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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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Chapter Six Bristol Revisited 2011-2012


Chapter Six Bristol Revisited 2011–2012 Introduction This second phase of the monograph is grounded in research carried out a decade after the millennium. It explores changes and developments drawn from earlier themes retaining the notion of context as a singular principle towards the realisation of data. In analyses, such data explores and con- siders aspects of change in the circumstances of Bristol’s jazz musicians. Changes in the city established an environmental – bedrock for the players, promoting a developing urban landscape in which to experience the jazz life. Together with the architectural developments of housing, shopping malls, a refurbished concert hall and new schools, the cultural map of Bristol broadened although the profile of jazz in the city remained modest. Thematic paths considered in the first research period of the mono- graph form the basis of this second phase. 1. Social-cultural and Stylistic Change 1945–2012 2. Bristol as Cultural Host 3. The Bristol Music Service and Jazz 4. English Music Education and the National Curriculum 2012 5. Jazz in Bristol’s Schools, 2012; Case Studies 6. Bristol’s jazz musicians 2012: Case studies. 7. Summary. 134 Chapter Six Socio-cultural and Stylistic Change 1945–2012 The socio-cultural model of jazz in Bristol adopted throughout this study gained a further dimension in the post-millennium years. The notion of ‘opportunities and the status quo’ promotes a ready performing environ- ment for players to develop their work and to retain traditional styles. It follows in the wake of previous structures informed by the experiences and...

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