Live Jazz Is Adapting to Lockdown

Jazz is alive and flourishing:

If there’s anyone most qualified to navigate the uncertainties of a global pandemic, it’s a jazz musician – they’re used to improvising! Jazz has survived through countless social changes; a global pandemic won’t kill it. One commentator said this week ‘jazz musicians are amongst the most adaptable of our species as life mirrors art and we improvise our way through – we’re uniquely qualified to weather the storm’.

Indeed, jazz is adapting to the ‘new normal’. However, it hasn’t been without its struggles. According to the Jazz Foundation of America, more than a dozen influential jazz and blues musicians have died after a battle with the virus including Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango and American pianist Mike Longo. These tragedies highlight the seriousness of the pandemic and its human impact on the jazz community.

Live performances are out of the question due to the restrictions of social distancing and with the lockdown of venues, jazz has moved from the dark corners of artsy clubs to online platforms. Like all artists, jazz musicians are finding a way to keep their music alive and thriving during the global lockdown. It’s sadly true that the entertainment industry has been one of the worst hit financially by the pandemic, but jazz is still alive.

Online Jazz Concerts:

Live virtual jazz concerts have (temporarily) replaced real live music. They aren’t the same as a club, but online jazz is still an enriching experience for jazz enthusiasts and offers the opportunity to hear some of the great jazz musicians alive today. Here are a few online jazz events you can stream from the comfort of your sofa:

Live From Our Living Rooms is hosting daily live streams of some of the current top jazz musicians in the world. Their mission statement is to ‘present musicians of the highest calibre in virtual performances to audiences worldwide that provide alternative revenue streams while live venues are unavailable during the COVID-19 pandemic.’ Performers have included Chick Corea, Joe Lovano, Becca Stevens, Bill Frisell, Christian McBride and Christian Sands. For those who love jazz, Live from our living rooms is an excellent place to experience live music and support artists.

London based pianist Liam Noble has been streaming live weekly solo living room concerts on Twitch TV every Saturday at 4pm.

The Mingus Big Band has been streaming Monday night solo performances from each musicians’ homes at 7.30 Eastern Time. Previous streams include live performances by bassist Mike Richmond and pianist Helen Sung.

For full list of live steamed jazz concerts day-by-day check out Jazz Blog’s post here.

And for those not as jazz inclined, singer songwriter Lianne La Havas is streaming a live concert from London’s Roundhouse on July 15th to celebrate the launch of her third album.

Live from Our Living Rooms

The Future of Jazz:

What will jazz look like in a post-pandemic world? Live streaming concerts will only be a temporary solution – music is a social art and the experience of being in a real venue with live musicians can never be replicated or replaced by virtual concerts. Hopefully, we will see a gradual return to venues and clubs as lockdown eases and social restrictions are lifted, but when this is likely to happen isn’t all that clear.

In a recent episode of You’ll Hear It (a podcast from Open Studio, hosted by Jazz pianists Peter Martin and Adam Maness), Peter and Adam discuss the future of live jazz. They have an optimistic outlook although Peter highlights that the authenticity of jazz and the audience-musician energy of improvisation cannot be captured online. As a jazz pianist myself, I understand this issue. The magic of improvisation is partly due to the feedback from a live audience. Virtual concerts create an artificial barrier between musician and listener and takes away a big part of what jazz is all about. You can listen to the full episode and their podcast here.

Overall, it looks like the online concerts and live streams are here to stay for a while. Jazz has adapted to the current climate and online streaming offers a way to get artists’ music out there and remain relevant. Streaming is better than no concerts at all and gives musicians the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

I’ll leave you with a track from Christian Sand’s new album ‘Be Water’: