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Sharing jazz across oceans, JJA style

Jul 14th, 2012 | By

The jazz diaspora is distributed throughout this planet, but what jazz lovers seldom do is make connections beyond their own scene or country. As a member of the JJA living in Auckland,

John Fenton, photog-writer

New Zealand, I find these interconnections with the wider jazz world to be of vital importance.

During a recent JJA Awards discussion on Facebook, I connected by chance with fellow JJA member Eddie Becton from Los Angeles.  We exchanged a few messages and then swapped email addresses. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had common tastes in jazz. A strong and abiding connection was made.

Eddie Becton

Eddie had suggested that I listen to his show on KXLU and when I looked it up I saw that the next guest was to be jazz pianist Steve Kuhn. I messaged Eddie to tell him how much I was looking forward to that because Steve Kuhn is a favorite of mine and popular in New Zealand.

I downloaded the station channel, worked out the time difference and eventually settled in to listen.  Steve Kuhn gave a long and extremely informative interview, but minutes in he and Eddie had changed focus for a few minutes. I heard Steve speaking to me directly. “John Fenton . . . John in New Zealand . . . Hi man. I would love to visit your country, make it happen. Get my ass down there man.”

Eddie had set that up knowing that it would make my day and it did.

Since then I have been an evangelist for KXLU and there is now a NZ audience for Eddie’s show. Eddie is a generous man and he has even extracted audio from one of my YouTube clips and played it on his show. This featured JJA Jazz Hero Roger Manins.

For my part I am learning much more about the LA scene and am able to direct Kiwi musicians to clubs like the Blue Whale. Eddie is our man in LA and we do what we can to support him.  This LA connection is a small window into the wider Jazz world and it works for both of us.

We have a strong and growing jazz scene in Auckland and maybe no one knew that. Eddie is passing on the good word. Facebook, Twitter, and Internet radio have made us neighbors.

The recurrent themes of the JJA Awards this year were decentralization and community.  Finding our place in the cyber world.   This was an important message and JJA president Howard Mandel emphasised it often.  Decentralizing our communications and taking ownership of the message city by city is how we will grow this music. We are all in this and New York cannot carry the weight alone.

My city of Auckland has produced a number of internationally recognized jazz stars like Alan Broadbent (Quartet West), Mike Nock (Fourth Way) and Matt Penman (James Farm). They inspire us, but as proud as we are of these great musicians it is the interconnectedness between jazz scenes that will lead us to our place in the sun — the global village that is jazz.

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6 Comments to “Sharing jazz across oceans, JJA style”

  1. avatar Eddie Becton says:

    Wow! John, while I am rarely at a loss for words, you “stumped” me this time. Your letter made my heart smile, and reminded me yet again (which I never forget) that jazz is such a worldly music. And, perhaps even more salient, how jazz has the capacity to aid communities in dissolving social, ethnic, economic, philosophical barriers we too often allow ourselves to get “boxed” into. So, my brother and Kiwi friend, I say with all my heart, thank you, thank you thank you!

    Just as you share with friends, relatives, and fellow jazz lovers your high regard of The Jazz Journey, I, too, boast loudly about “my new Kiwi friends” to anyone and everyone who listens. I smiled when I read the part about Kuhn. As you know, he’s not at a loss for words, and, yes, it was strategic on my part because I knew how much you both desired to meet and experience each other’s vibe in person. Eventually, it will happen, and even though Kuhn’s “get my ass down there” comment made me think about the FCC, frankly, my attitude was, “What the hell, if they fine me (which I seriously, seriously doubt they would have ground to stand on), so be it, it was ALL worth it.”

    Finally, as I’ve said many times on my show, it’s not my aurally delicious flight – it’s yours, as well as every other listener out there. Let’s face it, I would not have a real purpose were it not for people like you, Darien, Susan, Howard, and everyone else who tunes in. I don’t take lightly, in any way, that the music I play inspires, incites, and touches people. So, it is indeed an honor and a responsibility I welcome. For that, brother, thank you! Oh, before I forget, tomorrow’s flight will be straight music, no guests, so rest assured I’m going to dedicate some smokin’ tunes to ALL the really, really cool Kiwi brothers and sisters I’ve been blessed to have connected with on this wonderful medium – the internet. I’ll see you in First Class tomorrow!

    Your brother,
    Eddie Becton
    p.s. I sent you a package of goodies this past Monday, so I hope it gets there soon. Trust me, you’re going to dig its contents!

    • avatar John Fenton says:

      Eddie – thanks for your words brother. This is how the JJA rolls. With a little imagination and mutual support we will all grow this scene

  2. avatar Stujazz says:

    Well done John – great to see our antipodean jazz voice gaining airtime on the World stage. Keep up the good word mate!

  3. avatar Tom King says:

    What a nice thread, John!
    A visit of Steve Kuhn would be great, and how sad that John Good won’t be around to enjoy one of his favourite musicians.

  4. avatar Eddie Becton says:

    Howard, thanks for updating the picture! I recognize, better, the dude in the photo now. 🙂

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