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Gigging, Busking and Bending the Dots

How People Learn to Be Jazz Musicians. Case Studies from Bristol

John Berry

This book traces the learning experiences of the jazz community in Bristol, UK from 1945 to 2012. Grounded in a methodology of participant observation and case studies, it documents changes in the economic, cultural and educational circumstances faced by the players. In their own words, the musicians recall the influences that initiated and developed their musicianship.
Drawing on first-person accounts, the study traces the historical development of jazz music and musicians in Bristol. In the post-war years, players began to develop significant stylistic aspects in the jazz lexicon. Drawing on media sources and interaction in performance, players garnered a host of performing skills whilst suffering dwindling audiences and declining venues. Reforms in English music education in the 1980s offered formal opportunities to study jazz in the city’s schools, drawing minimal attention from institutions. Practical learning and playing opportunities offered by the Local Authority music service sustained a modest membership over the years. Post millennium, local schools, with one or two exceptions, showed little interest in jazz education. Nevertheless, maintaining its traditional stance, Bristol’s jazz community continues to exhort top quality jazz performances including compositions that match national and international standards.


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Abstract vii Foreword by Eric Wetherell ix Introduction Gigging, Busking and Bending the Dots: How People Learn to be Jazz Musicians – Case Studies from Bristol, UK 1 Chapter One Jazz in Bristol 1945–2000 5 Chapter Two The Jazz Life in Bristol at the Millennium 31 Chapter Three Bristol’s Jazz Musicians, the ABRSM and a ‘Portfolio of Skills’ 57 Chapter Four Jazz in Bristol’s Schools at the Millennium 85 Chapter Five Jazz Learning in Bristol within the context of English Music Education 109 Chapter Six Bristol Revisited 2011–2012 133 vi Appendix A How Jazz is Learnt 155 Appendix B The Development of Jazz 179 Endnotes 215 Bibliography 223 End piece ‘Against the Odds’ 243 Index 245

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