Voice for Jazz Musicians in Europe at jazzahead! 2021

By Pedro Cravinho on May 21st, 2021

I have recently participated in jazzahead! 2021. For those less familiar, jazzahead! is an annual trade fair and festival dedicated to jazz, held in the German city of Bremen. Since its premiere in 2006, it has grown to a several-day event combining music showcases and sessions around jazz. The last edition was online and comprised a broad range of jazz-related debates.

I was involved in the panel ‘Voice for Jazz Musicians in Europe’ representing various European jazz unions and associations: Svensk Jazz (Sweden), FMJAZZ (Spain), Sonart – Musikschaffende Schweiz (Switzerland), Portuguese Jazz Network (Portugal), Midi Musicisti Italiani Di Jazz (Italy), Grands Formats (France), Jazz Danmark (Denmark), Deutsch Jazzunion (Germany), BIM Beroepsvereniging Van Improviserende Musici (Netherlands), NTB Varbond Voor Musici (Netherlands), Music Austria (Austria), Norsk Jazzforum (Norway) and Jazz Finland (Finland).

In the panel were three members of our project: Fleurine Mehldau (vocalist, composer and lyricist, and Board Member BIM) and Urs Johnen (double bass player and Managing Director of the German Jazz Union), and myself (as a Senior Research Fellow at Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research and Board Member of the Portuguese Jazz Network), together with two distinguished guests: Barbara Gessler, Head of Unit Creative Europe, European Commission, and Franz Romeo, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament.

The panel started with our joint presentation sharing the results of our survey that involved 1500 professional jazz musicians across twenty-three (23) European countries. And, the debate kick-off with a statement from the last slide from our presentation asserting that ‘96% of all participant believes it is crucial to have a united voice of jazz musicians in Europe to improve working conditions for professional jazz musicians.’

Over more than one hour, we had a stimulating discussion with our guest speakers about the (precarious) future of jazz in Europe. Ironically, it took place on May 1, Labour Day, with many musicians across Europe still waiting for financial aid since the beginning of the pandemic. Better Days are Yet to Come!