July 26, 2012 by dontbringlulubook
It is fitting that when writing an article on such a varied musical style as Jazz, one that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century in the black communities in the Southern United States and has since developed and spread around the world, drawing on many different national, regional and local musical cultures to produce many distinctive styles, that it is the first year anniversary of the death of a modern day Jazz musician, Amy Winehouse.
Spanning one hundred years, Jazz can be very hard to define; improvisation is definitely one of its key elements, for in Jazz the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition exactly the same way twice. Like Amy, Ron and Doris Onions had been jazz enthusiasts since they met in their teens and whereas Amy drew upon the jazz influences she had grown up with to make her own music, Ron and Doris, as they describe in their book “Don’t Bring Lulu”, attended many a jazz festival to satisfy their love of the music genre, such as the Newport Jazz Festival at Festival Field in 1970 where Louis Armstrong topped the bill, only a year before his death, and although not well enough to play the trumpet he did sing a selection of his hits and was serenaded by half a dozen distinguished trumpeters, led by Dizzy Gillespie. They were also frequent visitors when living in France to the major Jazz Festivals such as those at Juan-les-Pins on the coast and at Cimez, up in the hills above Nice.
When Ron got the opportunity to go back and work in radio at the initial stages of the birth of Jazz FM, he said yes despite his reservations, as being a Jazz enthusiast since he was 14 years of age meant he had high hopes that he would now be in a job where every day would be like Christmas. Sadly, it was to prove one of the unhappiest periods of his life due to others’ inexperience, poor management, bad recruiting decisions, new computer systems and the struggle to keep happy the Jazz purists and the modern day popular Jazz listeners. The aim was to broadcast a programme schedule that balanced the various styles of Jazz that had existed since its birth at the beginning of the twentieth century such as Swing, Blues, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, Bebop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz Renaissance, Soul Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Jazz Funk, Smooth Jazz and Acid Jazz but in the Jazz world, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Despite the frustrating year, he still managed to air a 26 part history of Jazz by Charles Fox, a 16 part Duke Ellington retrospective, major jazz concerts from around the world, plus record review panels and personal choices by distinguished critics.
But as the trombonist J. J. Johnson said in an interview in 1988, “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will”. And it is that restlessness that makes jazz such an exciting and varied genre of music to be part of.