region? Because I’ve noticed that there’s quite a few people based around Southend, on the periphery or inside it. Would you say there’s something special about this area that keeps jazz going and promotes it as well?
Annie: There does seem to be. I mean, I’m not in the area, am I? I’m kind of…I’m off, and I never have been in the area. I was bought up in Hornchurch. But, yes, there does seem to be something special and a lot of loyal people that go out and support the musicians – not always if they have to pay, but often if they have to pay. And also, they seem to be quite loyal to people who promote music. Mick Crook at the Maritime Rooms, he’s got a loyal following of people. He’s been doing it…I think he was involved in Churchill’s originally. There’s quite a lot of loyal people. And lots of musicians have moved into the area. There is something about the area and it does seem to be quite a strong jazz area.
Interviewer: Do you find yourself competing with London at all? Or do you see it as a different kind of place that people still come out?
Annie: I wouldn’t say we are competing with London – I try to bring London to here.
Interviewer: I noticed that on your website.
Annie: Bringing London to you. A lot of the acts that I bring in are generally just appearing in London, or around London. And Thorpe Bay’s at the end of the line, it’s at the end of the estuary practically. You’ve got no circular…what’s the word? Trying to think of the word…never mind. [00:25:22]
Interviewer: Do you mean the underground, the tube?
Annie: No. Oh, hell! The number of people that are around you – that’s the word I’m trying to think of. Like the M25 is here and then if you draw the circle around the M25 but in Thorpe Bay you can’t do that because you’ve got sea and estuary. So you haven’t got that all round of housing and people to call on and the people to call on and if people don’t live in Thorpe Bay or Shoeburyness or Westcliff or Southend then, you know, they’ve got that journey out to the end of the line. And what I found was, having worked in the area for that length of time, is that people from Thorpe Bay don’t want to go to Leigh, people from Leigh don’t want to go to Thorpe Bay, people from Southend don’t want to go to Leigh, people from Leigh don’t want to go to Southend, people from Westcliff don’t want to go to…There’s a weird thing going on. I mean, obviously some do. It’s a little bit more difficult than if you’re slap bang in the middle of the country and you can just go like that and pull on people from all over the place.
Interviewer: That’s great, thank you. So in terms of the actual jazz club itself and the nights you’ve done over the years: the organisation of that, is it normally you yourself or do you have other people that help organise events? And has that changed over the years? [00:27:11]
Annie: No, it’s all down to me. Everything is down to me. In terms of where I am now in Thorpe Bay, physically, on the door, on the night, I have people helping and they are people that I’ve been friends with for years from The Smack. But at that particular venue, when it gets very busy, the customers bunch up and you actually do need at least five people - which is quite ludicrous because it’s only a capacity of 150. I’m often floating between customers, band, bar, door and you need two people taking the money on the door and then you need either…preferably plus one telling people where their table is. So on that night, at that place, there’s quite a few people that help me but they don’t organise anything, they don’t book anything or anything like that, they don’t contact the musicians. I ask people if there’s anybody they want to see (door bell rings)... I will carry on, I ask the customers, I try to be inclusive about it and I don’t book only what I like. I used to book a lot of rock bands and different types of acts for The Smack and other places and I know a good rock band when I hear one but it’s not my thing. I like some rock. And it’s the same with all types of music, really: I know a good one when I hear it but I don’t necessarily want to hear it. So, yeah, if someone says to me…for example, I’ve been asked to get the Benny Goodman Band, so I have. And I do ask the people that help me for their feedback and I do sometimes go to them and say ‘what do you think of this?’ But generally all of it’s me. Having said that, as I said earlier, I’m not good on the computer so I do have people that help me with bits. Actually, I’m paying somebody to do some stuff online now even though I still do a lot as well. My friend in Jersey was the one that initiated my website so she set that up, which is so old it needs changing and will be changed soon. But she set that up and she actually updates my website because she’s been in television and she’s been in advertising so she’s quite good at that kind of thing – and again, I do pay her as well. So there are things like that but there’s nothing about what’s booked or what decisions are made or where I advertise – all of that’s down to me. [00:30:41]
Interviewer: That makes sense. You’ve kind of touched upon this a little bit about things along the way where people have pointed you in a certain direction, not in terms of getting a venue but have there ever been any other structures in place or people that have supported your jazz activities over the years other than that? So it could be funding or people helping you or getting a venue.
Annie: I’ve had no funding apart from the gentleman that helped me, the one who said ‘come on, go for it,’ at the O’Neill’s after they took the funding away and basically that was…I think he did that more to push me along rather than for me to take a chance, to say that actually he would share the financial burden. We kind of made a slight loss so it was not that bad and he, after the first couple of weeks, wasn’t involved anyway. So, no, I’ve had no funding, would like some: any pointers gratefully accepted. Who else has helped? Liane Carroll has been really, really supportive of what I do because we became friends and she tries to promote me wherever she goes and is jazz. So that kind of thing, word-of-mouth support. And that, I think, applies to a few musicians, particularly Liane, and certainly good customers; they’re always working for me, which is fantastic. And obviously, as I said before, the people that help. It’s like a family, kind of. And a friend was the one that pointed me towards O’Neill’s in the first place as an alternative venue – in fact, it was Joe Gibson, who you may have heard of - the singer. So, I get a lot of encouragement support and a lot of great feedback from musicians and singers who come. But in terms of physical support, no, there’s no financial help. And I’d love to have another venue. As I said, I’d like to expand. Jazz clubs in general aren’t doing too well, are they? You’ve probably gathered that by now. In a lot of places they’re not…some are. But, I mean, this is not entirely jazz: what I book is very varied but good quality entertainment and bordering on jazz. And I don’t know how you define jazz, really, anymore. It gives you so much more scope if you can book two venues weekly, at least two. You have more pulling power, in a way. Especially if they’re back to back because you could have an artist who’s over from America or wherever or even someone whose come down from up north and you can give them two nights, one after the other, or even if there was a day in between. And if you’ve got a formula that works, which I seem to have - and it’s not really a formula, it’s just gut instinct - I don’t know why it shouldn’t work elsewhere. [00:34:57]
Interviewer: That’s great, thank you. And again, you’ve kind of touched upon this a bit already: how would you communicate about your jazz activities? So you’ve mentioned a bit already, word-of-mouth and the leaflets, but in terms of the one we haven’t really spoken about is that online side of things. That, and are there other ways you communicate about your club as well?
Annie: Yes, there is the website, which, as I said just now, does need updating desperately. In fact, one of the ladies that is doing some of the bits online, I’m going to talk to her about redoing the website. Basically, to begin with, I think, it just needs to be sharper than what it is. And with Vistaprint, which is who I’m with, they’ve got very out-dated templates. I really don’t know how they’ve become so big. Yeah, so there’s the website: I now take payment on the website, you know, you can pay online. I do actually have a card reader, I did invest in it but I haven’t actually set it up yet because I’m a bit scared of my first transaction! [laughs] So I do have a card reader. Twitter: I Twitter. I’m Twittering more now and one of the things the lady does is she has a thing that sets up on Twitter. Facebook, obviously. Any ‘what’s on’ thing I come across if I have the time to do it. I guess that’s kind of it online. I have to say, it’s not so far brought me any business, online. It’s all been from paper advertising, magazine advertising. I’ve tried some other advertising via newspapers with their online thing and that was no good either. It’s all about papers and word-of-mouth. And if I could afford to saturate advertise that would be great because then you could have billboards and posters in appropriate places, but I can’t. I don’t exactly have a budget but, you know, I think ‘ok, last week was alright so we’ll go with that one’. [00:37:45]
Interviewer: You mentioned magazines there: are there particular magazines that you tend to advertise in?
Annie: The Oracle. I’ve tried the jazz magazine and all that did me was get a musician from up north asking me for a gig so that wouldn’t be something I would do again [walks away to look for a copy]. I will keep talking for you.
Interviewer: It’s The Oracle, did you say?
Annie: Yes, oh, there it is. The Oracle. They’ve just redone my adverts, they have revamped. To make it look fresher and more up-to-date, more modern, which I like actually.
Interviewer: Oh so this is like a local…
Annie: Yeah, a local glossy. I’ve developed, you know, a good relationship with all the advertising people. There it is: that’s the latest.
Interviewer: Do you tend to do most of your advertising on a local basis, then, more targeted?
Annie: Absolutely. I made a mistake. I don’t know if you’d call it a mistake, really. I kind of fell for some spiel about doing online and spending loads of money and getting yourself a huge presence online. A long time ago. And it was kind of a waste of £450. And I’d always thought, you know, it’s got to be local people because even though you’ve got the estuary over here and the housing over here, there’s 100s of 1000s of people in that area. People do come from Benfleet, Brentwood, Chelmsford – even from Kent sometimes. So there’s a huge number of people to get to and if they don’t see it, they can’t come. [00:39:59]
Interviewer: Do you do things like radio or anything as well or is it mainly print?
Annie: I’ve done the tiniest, little….I’ve found it quite hard to get any support from the radio but recently, because I did the ‘what’s on’ again, I was spotted by BBC radio and they then asked me to do a little mini thing, a five minute telephone interview. Ivor sends things up to Paul Barnes, I think, on BBC. He’ll read them out.
Interviewer: So, this one’s in the Southend Advertiser [looks at copy of newspaper]. It’s quite detailed adverts then, with images and writing and stuff like that. Do you choose how the adverts are laid out as well?
Annie: Not exactly. [laughs] Yes and no. I want that changed because it is so busy. I, personally, am attracted by colour. I think colour attracts but I think that’s a bit too much colour, really, in a way. It’s bordering on tacky, I think, because of its multi-coloured-ness. [laughs] But this one, I do like this. But I don’t know that this is transferable. I think this is more for a magazine.
Interviewer: Yes, because I guess that Oracle one is in a smaller thing as well so maybe that makes a difference, the page size. I’m not sure.
Annie: It does, doesn’t it? I just think if people don’t know you’re there…and for years at The Smack I’d get people every week saying ‘we live up there, we didn’t know you were here.’ It’s exactly the same thing wherever you are: if you haven’t heard it, if you haven’t seen it, if you don’t open the paper on that day, you’re not going to see it. [00:42:11]
Interviewer: So, in that case then, it sounds like word-of-mouth and local press advertising are the big ones.
Annie: By far the best, I would say. And obviously I do have little offers like there’s one in the paper: ‘bring this ad and come in at member’s price straightaway.’ And then I’ve been doing quite a lot of ‘win ticket’ competitions. There’s one in the Oracle for four tickets for next month. Somebody’s just won two tickets for Valentine’s night, which was last month’s in the Oracle. I have one running at the moment in the Yellow Advertiser for the 21st. Yeah, I mean, it’s a question of…I have a core of people that come pretty much every week if they’re around and they’re not ill, but it’s getting more of those and then I think you have to have probably 2,000-3,000 people that dip in and dip out to actually keep it full every week and I’m not there yet. And you can only do that by constantly putting it in front of people’s faces.
Interviewer: Is membership an important part of that as well – having that network?
Annie: Membership is important in that a) it gives you a little bit extra money for advertising and b) obviously it gives you a two-tier price, which people like and they like to feel that they belong to something. We try to take care of the members, obviously. If you’re a member of the golf club, you’re automatically a member of Annie’s Jazz. That was part of our agreement. But the people that have joined Annie’s Jazz, they like to feel they belong. In fact, some of them are squabbling over the numbers. And obviously if I had another club somewhere else, they would automatically be members of that. I think it’s important psychologically for people to feel that they belong – it is for all of us. It’s £20 a year and that gives you £2 off each week. And obviously if there’s any event that you had to have priority for, then members would have priority. We’re always trying to make sure that our members get the seat’s that they want: some people like to be at the back, don’t want to be at the front. Some people like to be right at the front, some want to be in the middle, some want to be by the coffee machine! [laughs] So we try. It’s the club, really, that do the seating arrangement but we have to change it sometimes because we know what those members want. So it’s important, I think, a bit. It’s quite important. [00:45:21]
Interviewer: Obviously, a lot of this has been very positive and talking about how you’ve been helped by different groups of people over the years or you’ve done things that have worked out well but have there ever been any big barriers over the years? Whether it’s your early jazz career or the present day, have there been barriers that have made things difficult or even prevented you from doing things?
Annie: I don’t think I’ve really experienced that much in terms of barriers, but the financial thing is a barrier. If you had several thousand pounds behind you where you could advertise your club, as I said, saturate advertising. So, I guess funding is a barrier. I don’t know with funding because I now run this as a business. I work many, many hours on it so it has to be a business. I know a lot people run jazz clubs because they just love the music and they love to keep it going and they love to keep something going where the musicians can come and play. It’s not just that for me. It can’t be, is the other thing. But, yeah, the financial barriers. And I think recognition from local bodies is a bit of a barrier for me, for me personally. Because Annie’s Jazz Club has been now established for eight years, over eight years. It’s probably the most successful jazz club, you know, for a few miles around. It has a great reputation, I know it has a great reputation. Lots of really good comments all the time and people, having heard how good it is, some support from local bodies would be great for me and some recognition. I’m not talking, obviously, about Digby and the Jazz Archive because Digby nominated me for this interview but, yeah, the council. I’ve tried to invite the mayor. I’ve done all sorts of things to try and get those bodies involved that are quite important in that Southend area - like the Southend radio – and not really had much success. In fact, a customer, who used to work for the BBC and write all manner of things, she’s tried as well and she came up against that brick wall. And it was, in a way, a brick wall related to everything seems to be geared towards the Jazz Archive rather than…I kind of understand it but this club’s great. It’s absolutely brilliant and you’ll go a long way before you find anything as good as this and as friendly as this. And people come in on their own, you know, and they make friends. It’s a safe, wonderful environment to be in from the moment you arrive. We have to hug and kiss every customer, practically. It’s that kind of thing. On the way in and on the way out. That, I think, is a barrier and that’s speaking on a personal level. And I don’t know how to overcome that barrier. I’ve tried. I am friends with Liz Lincoln, who you’re no doubt aware of, and obviously she’s quite heavily involved with the council. I don’t know how to take that next step in terms of that area. [00:49:54]
Interviewer: That makes sense. Thank you. You’ve kind of already touched on a bit that your venue does quite varied music: are there particular areas of jazz that you’re particularly invested in or types of music that you’re invested in or like to put on?
Annie: Me personally or do you mean catering for the crowd?
Interviewer: You personally.
Annie: Me personally. One of my very favourite genres of jazz is gypsy jazz. I do have a few of those but they tend to be the more dynamic ones that are cross-appealing. We had a band called Gypsy Fire who now are not together anymore. Four guys with Ben Holder on violin, who’s a phenomenal showman. And that was just…you couldn’t really describe what that was like when they first came. They were absolutely amazing and the whole room stood at the end of it. It was just incredible. So, yeah, gypsy jazz is a particular love. I love Latin music but…from a, not business point of view – I think I’m sort of invested in music with dance, a little bit. Because I have put on a few dance events – in fact, I’ve got one coming up in May – but I book music with dance as well. So, for example, on March 7th the Michele Drees’ Tap Project, who I’ve booked before. And I’ve booked flamenco quite a bit, which goes down brilliantly. So I like to incorporate different things. I don’t think it’s about any one thing, personally. And there’s not really space to dance but a lot of the people like to dance so they kind of come over to the side of the room to do a little dance. Hence the reason why I thought I’ll try and put some dance events on as well but it tends to be with the bands that I book anyway.
Interviewer: That makes sense.
Annie: Yeah, so I guess I like to involve things with dance as well. So a visual spectacular. [00:52:41]
Interviewer: I noticed as well on your website that you mentioned that you also do a meal with the jazz sometimes.
Annie: Food is available all the time.
Interviewer: So is that an important part of the experience as well?
Annie: I would say so, yes. There’s one main room where the music is and then there’s a room through the back, which is the restaurant. We used to have everyone allocated to their table and eating there but then, now, we have them eating in the restaurant. It works out much better because you can get more people in the main room because you don’t have to have certain chairs and certain tables. So they go into the restaurant for their meal - unless it’s horrendously busy and then sometimes they’ll have to have it outside – and then they come through to their allocated table in the main room. The food is served from 6:30 to 8:00. It’s good quality, it’s home-cooked. It’s from £5.50 to £6.50 meal. And sometimes they have to serve 100 meals in an hour.
Interviewer: Wow, so it’s popular then.
Annie: Yes, it is. I mean, it’s so reasonable as well. For Valentine’s Night I’ve asked them to do something special so they are sort of changing it to a bistro type menu. And the menu does change. There’s about ten options on a jazz night, which is purely because they have to do so many in a short space of time. It does change – not often enough, I think – but it does change. It varies.
Interviewer: So obviously we’ve talked a little bit about the experience of how you tried to bring in different kinds of visual experiences with the music and stuff like that, as well as the food. But in terms of other types of – because you mentioned rock for instance - do you think other types of music outside of jazz have impacted on jazz whether positively or negatively? [00:55:02]
Annie: Other music impacted on jazz positively or negatively.
Interviewer: So things like rock and roll was probably the big one back in the past. Would you say things like that have impacted it?
Annie: I think everything in life has a progression, doesn’t it? It tends to go full cycle as well. Specifically affected jazz music, no; but the progression of music has affected it and affected musicians. And so with the advent of computer music, you know, and synth sounds and all of that, yes, obviously. Because the musicians aren’t being employed. It’s the same as a person’s job being taken by a robot or computer. In the car factories robots do half the work. So it’s that kind of thing more than the music genre affecting the genre of jazz, I would say. Yeah, I can’t really see how rock has affected jazz music at all. [laughs] Not particularly. For me, my own personal opinion is that it’s all in the root of something. It’s all in the root of the blues to begin with, really. So then you’ve got the slightly livelier jazz, the swing. It all stems from that root. And then you’ve got the rock and roll and the jive. And even now, if you go to the blues, you know, you’ve got the lively blues – because I book blues as well. And so it all stems, everything’s a progression. It’s like a tree, isn’t it? I think so.
Interviewer: In terms of jazz in the past, and even now, is very diverse – you were saying about the roots of jazz as well: would you say that jazz music has had an impact on social attitudes towards things like race, and other things like that? Positively, negatively? [00:57:25]
Annie: Obviously it has, yes. Because over the years I’ve met quite a number of black musicians, quite old ones now, who have experienced first-hand that prejudice in the old days. In fact, last year, I think, we had Frank Holder, who’s a singer and a bongo player, and he was quite instrumental in overcoming that race thing. So, yes, it has. I think jazz has had a positive, I think it can only have had a positive effect, really. Because if you look at it, it was largely black musicians that played it in the beginning and then they kind of crossed over. So it can, I guess, only have been positive because it brought that music to the masses, I guess. It was a hard struggle for many people and, as I said, I’ve met more than one musician who were directly affected by that. And my own personal thing is that music transcends race and colour and anything. I just think it does. If I think ‘oh yeah, I quite like that, I like the sound of that. I’d like to put that in.’ I am actually booking an Indian evening of music and dance, the Asian-Indian. Because they did an Indo-jazz kind of thing. But I just look upon it as ‘yeah, that’s really interesting music.’ And actually, if I want an Indian evening then I want Indian people; I don’t want a white person that’s learnt to play Indian stuff doing it and dancing.
Interviewer: That makes sense.
Annie: Authentic, you know? In all of my experience and all of the people I’ve met, music transcends race, colour and wherever you come from, your country of birth. I mean, I’ve booked Spanish people, Polish people, Italian people, American people, you know, from everywhere, all over the world. And it’s all been about the music and what they bring to music. So I suppose I don’t see it as a separate thing, necessarily: I feel it as a separate thing. [01:00:40]
Interviewer: And do you find, in that same vein about the social impact of jazz and music generally, do you feel like women within jazz have had things changed, attitudes towards women playing different instruments and being in different roles within the industry as well over the years?
Annie: There are lots of great female musicians. I mean, there are great singer/player musicians and I think sometimes they’re seen more predominantly for their singing than their playing so there probably is a little bit of prejudice still, I would say. A little bit. There was the old school of jazz, wasn’t there, which you must have come up against, and it was quite elitist and snobby in a way. And that’s becoming less and less and I think that’s probably because those people are growing older and older and some of them aren’t here anymore. So it’s nowhere near as elitist as it used to be and therefore I think…by that criteria, then, the female musicians, you know, are up there and in the forefront of things. I can only say from my own point of view that I book whoever it is if they’re good and I think they’ll fit. It’s purely on merit, really. But I think there’s been a shift, yeah. If I actually think about that, there probably has been a big shift. In fact, somebody did phone me maybe three weeks ago and said she wanted to put her all-female quartet back together. And in fact, it was with Michele Drees on drums in the original quartet. She said ‘would you be interested?’ And I said ‘yeah, why not?’ And when she told me it was Michele I said ‘oh great, she’s coming in anyway with her dance thing.’ I think that’s probably because I’m so open to suggestion from people because I’ll look at something and think ‘if it fits, it goes.’ There are some clubs that probably that wouldn’t happen with. I know some artists they really have a hard time breaking into being given an opportunity in a club. [011:03:38]
Interviewer: Is it different – because obviously you started out as a performer yourself – would you say getting gigs and things like that have changed then? How people go about it, how hard it is or has it always been the same?
Annie: It’s much harder now. It’s much harder because there are less venues because there’s so much electronic music. There is a slight shift around. Also, jazz to a lot of people is a dirty word, isn’t it? I think we talked about this on the phone. This is the name of the club: Annie’s Jazz. It’s hard to change that because it’s been established for eight years and it wasn’t even my idea, it was the chap that asked me to start the club in the first place because he knew he might leave that pub. But if you could somehow…I think younger people go to jazz events in London but not so much in the provincial areas so that’s something...I don’t know how to tackle that. We get some younger people, occasionally, and we get, I suppose, 40-odd-year-olds but most of the audience is older. But how do you transfer those people to the local ones? I was talking to someone from a Portsmouth jazz club yesterday - she contacted me. And she said they struggle but 20 miles up the road in Chichester, that’s really a thriving club and also they get a lot of young people there: so what’s the difference? And I think it’s not just…it certainly can’t be what I book because that’s not really stayed jazz. And I know it’s getting the younger people interested more. And honestly, - you’ve probably done it yourself, because you’re quite young – young people say ‘I don’t like jazz.’ Really? You were just singing a jazz song: you heard it on an advert, or this, or you heard it there or you heard it on the radio, you were in the car or whatever. You probably know them. Sorry, I’m not directing that at you. [01:06:11]
Interviewer: No, no: I’m just wondering why you think that’s changed? Because once upon a time, not even that long ago really, jazz was very popular with younger people as well. It used to be the big music genre for a while: why do you think that’s changed over the years?
Annie: When you say ‘with younger people’, how long are you talking? Are you talking about the advent of Jamie Cullum and then now the demise of Jamie Cullum?
Interviewer: Well, yeah, because that’s the interesting thing that I’ve noticed: Jamie Cullum was very big for a while--
Interviewer: So why do you think that was and why did it die out a little bit?
Annie: And of course you’ve got Bublé as well, haven’t you, who’s at the forefront. But then he’s more of a, you know, he’s a huge showman. Why’s it died down?
Interviewer: Because it’s interesting where you mention London as well. Because London does have quite a young jazz scene that I’ve noticed as well. It’s quite interesting that it is different in different areas as you say.
Annie: Yeah, once you come out of London…Why go to London and spend the £100 - £30 on your ticket, £30 on your meal and then the travel and the rest of it - when you could actually come to Thorpe Bay, which is on your doorstep or wherever it is, whether it’s Wickford or wherever, and spend £30 and have your meal and have your ticket and have your bottle of wine as well probably. So, why not? But I don’t know, is the answer to that. I’ve no idea what’s happened. I mean, Jamie’s not really producing that much music that’s coming out. That could be something to do with his record company, I haven’t got a clue. And he was crossing over as well, wasn’t he, he was crossing over to pop. Perhaps that didn’t work. I don’t really know. I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, what do you do? Do you offer them tickets for half price or something? But you can’t…I don’t know how to tackle it and I’ve no idea what’s happened. I think, you know, there’ just not enough people putting enough of it out there. And it’s not played enough on radio: it’s sidelined. [01:08:48]
Interviewer: That’s one of the interesting things, actually: are there any radio stations that you think particularly do that well, getting the word out about jazz still? Or do you think that’s gone to some extent?
Annie: Yes. In my knowledge of radio, it has gone. Obviously, there’s still Jazz FM but that’s different from what it used to be in the way that Ronnie’s has completely changed as well. I mean, obviously there’s the Jamie Cullum programme, the Clare Teal programme, the Claire Martin programme….but there’s not enough. And in Europe, it’s thriving. Jazz is thriving in Europe. Sorry, I know we’re part of Europe--
Interviewer: --You mean the continental. ..That’s one of the things that’s come up. I’ve noticed a couple of other people have mentioned the different markets in different parts of the world and that is interesting that you mention it. Do you find, when you’re booking bands, that different countries have different prominent jazz interests? You might have more traditional jazz somewhere, or Dixieland.
Annie: I get approached by bands that are coming over from the continent and touring. I don’t know, I don’t think I know enough to actually answer that question accurately. All I can tell you is that I do get some emails from people. The Hungarian Dixieland Band, it’s quite big: bloody good! Really love to book them, can’t afford them! [laughs] But really entertaining – with dance as well. I’d love to do that. But, no, I don’t know enough, I’m sorry. I do know that in my travels there’s jazz everywhere: on the streets. I went to Budapest and I went to Prague and there was jazz all over the place, people playing jazz and lots of jazz clubs. [01:11:17]
Interviewer: When you were a teenager/young adult starting out in jazz yourself, did you find that a lot of your friends were interested in jazz when you were growing up?
Annie: No! [laughs] Not at all! No, I didn’t know anybody who was interested in jazz – only my friend who was interested in shows. She grew up on listening to the shows so we used to sing together some show stuff. That was because it crosses over because it’s a lot of the swing and a lot of the songs from the films, they are jazz standards, aren’t they? Did I know a single other jazz fan? I don’t think so. [laughs]
Interviewer: You said your parents were quite musical themselves: what was their attitude when you got into jazz as you got older?
Annie: I think…Good…I think my dad, we had a few conversations about it and he loved Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. I don’t think my love of gypsy jazz comes from that but he did. We had a few, as I said, we had a few discussions because he used to play piano and violin. My mum, she used to love the songs from the shows as well and she had particular favourites that she liked to hear me sing and they tended to be more the jazzy standards. I don’t know what the question was now! [laughs]
Interviewer: No, no it was just getting a sense for when you were first starting out in jazz basically, what people’s attitudes were to you being involved with it.
Annie: Well, I struggle to give tickets away to my friends now. I really do. I struggle to get them to the jazz club and they don’t even pay! [laughs] What do you do? I’ve got them there a couple of times. Yeah, that’s my friends from school. One of them, who lives in Kent, she’s interested and she appreciates really good music. She’s very interested and she’s actually come up all the way from Kent a couple of times but, no, I can’t really say any of them are interested in jazz. But that’s not…that’s not a reflection on jazz, it’s a reflection on my friends. [01:14:16]
Interviewer: Again, this may not necessarily be relevant to you so don’t worry if not. Obviously jazz has been a big part of your life over the years: has it ever been for you part of any trade union, political views? Because obviously for some people jazz has had that element as well.
Annie: No, not for me. Maybe a long time ago, perhaps before I even started doing the jazz club. I know quite a few people in jazz are actually quite heavily involved…[pause]. No it’s never been a factor for me, it’s never had an effect on me. I do know some people that are quite heavily involved in the Musicians’ Union. I am a member – I can’t say I am - I was a member of the Musicians’ Union up to last year. I stopped that in order to get the correct insurance for my club. I had to compensate financially one for the other. But I do intend to take out membership again, at some point. But, no, it’s never affected me. To my knowledge it’s never affected me. I’ve not had any dealings with it.
Interviewer: That’s fine. Thank you. Just leading into long-term, looking back at your career and to the future as well: are there any things that you’ve done over the years that you’re particularly proud of, that you would say is an achievement from your involvement in jazz – or music generally even? [01:16:21]
Annie: I think the whole thing is an achievement, actually. It took me quite a long time to realise that. It’s very personal to me – I don’t know, is that what you want or do you want generalisation?
Interviewer: That’s fine.
Annie: What I managed to do in running it at the pub and the kind of people that I managed to get down there for that length of time with, you know, not that much funding from the pub and supplementing it with the raffle, juggling things around – even still juggling things around. I went to the nth degree to facilitate things, simply because that’s the way I am really. When Liane Carroll came to play I needed a piano. I needed a portable, proper stage piano. So I managed to pick up one on eBay. I actually had to drive all the way to Reading to pick it up because it was in Wales and the man was stopping at a service station in Reading. So all those kind of things. But some of the evenings would be my…the things that I’m proud of achieving. And one in particular stands out always above others: the evening that I had Ramon Farran from Spain. I met his daughter because she came to The Smack to listen to the music. We got talking, became friends. She told me about her father, who’s the conductor of the National Orchestra of Spain. He’s a prolific composer of music. He came over, we met. I said ‘come on, let’s do something. Let’s have an evening of music.’ And we did. At The Smack. So he came. We had to engage quite a number of musicians; his music’s quite complicated and you have to be quite good to do it. It took an awful lot of effort from a lot people to put that evening on; loaning of equipment and loaning of time and practice. We had an element of humour involved in it. Natalia was singing, I was singing. Her father was playing drums and percussion. It was his music, most of it. We had some standards as well. We had to fly him over from Majorca and so it was a huge thing. And I think it is probably the evening I’m most proud of because it was so very different. How can you go down to your local pub and have the leader of the National Spanish Orchestra playing his music? So that and meeting people like Buddy Greco and becoming friends with him and his wife and having an evening where he performed. And even recently at the club I had an idea of having a history of latin jazz but involving Ramon – because Ramon, in Spain, he grew up playing with people like Sinatra who used to go over once Franco’s embargo ended. The jazz musicians would go to Spain and he would play with them as a young drummer. So from that perspective, from him and from the other legend that comes into the club: Robin Jones on congas. He really is quite a legend in Britain of Latin music. And I thought ‘let’s do an evening of a history of jazz coming from those two perspectives.’ But they’d both met years ago and they’d both played together years ago. So myself and Natalia put that together with Snowboy doing the interviewing. Do you know Snowboy? [01:20:59]
Annie: He’s a very well-known Latin musician. And again, lots of musicians involved, lots of effort involved by lots of different people. So, yeah, I think things like that. The whole thing is an achievement really. [laughs] I think it’s the variety of what I do and the things that I think of and the hare-brained schemes I come up with.
Interviewer: Do you feel like your jazz and Latin nights have had a particular impact on the local area? Or they’ve had a value for the local area?
Annie: Yeah, absolutely. Not many people, for example, Ramon Farran, had heard of him. But actually there was a group of lads – not lads, they weren’t lads anymore – they had properties in Spain and they knew of him because they said ‘God, he’s a really big deal in Spain.’ So it was cultural, I mean, hugely cultural. I did manage to get an article in the Echo about it and an advert I put in as well and people said ‘my goodness, what a cultural thing you’ve done here.’ So, yes. And then the evening at Thorpe Bay where they were interviewed and they spoke, a couple had just come back from Chicago where they’d been living for quite a while: they used to go to the jazz clubs there and they said ‘we went to them there and there was nothing better than this there.’ And so that wealth of knowledge and experience that people like Ramon and Robin Jones have, to be able to facilitate that is good. I am proud of that. [01:23:17]
Interviewer: Would you say that jazz itself has had a particular impact on British culture, British society over the years?
Annie: Yes, of course. It must have done, mustn’t it? Because it brought our music on, didn’t it? I know we tend to follow the States in everything as it progresses but it opened up our music. I think there are a number of American jazz musicians, black ones, that came over and started playing in bands over here that experienced that early, awful prejudice. They would obviously have influenced it hugely as well, as individuals. Short and sweet, sorry!
Interviewer: You’ve mentioned already about how you’d like to expand, for instance, but what do you see the future of your activities in the long-term being? Obviously you’ve mentioned the expansion but is there anything else or anything more about that?
Annie: Practically every musician that I’ve spoken to on the subject would like their own jazz club so literally their own building that they could put music on. That’d be great, I’d like my own building where I could put not just jazz, but kind of related music on. How do I see it progressing? Ideally I’d like someone to come to me and say ‘we’ve got this lovely venue: would you like to put your jazz club there?’ Not too far away from here. But I guess I’m going to have to go out and approach someone and say ‘look, I do this and it’s very successful. Please can I come here and do it?’ Because I think there’s a huge gap for what I do. So I guess the next one is to have another club and continue in the same vein. I myself, I’ve not done very much singing at all since I started the jazz club, really. I’d quite like to do a little bit more myself. I’ve really, as I say, done so little, I’m very out of practice. I would actually like to produce a CD myself and that would be my own take on jazz standards. But yeah, more of the same, I think, really. At least one other club and continue booking in exactly the same way as I book now, which is very varied. That’s it really. I can’t think of anything else. That is my plan. I would hope to have another club this year, but I’m still working on this one. My goal is to get this one full up every week. And as I said, I think you do need between 2,000 and 3,000 people, at least, dipping in and dipping out to get a club full. And I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen. Some help would be good but you just have to keep advertising. If you’ve got great musicians, you’ve got great quality music and you’ve got people that are coming down from London and you would normally have to spend between - bare minimum a ticket and travel - £50 – £100 plus, to go and see somebody in London and you can come here and you can see them – a ticket, a meal and a bottle of wine – for just around £30, why would you do that? [01:27:58]
Annie: But it’s bringing what’s in a capital city out into the local towns as well and I think I like the idea of that. Yes, I do like the idea of that. Why should the flipping capital city have it all?
Interviewer: I mean, where you’re looking at saying you would like another venue, would you like that to be quite close as well, then, to this region?
Annie: It doesn’t have to be so if you’ve got a suggestion. Do you own a building? [laughter] It doesn’t have to be from my point of view but I kind of tend to think…I know this area, that’s the only thing. That doesn’t mean anything because if I’m starting another venue I’m starting from scratch anyway. All it is, is I kind of know where the nucleus is, possibly the type of people that would initially come. So if you’ve got any suggestions.
Interviewer: I’ll pass them on. Just finally, then, just to sum up, what has jazz meant to you, for your life? [01:29:22]
Annie: What has jazz meant to me? I suppose first of all, it’s enabled me to sing the most amazing pieces of music and words written by the most amazing composers. You know, it’s a privilege to be able to actually sing those songs, especially if you can sing them quite well - which I can sometimes! [laughs] That, and from a personal point of view as well, I was ill. I’m still not well, actually, but I had to stop work because of my health and starting this jazz club part-time, it completely re-transformed my life and put me back in touch with a lot of jazz musicians and obviously introduced me to a lot more. And I’ve met some great people, some great customers, as well as musicians and singers. It’s a very big part of my life and it’s had a very big impact on my life. Yes, I think I’ll leave it at that actually.
Interviewer: That’s fine. Thank you very much, then.