Brooklyn Jazz Underground

The Brooklyn Jazz Underground, a newly formed collective, is an association of independent bandleaders with a shared commitment to improvised music. Through cooperative effort, members of the BJU strive to create greater awareness of their work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tanya Kalmanovitch: What I like about BJU.

Alexis' recent post reminded me that it's been a year since Alan and Alexis called the first meeting of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground. We've accomplished a lot since then: our website, booked a four-day festival (at Small's in New York City, January 11-14 2007), convened a panel discussion on the role of artists' collectives in the NYC scene at the upcoming IAJE conference, and released a CD representing a selection of our recent work as bandleaders, and launched a publicity campaign to get the word out about our work. But most importantly, we've created a formal structure and public face for the informal community that sustains our artistic efforts.

It's a cliche to say that New York is a cold, hard city. And as it is with all cliches, there's more than a kernel of truth in it. But I always come away from the BJU meetings with a warm feeling of community and possibility.

I like the heart and humour everyone brings to the meetings. I value the personal and professional relationships the group is fostering. And I admire how the BJU reflects the increasingly diverse, and ever-international character of jazz. Half of us were born outside the US (Germany, France, Spain, Canada and Denmark), and have chosen to build lives in New York for the creative opportunities the city affords us. Many of us lead bands from rather unconventional chairs (among us, a trombonist, two bassists, two drummers and a violist). There are two female bandleaders among us, which at the very least sets up something of a counter-example to the gendered nature of jazz culture.

As a collective, we have worked on group actions that help us to accomplish our individual goals. It's a mirror of what goes on constantly in the improvised arts. In my brighter philosophical moments, I think that the concept of the collective reaches its highest, best expression in music. I can't think of a better example of collective action functioning so purely to empower the individual's voice, while at the same time creating something greater than the sum of its parts. I hope that as an organization the Brooklyn Jazz Underground can mirror what music does so well, and serve as another example of what music can teach us all, if we know how to listen.

-Tanya Kalmanovitch


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