CONFERENCE REPORT: Le réseau des diffuseurs de jazz in Paris

A positive tone:
Alain Loiseau from the French Culture Ministry (L)
and Philippe Ochem, Chair of AJC (R). 

A conference discussing how jazz is promulgated and supported in France coincided with one of the main events in the French domestic jazz scene, the annual meeting of AJC (Association Jazzé-Croisé), and their Jazz Migration showcase. These events are a curtain-raiser for the organisation’s 25th anniversary year in 2018. Sebastian attended the conference and writes:

There was an underlying positive tone at yesterday morning's session with six presentations and a summing-up (full details below). The final speaker of the morning was Alain Loiseau, responsible for music in the French Ministry of Culture. He went out of his way to stress that the revolution started by Culture Minister Jack Lang in the early 1980s was now complete and that jazz is now part of the “genetic inheritance” of the Ministry.

He said how impressed he had been by the morning's speakers and their evidence of working for the public good in several regions of France. A sectoral study is going to start shortly, and the people who are close to the politics of the scene that I spoke to yesterday were interpreting this as meaning that jazz would, more than likely, come out of the exercise with its status and funding enhanced.

There is an interesting parallel with the situation in Germany where the Culture Minister in the last government Monika Grütters also made persistently encouraging noises about the unique features of jazz in serving as a model fot the building of cohesion and demonstrating the habits of working together.

The Director of AJC, Antoine Bos, had two phrases which summed up extremely well this sense of a model to be followed. "We are looking here at a craft (artisanat) being practised by self-standing individuals for whom it is natural to build networks.” And later: “What these actors recognize in each other is a wish to work together.”

What the work of structures like AJC does is to ensure that these networks are about action (des réseaux d’action), and that over the long term, professionalism and professionalisation can be - and have been - increased by an organisation like AJC which provides consistent and coherent support for the national scene.

Philippe Ochem, who is Director of  Jazzdor in Strasbourg and in Berlin, and is also President of AJC, stressed repeatedly that such work can only be effective if it takes the long view rather than focussing on temporary fashion (otherwise known in some more short-sighted circles as “relevance”). He produced a telling phrase: “You don’t do young just because it’s young.”

Denis Le Bas and Airelle Besson of Festival Jazz sous les Pommiers..
with an apple symbolizing the sense of cultivating and making things grow.
There had been speakers from the Jazz Sous Les Pommiers Festival, director Denis Le Bas and Artist in Residence for the past three years Airelle Besson. The pair were speaking to the theme of "helping the jazz garden grow in rural areas". They were working their agricultural metaphors hard: irrigating, disseminating, etc, and even showing off an emblematic apple (the festival's title means 'jazz under the apple trees'). That said, they also gave several solid examples of work which they had done in schools, with the disabled and in the broader community. There were two speakers from Brest who talked about how the lack of a permanent venue had forced them to develop habits of collaboration and self-reliance.

The first pair of speakers had riffed on the theme of freedom. A social scientist and author, Alexandre Pierrepont talked about the freedom struggle, and effortlessly developed a quite overwhelming sense of his conceptual authority, whereas violinist Régis Huby quietly sketched a very different sense of what freedom was all about for him. It is about the personal, about artistic choices, about avoiding “cloisonnement” (compartmentalisation) and “the liberty of a performer to say what she or he wants to say”.

After a final, virtuoso, wide-ranging and rapid-fire expatiation from Pierrepont, the moderator Christiane Louis, from the Cité de la Musique who had hosted the event, suggested to Huby that perhaps..."the musician might like to be granted the last word?"

He thought about it for a moment. His response, mezzopiano, said all that needed to be said in just two words: “Ça va.” (I’m fine.)

LINK: Conference Programme and full list of speakers - in French

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