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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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Appendix B The Development of Jazz

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Appendix B The Development of Jazz Introduction This appendix considers the general development of jazz as genre and its salient characteristics, drawn from dif ferent perspectives of the music. Attempts to construct a historiography of the music suggest an initial meld of West African and European inf luences, grounded in the USA in the nineteenth century. The changing, forms and practices of jazz merged with other styles, borrowing, adopting and adapting elements of performance and orchestration, yet retaining an individual identity. The one essential element in the traditions and practices of jazz is that of improvisation, although many of the traditions and forms have become significant cultures in their own right, for example the blues, bebop, big bands or classic jazz. Wickes [1999] suggested that jazz is a naturally innovative form continu- ally straining at self-imposed boundaries of hard-won security, in order to forge new directions which themselves, in turn, become standardised. In this it is considered that the genre resists a specific definition. Such a mercurial notion of jazz has significant implications in understanding how the music is learnt. Personal aspects of musicianship such as style, structure, form and instrumental skills are essential characteristics in the development of the music. Players wrestled with demanding instrumental techniques and musicianship. They embraced jazz as a naturally innova- tive form as it inspired continuing processes of learning and development. Their interaction in a meld of bands, groups and combos promoted a rich and productive environment in which skills and musicianship were gained...

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