Back in 2012 I floated the idea in the U3A newsletter of forming a Jazz Appreciation group. It was done more in hope than expectation as I thought it might attract the interest of a few members at most. To my surprise and delight the response was very positive and so about 12 people turned up at my house for our inaugural meeting in June 2012. At this meeting we introduced ourselves and briefly outlined our particular area of interest within jazz and formulated our only 2 ‘rules’-
1. We would proceed by democratic agreement as to meeting content
2. We would respect each others musical choices
Our initial meetings settled into a pattern of working our way through the ‘History of Jazz’ DVD box set in 45min. Episodes, followed by each member providing a piece of music of their choice on CD, Vinyl, cassette, MP3, or You Tube to play to the group. These choices quickly illustrated how broad a church jazz is as they ranged from early New Orleans/ ragtime to Miles Davis/ John Coltrane. These choices are often accompanied by interesting background information and discussions about the music and musicians involved, and occasionally friendly discourse as to whether it was jazz or not. We could all agree on what was definitely jazz eg. Louis Armstrong or Count Basie and what was not eg. Wagner or Cliff Richard, but there is a blurring of the edges of jazz, what someone called ‘the unguarded frontiers of jazz’ ripe for discussion.
Members are encouraged to give a presentation at a meeting and so far topics have included ‘New Orleans and Beyond’ and The Music of Duke Ellington,’ and many other profiles of jazz musicians and jazz genres.
O several occasions we have had the pleasure of Ted Beament, a wonderful pianist, playing and talking to us about his life and music, a real highlight of our year. In June 2017 we arranged for the pianist, arranger, bandleader Keith Nichols to talk and play for the group and he returned in 2018 for another appearance at our meeting. Further visits from professional jazz musicians are planned
Other special events have been:-
- a visit to the National Jazz Archives at Loughton a treasure trove of information and memorabilia, much of which I suspect donated by the widows of recently deceased jazz enthusiasts and where my collection will probably end up! Also a group visit to the new Jazz Centre at Southend opened in 2016, an exciting new development which includes a 110 seat cinema/ concert venue where Jazz-related films are shown on a regular basis and the frequent live jazz concerts, plus a museum of jazz related memorabilia.
- Arranging Jazz concerts for the members of the Basildon & Billericay U3A, the first of which took place in Dec.2014 which was well-attended and well-received with further concerts taking place in January.and October 2015, and January 2016, and March 2017, November 2017 and one planned for November 2018, they now look to become a regular event in the U3A calendar.
- Some members have attended the National U3A Jazz Study Days and some have attended a Jazz Weekends at a holiday venue, and various Jazz Festivals.
- An annual Xmas night out at a local jazz club plus trips to hear live jazz at local venues.
- A Jazz Cruise along the River Chelmer entertained by the pianist Ted Beament
Since the start of 2019 we have had presentations by members on Art Pepper and the iconic Blue Note jazz record label. A talk, open to all U3A members, by the famous jazz figure Digby Fairweather is planned for May, plus the popular annual jazz concert will take place in November.
The JAG continues to flourish and attract prospective members to the extent that I have, reluctantly, had to start a waiting list due to the space limitations in my front room ( 18 members attended our last meeting). Perhaps time for someone to start JAG 2.
Mick Fryer, JAG group coordinator