Point of View
We asked eminent Australian
and band leader,
to answer the following question...
Has Traditional Jazz had its day?
by Eric Holroyd
My answer is a resounding ‘No’ as I firmly believe there will always
be a place for it in the scheme of things in music.
Traditional Jazz may not live on in the pubs and clubs that I’ve known
for the last thirty or so years though, and that’s mainly due to the
business aspect of financial support by fans of the music.
Every Traditional Jazz musician can tell endless stories of ‘fans’
either sitting on one drink for the entire session OR bringing their own
booze and/or food into a jazz venue that has both on sale, and relies on
those sales to pay the venue’s overhead and the band – yet doesn’t
charge any entry fee.
I could write a couple of pages on this aspect, but it’s best not to do
that I guess. I might just upset someone…
Instead, I’ll concentrate on the jazz music that I love best – which I
really don’t like to hear referred to as ‘Trad’ or ‘Dixie’ as I find
those terms a little demeaning.
I know that ‘modernists’, for want of a better word, often look down on
those of us who like the older music, and indeed I’ve been told by many
musician friends who have attended the Sydney Conservatorium of Music
that the jazz history taught there during a certain tutor’s era began in
Indeed, I was playing a big band gig and this tutor was in the band
also. During a break we naturally talked about jazz, and he conceded
that he often had the Conservatorium Big Band go ‘as far back as the
Duke Ellington book’. But, he added, he always removed the baritone sax
part from the Ellington charts as he personally didn’t like it! Thereby
missing the whole point, not to mention dis-respecting the wonderful
Harry Carney, who played baritone sax with the Duke.
The main reason that Traditional Jazz will live on, in my view, is that
this very exciting music was invented – or perhaps ‘created’ is a better
word – by some extremely good American musicians almost a century ago,
and the best of them are highly revered and respected by present day
musicians right around the world.
Mention Jazz in any company and sooner or later the name of Louis
Armstrong will come up. And rightly so, for he was an originator par
excellence. Sure, many of us present day trumpeters can take a stab at
those ‘fireworks’ solos that he created, often with startlingly life
like results, Sweden’s Bent Persson springing immediately to mind. Check
him out at
Australia’s own Bob Barnard was very much a ‘Louis man’ in his earlier
years, and can still produce very creditable performances of Satchmo’s
brilliant solo pieces if the time and place is right.
Potato Head Blues would have to be one of Louis’ most famous creations,
and here (to my mind) is the crux of the whole matter: Louis created
that brilliant stop chorus solo right off the top of his head, and as a
musical creation it is on a par written by any of the great classical
masters in my opinion.
I’ve always thought that Johann Sebastian Bach would have loved to have
been around at the birth of jazz, for he was a great improviser himself,
and I guess he could even have been a match for the great Earl Hines as
a pianist, given all those piano studies that he wrote for his own
One of my favourite recordings is ‘Switched On Bach’ performed by Walter
Carlos on the Moog Synthesizer, and I feel in my bones that Johann
Sebastian would have loved it too – bringing out, as it does, the
previously overshadowed second voice in ‘Air On A G String’ for
I should digress a little here and point out that my own musical
upbringing began at the age of four and a bit, when my father, a North
of England piano teacher, began to teach me musical theory – using a
Flash Card system of his own invention to do so. At the age of six he
began my piano lessons, which I continued until the age of 13, when
teenage rebellion set in and I ‘wanted to play brass like my mates’. So
I joined a brass band, playing variously tuba, trombone, and cornet. I
got my first professional music job at 16, playing 3rd trumpet in a
16-piece dance orchestra doing six nights a week. And I had no day job
either… Two or three years later, the British Government legalized
gambling, with the result that cinemas and dance halls all over UK
turned into Bingo Halls, and all of us pro musicians were out of work.
So I learned guitar, and went on the Working Men’s Club circuit with a
trio, and didn’t play trumpet for many years.
The point of all this is that my musical appreciation is very wide, from
Classical Music to Ragtime; Rock & Roll to Jazz; and just about anything
else in between. So I feel that I’m qualified to talk about it all.
My musical heroes include: Louis Armstrong (Natch!); Jerry Lee Lewis;
Jabbo Smith; Duke Ellington; Andres Segovia; Chuck Berry; Charlie
Parker; Red Nichols & Miff Mole; John Williams; Bix Beiderbecke; and a
couple of hundred other disparate characters.
So when I say that, of all the jazz I listen to and play, my favourite
is Traditional Jazz, and will continue to be so. Played properly, it is
a wonderful music, and there is a huge variety of early jazz both to
listen to and marvel at, on the Red Hot Jazz Archive at
http://www.redhotjazz.com/ You should check it out.
I’ve really only scratched the surface regarding the way that I feel
about this great music, and whilst I’m pretty sure that it may drop out
of favour when the current crop of fans who attend today’s gigs diminish
into permanent retirement, there will always be groups of people all
over the world who love the music and gather together for record
evenings and perhaps private performances ‘just for fun’, for
Traditional Jazz surely is lots of fun.
And that’s the way I like it.
Eric Holroyd, Sydney. 29 November 2007
© 2007 Eric Holroyd
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My kids used to play red hot jazz.
We were called "Doctor Jazz and Sons".
We recorded "Doctor Jazz" when Richard was 10 and Patrick was 11.
We are still on my website & why not?
They played as well when they were 7 ans 8.
Wonderful contribution from Eric Holroyd thank you.
Mark Whitty 2012
Posted by Mark Whitty on Sunday 20 May 2012
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