For many years now, Glasgow has boasted a proud and prolific music scene, with artists from all different genres playing in venues all across the city. However, jazz hasn’t made as much of an impact, but this may be all set to change with the opening of Sauchiehall Street’s newest addition, The Blue Arrow.
This basement venue is decked out with wood panelling, exposed brick walls, cabaret tables and a stage will play host to live jazz musicians every night from Thursday to Saturday. The Blue Arrow officially opened its doors to the public on February 18th, but held some preview events before the big opening to give the public a taste of what was to come.
The founders, Willie Knox, Cheryl Chadha and Iain Maclean have stated that they want to make Glasgow “the new home of jazz” and a base to inspire a new generation of jazz. Their mission is to bring the best musicians on stage, “whether they are from the other side of the world or from round the corner,” pointing out that “it’s talent that sets them apart”.
A Brief History of Jazz
To first understand jazz, we must look back into the history of the genre. Jazz first entered this world as a hybrid of European and African dance rhythms which were adopted by blues musicians in New Orleans back in the early 20th century. New Orleans is a port city, a melting pot of cultures that brings together people from all over the world. Musicians may not have been able to interact in the same languages as each other, but they shared the language of music. Through music, they would teach each other about where they came from and thus, jazz was born.
Over time there have been many famous and influential jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong and many more; they have all shared their art with the world and changed lives with it. Although styles have changed throughout time, including classical jazz, free-jazz, gypsy jazz, cool jazz and more, the overall foundations of jazz music are known and appreciated throughout the world. Throughout most of the early 20th century, jazz was at its height of popularity; people would make an evening of dressing up and heading to a jazz bar to see the mesh of cultures and dulcet tones play together on stage in harmony.
The Jazz Comeback
However, times have changed. We have seen music evolve and change so drastically and there is a lot more to listen to now thanks to new technology in instruments and music production. Since music has evolved so drastically, jazz has been somewhat left behind. However, jazz is far from dead. Now, we are seeing a re-emergence in its popularity, with hit films such as La La Land highlighting the timeless beauty of jazz. In the movie, Ryan Gosling’s character, Seb, sees himself as a jazz purist and is infuriated by the perception that jazz is a dying art. He talks passionately about why jazz is so important to him and aspires to have his own jazz bar in LA.
We could very well argue that in 2018, people are beginning to fall in love with jazz again, with more references to jazz appearing in pop culture. The hit Fallout video game franchise by Bethesda features a classical jazz score which quickly became very popular with younger audiences. Online games with an obvious jazz influence riddle the Internet, as people seek to be accompanied by this style of music whatever it is they’re doing. But other genres are also embracing jazz elements, with famous rap artist Kendrick Lamar has even brought back jazz into the 21st century his own way with his 2015 song For Free?, in which he shows off his ability to turn rapping into scatting in a way that makes jazz feel fresh yet still classic. And, as we’ve mentioned scatting, let’s not forget the seminal pop hit Scatman from 1994 – an isolated incident that still became quite popular.
It’s not just America who is seeing the re-emergence of jazz music in the 21st century, but Scotland is also seeing that jazz is still alive and well. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is known around the world for its comedy and music events throughout the summer, and its jazz events are hugely popular, with people from all around the world coming to see them. Not to mention, there are still dedicated jazz festivals every year in Scotland, including the Glasgow Jazz Festival, which draws huge crowds annually.
Glasgow: The New Home of Jazz?
The Blue Arrow is a venue with a mission: To make Glasgow a hub for international and local jazz talent alike, for people to come and experience the emotive experience that jazz brings. There is no better place than Glasgow to do this, as it is the largest music economy outside of London and the largest in Scotland. The guys at The Blue Arrow understand the importance of jazz, the way it makes people feel physically and emotionally, so they are seeking to provide a hub for talented jazz artists and devout jazz fans to connect and experience the magic that jazz brings. The Blue Arrow aims to nurture the talent of younger emerging jazz artists whilst staying true to the heritage of jazz and giving classical jazz a place to call home as well.
Jazz is making a comeback and Glasgow is the place to be for it. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the jazz lifestyle or are dipping your toes in for the first time, it will be interesting to see how The Blue Arrow changes the face of jazz in Glasgow.