Tuesday, 3 April 2012

All That Jazz

Following from earlier jottings about my relationship with music (my earliest hearings, and then rock'n'roll), the idea was to complete the trilogy with jazz.   I thought I could write a similar personal chronology, starting with, say, Armstrong or Beiderbecke or, from another perspective, ragtime or big band or bebop or – well, you get the idea.  I’ve been trying this for months now.  The delete key has never been used so much.  It can’t be done, for a reason which will become apparent in the last sentence of this post.  So instead, a few vignettes.

Trad opened up more than three chords.  It also equated to beer.  So it was that we ended up at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1961, when they had the riot.  Me and my mates didn’t tear down any lighting scaffolds, but we gleefully watched it, until the police got too close and we scarpered.  That music was a hooligan.

One evening back in 1968, my band-mate Graham and I were slumped in our shared pensione room in Milan, pretty well enhanced, listening to this:

When side one had finished, he turned to me and said “Why do they play like that?”  Good question.

I can’t play jazz, never could, never will.  There was a guitarist busking in Broad Street the other day who could, and I stood watching from a distance, trying yet again to decipher how those notes get from the head to the fingers.  I can do them in the head, sometimes; but the fingers refuse to obey.  It’s not a matter of technique, I can’t do it in the slowest of slow motion.

John Coltrane died in vain for a love supreme, said Big Youth on ‘Natty Cultural Dread’, and proceeded to explain why.  I’d like to be able to pass that on, but I can’t, because he said it in jazz, which can’t be translated.

I once played a baritone sax.  It was surprisingly easy, after I got the hang of the embouchure.  I got at least five notes out of it, would’ve got more if we hadn’t had to go on stage: but it was the closest I’ve ever got to physical communion with an inanimate object.  I might go out and buy one, actually.

The great trombonist J. J. Johnson said: “Jazz is restless.”


  1. one of the best things that has happened to/for jazz is youtube, sugar! i can spend hours listening to original recordings and it has certainly exposed a whole new audience that music they've only heard sampled in rock/hip hop. sorry, it's taken me so long to drop by! xoxoxoo

  2. Things I Used to Argue About #235

    I never got jazz.

    Blues...now we're talking....

  3. Hi Savannah. Yes, I'm gonna be more into youtube now I have a computer that's capable of streaming more than 30 seconds without fainting!

    Macy, jazz is just stretched-out blues. A bit thinly sometimes, I must admit...