Jazz knows no boundaries (mostly)

Here is a blog post about #International Jazz Day which was this week. The headline and accompanying narrative that “jazz has no boundaries” caught my eye. The history of jazz indisputably was founded on many boundaries, and in the early music the musicians and audiences were segregated. I’m not a historian but that jazz was founded that way needs to be recognised when we think about the music that we love. Google “jazz knows no boundaries” then you’ll find pages and pages of items telling us just that. But really?

Jazz Day








Looking back through the various hashtag timelines it seemed clear to me that even in 2018 it doesn’t cross all boundaries – not gender.

I’ve been playing for over 30 years. I can’t tell you the name of a single female trumpet or trombone player. I never studied music so know my education is lacking, but even as a regular player, few names spring to mind. In all my jazz playing days I’ve never experienced another female musician in the band (apart from singers). Today in my more informal jazz jam circles, there certainly are a few more which is awesome.

How many female jazz musicians can you name who aren’t singers?

I’m struggling apart from some of the early piano players like Winifred Atwell, and the inspirational band leader of the all female band in the 1940’s, Ivy Benson.

The Wikipedia page on “Women in Jazz” lists 20 instrumentalists.

The Wikipedia page on “Women in Jazz” lists 20 instrumentalists.

Part of the challenge we have is in providing an accurate and unbiased account of females in jazz history in the first place.

I had a Tweet in response from someone who seems a really nice man which helped point out to me what might have been limiting me all these years. Someone else thought I was talking about jizz. I genuinely hope the next generation of musicians is having a different experience, but I’m not sure as other replies mentioned misogyny and shameful attitudes even in young male players today. So sad.

Aside from the blatant inequality of perhaps not being offered a gig in the first place due to being a woman, attitudes could be quite subtle and some male players would comment on my appearance (and those who know me know how little I give a *stuff* about that). Comments like “you need large lungs to play the saxophone” were making an obvious reference. Thick skin and rapid retorts were called for (nicely honed from a career in science I might add).

There is more subtlety that I see around me even today – particularly when I lived in a nearby city, but I must add not at all in my new-found jazz and music circles where I live now. Those guitarists who can only play in E loudly (you might know the ones I mean) would provide me with entire gigs often where I was left without a solo. It was a good reflection of their personalities I used to think.

So I do think #jazz has a problem, although I’d say I’ve never been professional and on balance would say I’ve had an amazing experience playing the most wonderful music on the best musical instrument in the world. I love jam sessions now where I can pick and chose which lovely folk I wish to play with. But sadly it is just like any other work environment, you will always meet a few pieces of detritus along the way.

But more females please. And if you are male and in a band, or your sister / daughter / niece plays in a band, just ask how they are finding it. And let’s create a better account of awesome females in jazz.

If you share some awesome jazz lady instrumentalist names on Twitter I will personally try to research them all and update Wikipedia. (Hopefully one of my Wikimedia pals will help me learn how to do this)!!!!!


Sax Keilworth


Ghosts – @ds106dc #tdc2096

Tell us a ghost story – #tdc2096

Well! Which to tell? This one is simple. The ghost(s) in our house where I grew up used to make the Christmas decorations spin around the light fittings. The baubles would spin at top speed and suddenly stop. Fact.





Lovely image from


DNA: The Secret of Smooth

It seems to me that the Yachtski scale, as a linear device, is increasingly becoming the subject of contention. And with other areas of the Yacht or Nyacht discussion delving into the history of smooth, it is perhaps time to apply some evolutionary genetics to advance our understanding.


Introducing Gregor Mendel

When we start to delve into the history of smooth we stumble across an unexpected character, the founding father of genetics, Greg Mendel. What we can reveal is that whilst he was breeding peas in his garden shed, he was also listening to smooth music. In fact, the his garden shed was an old converted boat house, and the pea seeds germinated to the calm relaxing vibes of yacht rock music.

Greg Mendel
Greg Mendel – fan of the #smooth

The science bit!

Recently discovered, some of Mendel’s historic sketches reveal early hidden hypotheses that refute the linearity of the Yachtski Scale. Combinations of what he called ‘smooth heredity factors’ could form only two phenotypes – either audibly smooth (so-called Yacht) or not smooth at all (so-called Nyacht). As he experimented he realised these always fell into the ratio of 3:1. This would account for why the combination of two (or more) supposedly smooth factors may on occasions (25% of the time) produce a non-smooth result (as detected by the fine measurements of the Yachtski instrument).

Taking the pea

However the phenotype was just part of the story and reflected a complex array of genotypic factors underneath.

Mendel's Early Notes
Mendel’s Early Notes








As Greg unravelled the mystery of heredity and unpicked the determining genotypes, he found dominant inheritance factors always included the featuring of the singers Kenny and Michael, and songs with the words ‘fool’, ‘heartache’, ‘sailing’ or ‘wind’ in the title. Further experiments showed that recessive inheritance factors that figured in the Nyacht genotype were the year of recording, and the presence of an out-of-tune alto saxophone solo. Perhaps the most radical finding, was the discovery of bass pairings that hold the complimentary strands of genetic material smoothly together. This discovery is often not accredited to Greg.

Bass Pairs
Bass Pairs


The CRISPR revolution

Toward the end of his career, Greg had achieved such intricate levels of smooth genotypic combination, it was only to be centuries later where his most hidden secrets were to be revealed. The latest CRISPR technology – Clustered Regularity Interspaced Smooth Pallendromic Repeats – only this week – revealed the wonders of his ultimate experiment. Supreme smoothitude and top of the Yachtski scale. Scientists revealed an animated GIF that Mendel put inside live pea genes all those years ago.




Hideously trying to catch up …



Blog DS106

Farewell old friends…


Dear darling cherished friends of mine,
Your smell bequeathed to passing time.
Mud-filled paths we have travailed,
In fitness fads to no avail.
Worn out treads and threadbare insoles,
Puddle-seeped, beyond console.
Stench-infused in every granule,
Desirable only to a spaniel.
From Vale of Belvoir down to Bristol.
I cry my friends, I sure will miss you.
As always inspired by @lemnsissay