Why the Mercury revs me up

I know we jazzers are all supposed to root for the token jazz album to win the Mercury Prize, and surely one day it will.

I have to say I think Elbow had all the right credentials – really British sound, dedicated band working away despite remaining in the shadows, some cult credibility, etc.

If Portico Quartet had triumphed it would have been a variation on that Oscar scenario where the right director gets it but for the wrong film – in this case the right genre but the wrong band.

Which sounds like I am being a little harsh on Portico – it’s just that this so-called post-jazz is often a bit like jazz for people who don’t like jazz, eg rock and pop fans.

There was some excellent jazz-type jazz which came out this year which could have represented this broad style of music in a more potent way, I think – Gwilym Simcock’s album comes immediately to mind, but there are many other hugely talented British jazz musicians out there who have put out exceptionally fine CDs in the last 12 months.

Phil Robson’s strings and drums one is another example.

Yes, I know we are supposed to be hugely grateful that one jazz record gets chosen and so gives one band a marketing boost, but this going cap-in-hand to the rock/pop establishment does get a bit wearing.

Perhaps if a jazz album that really does say “we’re jazz and we’re proud”, instead of trying to pass itself off as something else, was to be chosen for the short list, it might have a chance.

You couldn’t mistake Elbow for anything but a British rock band, which is what we like about them.

Jazz groups should follow their example.



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2 replies

  1. I thought I was familiar with all the genres of jazz and then you throw in another one – jazz-type jazz. Does this mean I will have to reorganise my cd collection?

  2. I think you’re absolutely right, Peter. It’s a shame not to support the jazz nomination wholeheartedly every year, but I’m afraid to say that I have the view that the jazz entry should be something that jazz fans can be properly excited about. Polar Bear are utterly fantastic; Zoe Rahman is a gem. I understand that Gwilym came very close this year, by the way.

    It’s a horribly subjective topic, as all music criticism is, but I think that we have such an embarrassment of riches in our scene at the moment, and some proper, deep, beautiful, innovative and exciting jazz coming out all the time. I think the current scene could genuinely grab the public’s attention if they were pointed towards it.

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