Oxford

Parliamentary Jazz Awards is country's top jazz prize

Prestigious music award are usually glitzy televised events attracting major sponsors and national broadcasters. But not in the world of jazz - the country's biggest jazz prize is handed out at the Houses of Parliament by a group of MPs.

Image caption Michael Connarty MP said the awards aim to help develop Jazz

"It's the saxophone sound for me," says Michael Connarty MP chair of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.

"It's that wailing thing that suddenly gets you and makes you feel either uplifted or sad. It's a tremendous instrument to hear someone play with great expertise."

The group, which has a membership of more than 100 MPs and Peers was established to support the musical genre and has held an annual ceremony for the past eight years.

"We try to develop jazz as a type of music because it doesn't get well funded and we argue very strongly that it should get much more funding," said Mr Connarty.

'Different scale'

The BBC stopped running its Jazz awards in 2009 making way for the Parliamentary Jazz Awards to become the industry standard.

Alyn Shipton, from Oxfordshire, presents Jazz Record Requests on BBC Radio 3 and was the recipient of the Jazz Broadcaster of the Year in 2010 at the parliamentary awards.

Image caption Pete Oxley (r) set up Spin in 1999

He said the days of big the BBC-style ceremony is a thing of the past.

"Licence fee payers would question why the BBC was putting huge amount of money into that kind of event," he added.

"What the Parliamentary Jazz Awards are doing is on a completely different scale. It's basically a networking event.

"It's a celebration and they've got the tenor of the times right. It focuses on the UK which is a very vibrant scene but they don't forget previous generations of performer."

Mr Shipton has promoted jazz in Oxford since the 1970s and was keen to applaud the success of the local Spin Jazz club which won Jazz Venue of the Year at the 2012 awards last week.

'Only national award'

Pete Oxley, who founded the club with friends Mark Doffman and Raf Mizraki in 1999, said it was unusual getting an award from a group of MPs but said he was "elated" to have won.

"There are some MPs there that you bump into that you wouldn't necessarily imagine would be jazz fans," he added.

Spin's eventual victory came after four years of nominations in the awards.

Mr Oxley said it was an important step forward: "It's now the only national jazz award that we have for our art form.

"We're now getting solicited by bands from abroad, we've had two bands from New York play here this year already, that have approached us and this is becoming a bit of a pattern."

While a parliamentary award might not have the same glamour as a Brit or Mercury Prize it is still able to shine a light on some of the industry's best.

Listen back to the BBC's The Jazz House programme to hear some of this year's winners.

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