“I have heard that Europe would really like my music!” Part I
I wish I had a couple of bucks for evertime I have heard this from artist’s that I talk to. And you know what, they just might be right. But first there needs to be a heavy reality check. Times have changed and so has Europe.
There was a period when Europe had a heavy love affair with American jazz artists as well as Blues artists. I am not a jazz historian but in summary somewhere after 1945 during the years of Bop (1945-1950), Cool (1950-1955), Hard Bop (1955-1960), Free Jazz/Avant Garde (1960s), and Fusion/Jazz Rock (1970s) jazz was held up as almost a pop music in Europe where it was fertile ground for American jazz recording arists (I use the term recording artists to mean the time when record labels paid for recordings, promoted them and even gave tour support) to be booked for concerts and clubs, press conferences, etc for good fees with there music being played on radio and eventually TV). Many of the great classic great jazz artists of which the majority were Afro-American (The Afro-American roots of jazz which we take for granted in the U.S. didn’t really exist in Europe) that we now use as role models actually moved to Europe for a part of their lives and some for the rest of their lives as Europe could support their art much better then America. These artist included Sidney Bechet, Kenny Clarke, Arthur Taylor, Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin,. Racial tension was less pronounced and European audiences were far more appreciative. The number of artists living in Paris has become legendary with several movies written about those times.
By the 1980s there were more notable Euopean jazz personalities and styles from many of the European countries. Some had come through be-bop, while the new generation was affected by free jazz and Coltrane as well as fusion. By that decade, jazz education was well on its way throughout Europe. In fact, the 80s represented a virtual explosion of interest in jazz with more combinations of European and American musicians. There had always been a tradition of an American soloist(usually a horn player) playing with a European rhythm section. That trend increased during the 80s when even lesser known musicians were being invited to play with Europeans. At this point I will withdraw myself from the history of Jazz in Europe and give you what I think is a pretty definitive essay on the subject from non other than US Saxophonist Dave Liebman http://www.daveliebman.com/Feature_Articles/europe.htm
So where are we now:
Stay tuned for Part II as I will give you some insight into what my experiences have been over the last 5 years in Europe.