Scottish Jazz Archive Presentation, 14 July 2019,
The Underground, Teviot Row House Student Union, Edinburgh
The deepest recesses of Edinburgh University student union were an appropriate choice of venue for one of the most thought-provoking events at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (EJBF19): a presentation by the Scottish Jazz Archive (SJA).
After a short introduction from Dr Marian Jago, Lecturer in popular music at Edinburgh University, who emphasised the importance of ‘locally-grown’ music as a vital part of our community, two filmed interviews from the SJA were screened. These recent films, interestingly shot in black and white, of legendary Scottish jazz musicians/singers, Kenny and Violet Milne of Criterion Brass Band and Spirits of Rhythm respectively, and singer Fionna Duncan, evidenced a richness of lived experience in and around jazz music in Scotland.
Following the films, a short discussion of the origins and on-going work of the SJA ensued. Some two years ago Norrie Thomson, jazz enthusiast extraordinaire met with Dr Haftor Medboe, Associate Professor and Jazz Musician in Residence at Edinburgh Napier University, to discuss expanding the former’s Edinburgh Jazz Archive to include all of Scotland. Since then, whilst Edinburgh city seeks to become the digital capital of Europe, the SJA has been working with all alacrity to record the stories of jazz from the mouths of Scotland’s senior jazz musicians.
Norrie spoke of his sense of the music being of singular importance and of his own personal recordings of Scottish jazz dating back into the 1940’s, which one day will be available to all in the SJA. Dianne, the interviewer on the films, who helpfully comes from a documentary- rather than a jazz- making background, described the sense of the films constituting at least in part, salvage ethnography, whilst Haftor opined that such recordings are of great importance, as otherwise jazz histories can run the risk of being crafted to the point of fiction.
To this crusty jazz buff, it appears that the SJA demonstrates that, key as the actual music is – and recorded music will be an essential part of the archive – as important are the relationships around jazz, the people involved in making and loving jazz music in Scotland. It will be exciting to watch this archive expand over the next few years. Funding to do this must be assured.