The jazz scene in Sydney nearly died at the turn of the century. The Side On Cafe and Wine Banc and Soup Plus all closed, leaving us with no proper full time jazz venue, and nobody doing anything above ground, not even one night a week.
But music abhors a vacuum, the jazz community rallies, and before long 505 had moved into its new home and a whole lot of underground venues started featuring jazz. Then Sydney’s new licensing laws finally came through, and there were a hundred small bars from Marrickville to kings cross who wanted a small cool band to stand in the corner and play a couple of times a week. Suddenly, regular work for guitarists, drummers, bass players, even tubas and pianists got a look in.
The growing energy in the last 6 years means that there are now a generation of young musicians who have had most of their training in an optimistic environment. They have entered the con knowing that there were regular gigs and a listening audience waiting for them. That there are ears waiting to hear music and it doesn’t have to have a pretty girl singing out the front. The pretty girl could be playing drums.
And Australia’s escape from the big financial crisis means that some of those young musicians have been able to afford to travel to new York and Paris and Berlin, to study and play and hang out. And, because we in Australia have spare money to pay musicians and people who are interested in New music, some of them have been able to form bands who can perform in both hemispheres.
There is another thing too. I don’t know how it happened, but most of these young players are really lovely. Friendly, generous professionals without chips on their shoulders or needles in their arms. Maybe there is a generation of music loving parents who have brought their kids up right. Maybe the seasoned musicians have been teaching communication skills along with syncopation. But they are all a pleasure to work with.
And so Sydney has an international jazz scene, populated by musicians with broad experience and big ideas. It’s been a decade since we’ve had that, and it’ll be a decade before we’ll know how it pans out.