We caught up with Genevieve Lamb, the artistic director of PARRJAZZ, to have a chat about all the great things they’re doing in Liverpool. You can read the Q&A below.
Non-profit organisation PARRJAZZ was founded 12 years ago and is managed by musicians for musicians and music lovers. PARRJAZZ promotes live music performances by well-known international artists and up-and-coming jazz musicians in Liverpool and the UK, as well as facilitating music education opportunities.
PARRJAZZ is growing in numerous venues and is featuring a diverse range of local, national, and international guests.
Over the last few years, PARRJAZZ collaborated extensively with top Liverpool venues:
District, Future Yard, The Kazimier Stockroom, Phase One, Ma Boyles, The Philharmonic Hall, The Invisible Wind factory, Studio 2-Parr Street and The Jacaranda.
PARRJAZZ’s objective is to always book a varied lineup of artists to promote diversity and give a platform to an equally diverse and inclusive audience.
For the last 10 years PARRJAZZ has promoted outstanding international and UK artists such as:
Ghost-Note, Snarky Puppy, Liv Warfield, Mono Neon, Soweto Kinch, Get the Blessing, Bokante, Gilad Atzmon, Roosevelt Collier, Dennis Rollins, Forq, Charged Particles with Paul McCandless, Ant Law, Brandon Allen, Dave O’Higgins, Go Go Penguin, Alan Banes, Tom Harrison, David Lyttle, Jamie Taylor and many, many, more!
The music ‘menu’ is broad; angular, free-jazz, early roots, ragtime, classic swing, the coolest cool cats, jazz-rock fusion, prog, funk, etc.
The ‘PARRJAZZ Life Skills’ Virtual Course
The ‘PARRJAZZ Life Skills’ is a 10 week online course with weekly virtual sessions from professionals in the music industry from around the world – both on and off stage. The virtual course is created to empower established and emerging artists – to ask advice on a variety of music life topics and to give an opportunity to learn from music industry professionals.
Topics that include are:
You might be wondering why PARRJAZZ calls Liverpool home.. Artistic director of PARRJAZZ, Genevieve Lamb, answers why Liverpool is the main location for all these different jazz nights: ‘I think jazz is a music of expression, a music of protest, and the music worlds ‘freedom of speech‘ in a sense, this aligns well with the psyche of Liverpool’.
It’s great to see that more and more young people are brought forward by Liverpool jazz nights. Genevieve recalls how youngsters who said they did not enjoy jazz at all would come into a bar by accident and then leave smiling.
‘The scene in Liverpool has grown and grown to the point that there is usually a couple of jazz nights on any one week night in town’.
Genevieve Lamb added: ‘One thing that is absolutely apparent, is that the acts we bring from all over the UK and the world, to Liverpool, receive a hugely warm, enthusiastic and welcoming audience, and that is always appreciated by them’.
Genevieve Lamb, the artistic director of PARRJAZZ and a musician herself, will now answer some questions regarding PARRJAZZ and its significance in the music industry. Genevieve is a leading figure in the North West jazz scene and has represented the Liverpool Capital of Culture Campaign at events Nationwide. She is artistic director of Liverpool’s best established jazz promoters, PARRJAZZ, where she has had the opportunity to perform alongside great musicians such as: Snarky Puppy, Get The Blessing, Alan Barnes, Victor Brox, Digby Fairweather, Roosevelt Collier, Larry Gatlin and many many more!
Hi Genevieve, it’s so nice speaking with you! Huge congratulations in all you’re doing with this great organisation PARRJAZZ. Could you tell us a little more about it?
Hi and nice to meet you too Emily! Parrjazz is a not for profit organization and has been running for roughly 12 years. We evolved from a regular jazz jam night we hosted at The Metro bar, when The Metro shut we moved to Parr Street Studios and that’s when we officially became “Parrjazz”. We found a format that worked really well with a regular house band, made up of musicians from the North West, who all had the perfect combination of musical ability and open and encouraging attitudes. Each week we would have a star guest who would play the first two sets of three. Our bass player, John McCormick , who ran Parrjazz with me at the time, was a bit of a jazz hero and legend on the UK jazz scene and increasingly the guests we booked came from further a field. Eventually the night became well known nationally and that’s when the international acts started creeping in. So alongside the regular night we started to promote more stand alone, ticketed events with more established artists, often these would tie in with a workshop as I am also a teacher of music and passionate about bringing opportunities to students that they may not ordinarily have. A big turning point came for us when we promoted Snarky Puppy on their first UK tour. This was a huge learning curve for me and also a wonderful introduction to a fantastic musical family. I’d also by this point, lived in California for a while, and played music out there myself, so it became a natural development to bring over US friends. Pre covid we would have a regular Tuesday jam night with guest (usually a UK touring band ), Thursday “introduces” nights featuring emerging artists, weekly Saturday night events (still running) at the fabulous Ma Boyles Alehouse and Eatery and ticketed events at some of the larger venues in town. With covid, and also family commitments, we decided to re assess our next steps and now are mainly promoting larger ticketed events with touring artists alongside our regular Saturdays at Ma boyles – although there are always more plans in the pipeline!!
As mentioned above, PARRJAZZ is started and run by artists for artists. Do you believe it’s important that these kinds of organisations are managed by fellow musicians and why?
Yes, I think that as a musician you can understand the business in a different way to someone who maybe has more of a commercial business background. We are a not for profit, we are about the music, it’s not all about brand and money – although of course that comes into it as necessity! As musicians we understand what other musicians value in a performance situation, we know that priorities are sometimes different to that a non-musical business person may be aware of. At the end of the day the most important factor though is a driven passion for the music, you don’t have play an instrument for that, but you need to love music. It’s an incredibly soulful and fulfilling job but also incredibly stressful and challenging at times. At those times the passion drives you forward.
It’s always been crucial to support new and emerging artists, but in times such as this, it’s more important than ever. So, it’s incredible to see how PARRJAZZ not only promotes well known musicians, but also young and rising talent. What is the response to this and have many new artists taken use of this opportunity?
Yes we are very keen to promote young and rising talent. It’s really difficult when you’re first starting to get out there to get the gigs, and there’s some very creative and new genre busting music being made. We’ve always had a good response to our “introduces” nights and the many daily email requests for gigs reflect that. Lately, we have tried, wherever possible, to fit a local act as support to one of the more established touring acts in order, not only to give them the opportunity to reach a new audience, but also to meet some iconic musicians who I know to be supportive and encouraging. At the moment we are in the midst of funding applications to enable us to create a wider and more regular platform for new acts to play alongside more established artists.
A core PARRJAZZ objective is diverse representation and opportunities, to promote equality in all its events. The BLiM (Black Lives in Music) report states that there’s still a significant gap of opportunities between white and black artists in the music industry. How do you feel positive change can be implemented?
This is a major issue that I’m still looking for ways through. It is not only between black and white there is a significant gap of opportunities but also between female and male musicians. For many years I was the only female instrumentalist in the band, or in the jam session week after week after week. Racially of course there is a huge issue and I feel this goes way back to the education system in the UK and also, of course, the economic demographics. It’s many years since music lessons were free or widely subsidized in the UK and there is no doubt that racism was significant in the education system 20/30 years ago. Although not academically qualified to speak on this subject, myself and Jab at Parrjazz made a conscious decision to do what we can via our events to encourage and implement change. We consciously and actively book a diverse roster. Recently we had a couple of events at Future Yard in Birkenhead, where, between the musicians and the staff (including myself), there was true diversity, sexually and racially. This was noticed and commented on by several of the participants and I felt quite emotional that finally this could become the ‘norm’. Those events were very happy and balanced ships to steer!
Liverpool is the home to PARRJAZZ and is believed to be the main location for all the incredible jazz nights. Genevieve, many people may not associate Liverpool with the jazz stage, however, there appears to be a growing interest amongst Liverpool’s young community, who are now more than ever excited to hear more jazz. What do you believe has caused Liverpool to become so popular among jazz artists and listeners?
Liverpool has a long standing jazz history. Over 100 years ago the first US jazz band docked here before going to play around the UK. The Cavern, as is widely known, was a jazz club pre Beatles. The Merseysippi jazz band were successful internationally and would have the likes of Louis Armstrong come join them to play here! So it’s not so surprising that now there is a resurgence. Music is a major part of life in this city and between local musicians wanting to stretch their creativity and express themselves in new ways, and the students who come to study here, there’s a real musical melting pot! In Liverpool there is LIPA (set up by Paul McCartney), Liverpool university and Liverpool Hope university, all offering popular music degrees. Liverpool university with a specific jazz module. That’s a lot of music students want to go and stretch their chops and interact with other musicians. Also Liverpool is a city of expression, of protest, of free thinking, jazz lends itself to this as a music who’s origins lie in protest and expression!
Because Liverpool has now become one of the UK’s leading jazz stages, you’re expanding and showcasing artists from all over the world, in one of the articles, you mentioned that charging an entry fee for jazz evenings is still a challenge for you as promoters, and with equal access in mind, do you think this is even more necessary for well known touring musicians?
Yes. The fees of musicians and costs involved in putting on a show need to be covered. This is of course not specific to jazz, but in other genres I think there’s a longer standing acceptance that you have to pay to get into a gig. For a promoter to break even on a larger act they have to cover: a potentially larger artist fee, venue hire, staff costs (engineer/event manager/security), VISA and legal fee’s, backline hire, hotels refreshments, potentially transportation and marketing. That’s without taking into account the hours of work required to make the event happen. The only possible way to recoup this is on a ticket price. In a suitable situation, subsidized tickets can be offered in order to promote equal access, but unfortunately this isn’t always possible.
PARRJAZZ is committed to breaking down boundaries and making high-quality music easily accessible to everybody. Would you say it’s still difficult to explore the balance between maintaining occasional free entrance events alongside your ticketed nights while at the same time striving to pay musicians a fair fee?
Absolutely 100 %. This is why we have chosen to maintain only one regular free entry event at a venue where the owner truly appreciates and supports live music. The musicians are given a fair fee and treated well and are not just used as a ‘loss leader ‘ to get punters in and buying drinks. As a musician I know that the local gig fee is the same as it was 28 years ago!!!! I mean really!! How can this be improved on though? You can’t rely on people spending money over the bar to subsidize better fees, many bars wouldn’t filter the excess profits down to the musicians anyway, but also local jazz nights are notoriously not given Friday or Saturday night slots where people would be likely to spend more. I am passionate about access to jazz, and music, for all, but how can we actually drive up the musicians fee to anywhere near compatible with inflation, especially currently, if all gigs are free entry ?
As mentioned above, PARRJAZZ not only promotes new and established artists, but it also facilitates music education opportunities. PARRJAZZ has recently launched a project named ‘PARRJAZZ Life Skills.’ Could you tell us what’s it about?
Parrjazz life skills came about after some discussions between myself and one of our patrons, Robert Sput Searight, a musician who is also passionate about inspiring and helping others. As I myself also work in music education in the universities and secondary schools, I was aware what people may benefit from in a wider sense of practical musical education. The idea was to cover all main aspects of a music career and for the course to be open to the general public and not just registered students, but also to cover areas that are sometimes only brushed over in music courses. I curated it by firstly thinking of each topic area that I knew to be relevant to a music career and then matched the topics with the most suitable industry expert I’d worked with personally. The sessions ran with a short introduction from each expert and then opened up quickly to questions in order for participants to get the most value out of their time. As this was conducted virtually we had global reach and could bring experts from all over the world, or fit them in when they were touring. Parrjazz life skills was a truly inspiring and informative process, I feel honoured to have been able to participate in it myself let alone organize it! We will be doing another series so if anyone is potentially interested they can drop us an email.
The road to success in any industry is challenging, and the music industry is no exception. When talking about music, do you believe that there is a clear ‘roadmap’ to success or what advice can you give people to carving out their careers?
It sounds like a cliché but really the main advise would be to be truly authentic and passionate in what you are doing, whether that be songwriting, performance , production or management/promotion. I remember when I was at LIPA and Mark Ronson came to do a masterclass, his advice was to create music you love and not to over think what people want to hear as you can’t predict that and it changes with the seasons. In the words of Tower of Power; “what is hip today will soon become passé’. The sooner you find your own identity the better and then carve that out, strengthen that sound or passion. Obviously marketing, social media and all of that side of things needs to be strong and where possible I’m a great believer of getting experts in to cover areas you are not so experienced in yourself or freeing up the time to practice and play whilst handing over logistics to an appropriate person. Also, be aware of the people around you in the event world, you never know who may help you or make the introduction to someone that suddenly changes your world. It definitely happens.
And lastly, it would be great to hear what are PARRJAZZ’s future plans?
Welllllllll…. We are having a little rest over the summer though the regular Saturday nights continue . We will be starting ticketed events again in the Autumn but I’m only able to announce one of these currently…. so watch this space! Parrjazz is applying for funding for a very exciting project to run later in the year and we’re very much open to new collaborations and projects. There will be more educational avenues covered also and another Parrjazz Life Skills Webinar course. I’m really excited to be programming events including some fabulous musicians and inspirational human beings!
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