Jazz is dead and we all should be worried.
The death of The Jazzgroove Association heralds the more concerning trend of culture in Sydney. To most Sydneysiders it won’t change anything on a day to-day level, but it shows us the trend away from nuanced relevant culture to a more passive consumption of our Sydney. Without fanfare The Jazzgroove Association held its last gig at the finale of the 2016 Summer Festival.
Not interested…? You probably should be. The Jazzgroove Association has in some way touched almost all the music that has happened in Sydney in the last 17 years. It has been the creative spike that gave some of our finest popular music artists their edge. It cultivated a space to present music not otherwise heard and paid these hard working musicians for their efforts. And through its high profile and good publicity, it gave these artists and their artistic endeavor legitimacy otherwise reserved for ‘proper’ art.
The Jazzgroove Association was many things but at its core it was an aspirational presenter of contemporary jazz and improvised music. Most central to its identity was a regular Tuesday night double bill that ran for 17 years. Beyond that it was a record label that hosted about 70 artists and a four-day summer festival that ran for seven years.
Many factors contribute to the death of an organisation like Jazzgroove. The Jazzgroove Association structured its budget around paying the performing artists as much as possible and that left very little for audience and brand development. Jazzgroove was largely dependent on government funding. In 2013 Arts NSW stripped of a lot of funding from the small to medium arts sector. The most recent OZCO cuts delivered a big hit to small and medium sized arts companies, including Jazzgroove. The Federal Government Australia Council Funding restructure reduced funding to Australia Council and reappropriated it to Catalyst under the guise of “support (ing) collaborations to develop arts and cultural projects including in relation to specific regions or priority areas.” Liberal governments have a good track record of funding arts but traditionally only well established arts orgs. Given its limited budget and funding The Jazzgroove Association was run by a group of (incredibly hard working) volunteer musicians, Often both taking the door money and performing. Ironically a proliferation of performance opportunities in Sydney has sounded the death knell. The Jazzgroove Association in its inception held to the freewheeling and risk taking verve of great art, is now without a venue or audience. The ‘success’ of small bars and other venues has made Jazzgroove “seem” irrelevant. A more diverse range of performance opportunities has diluted the once fiercely contested jazz gig.
It is concerning that Sydney has void where The Jazzgroove Association once held firm. Youthful, diverse, creative, progressive art music should be presented with care and valued for its searching nature. How can we answer the questions of identity and values that so trouble us as a young country without art?
Jazzgroove Artist Roll Call