12 June 2013


Al (whose channel is digitalalexa):
the greatest traditional jazz video-maker in the world.
I spent an evening watching YouTube videos of bands playing in English pubs and clubs. They were almost all TERRIBLE! Tunes were the same old well-worn standards. The musicians were mostly men of my own very old age. Their playing was uninspired, mechanical, dragging, weary, lacking creativity. In some cases the effect was just a din in which you could hardly pick out individual instruments. It was depressing.

Yet YouTube is a wonderful resource. It also offers us thousands of videos of music well played by good traditional jazz bands.

Like many of you, I guess, I spend a lot of time watching those videos. They give me a huge amount of pleasure and I am so grateful to the many persons, mostly anonymous, who have taken the trouble to make high-quality videos of outstanding live performances.

However, it is disappointing that so many jazz videos of live performances are of low quality. Here are the the most common faults:

(1) The sound is poor; or there is far too much external (non-music) noise. (This may be excusable only when the music itself is outstanding or historically important.)

(2) The band has been filmed when it happens to be giving a mediocre performance, such as those I mentioned above. It would be better for such films to be scrapped. There is a good deal of tedious, laboured playing (sorry to say - usually old men playing in English pubs! No wonder young people do not show interest in their music).

(3) Too much happens on the video before the band plays the first note of the tune. What is the point of showing a band standing around, talking amongst themselves for almost a minute? It would be better for these sections to be cut out, so that the music begins no more than five seconds after the video starts rolling.

(4) Similar to (3) above: sometimes a too-long spoken introduction is provided by the band-leader or an announcer. If there is nothing specially interesting in this, it should be edited out: the title of the tune can be given in the title of the video.

(5) The cameraman swivels around too much to film the surroundings and the audience, often with the result that the microphone is turned away from the band and sound is lost.

(6) The video-maker has filmed only part of the tune. Just when it's getting interesting, the video ends.................!

There can be other problems, such as camera shake or poor camera angles when the video is taken among a crowd of people. We must excuse these little defects if the musicians and the sound quality are good.

Among my favourite suppliers of traditional jazz videos are those whose channels are named:

Wild Bill
James Sterling

You can find their 'channels' on You Tube.

When I was in New Orleans during April 2016, I met one of the best full-time professional traditional jazz musicians - a guitarist who also occasionally puts a video on YouTube. He told me that he rejects about nine out of every ten of the videos that he films. Why is he so scrupulous? He explained that he wants the videos he puts up to be as near perfect as possible. Some are obviously spoiled by such things as traffic noise. But at the other extreme, he sometimes rejects a video simply because he notices that at some point a chord man has accidentally played a wrong chord, or a clarinettist has messed up slightly on a single bar. Maybe this gentleman is over-rigorous in censoring his videos so ruthlessly, but I wish there were a few more people who would have the courage to reject sub-standard material.

Finally, (despite the difficulty of trying to point the camera through a crowd of people) for an example of good, sensitive and intelligent amateur outdoor filming of traditional jazz: CLICK ON HERE.
And for a really exciting half hour of traditional jazz well filmed on YouTube (I have watched it several times): CLICK ON HERE.

And for a sustained piece of great musical entertainment filmed by digitalalexa, CLICK HERE.