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Sunday, December 30, 2012

From Paul Bream's Jazz Alert

Over the past few years I've generally begun the end-of-year ‘Alert’ with a despairing look at the political and financial state of the world, turning to jazz as the consolation that might, from time to time, bring some light to the gloom and make the wish for ‘A Happy New Year’ not entirely futile.
The picture’s no better this year, but concern at the wider canvas has been overtaken today by the sad news of the death of Keith Crombie, owner, proprietor, and chucker-out in chief at Newcastle’s Jazz Café. (I have personal experience of this, having once been refused entry on the whimsical grounds that I looked too old, which seemed pretty ironic coming from a man who had the appearance of Methuselah.) 

That unpredictability of mood was an essential component of Keith’s character, part of the package, and most of the tributes that have already appeared on various blogs make some reference to him as “gruff” and “abrupt”. It’s true that he could be extremely spiky, especially in his relationships with other jazz promoters, whom he appeared to regard as part of a malign establishment conspiracy. But as recently as a month ago he was talking about the possibility of collaborating with Jazz North East, recognising that in these straitened times we all of us in the jazz community need to support each other.
And that’s the real key to what Keith believed in – a profound love of jazz, and the importance of keeping alive a scene that would give musicians the opportunity to play and develop, and audiences the opportunity to hear them on a regular basis. Sustaining the Jazz Café for twenty years was a massive achievement, and we all owe Keith a debt of gratitude for his insurmountable, if sometimes cussed, determination. And the best way we can repay that debt is by continuing his work, possibly at the Jazz Café itself (and it would be good if a way can be found to keep it going), and certainly through re-committing ourselves to supporting the music in every way that we can, whether as promoters, musicians, or audience members.
So let’s all make it a New Year’s resolution to support live jazz in all its many forms, by getting along to gigs wherever they happen, and ensuring the continuing health of the wonderful music that has inspired Keith Crombie and so many others.
A Happy New Year to you all.   
Paul Bream.

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