Tuesday was tough. Only a small number of people came to Out Front!; and although the gig was magical and I am always happy to see people really enjoying and engaging with the music, I was saddened by the lack of people there.
This isn't the first time this has happened, however; it's just that it isn't something I write about very often. But I was asked whether seeing a low turnout demoralises me, and so I wanted to write about the compulsion, regardless; that thing that makes promoters "continue attempts" (paraphrasing Earle Brown) in spite of money and while scaling the cliff-face of minimal acceptance.
I generally forget to talk about my first experience of promoting events, which was at the University of Birmingham in the late Nineties. Tony Dudley–Evans will vouch for this, since that's when we met: I was the founder of Birmingham University Jazz Society and Tony and I had worked out a deal for members going to Birmingham Jazz gigs. It took some time, but I was able to build a core of people that wanted to play and listen to jazz. When I began putting on gigs of my groups (the quartet; Symbiosis Ensemble gigs; a few solos) in Derby, there were moments where I would look out at the number of people and think "why am I doing this?", but that dread—and it is real dread—was usually dissipated by the music. Then, when I focused more on putting on other people (usually because they had previously tried to get a gig in Derby and failed), that dread would appear with more vigour; but the quality of music would usually shield me. And it is the memory of that feeling, of being transported by listening, is enough to make me want to get up and try again; and to share that feeling with others. The sadness I feel is taken over by the determination to once again share the art with other people; and to have that art happen here.
Tuesday was tough: but if I get a another chance to put on music as beautiful as that again, then I'll take it.