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Jazz is not the worst, but…

January 10, 2015

Someone is running a twitter account, and occasional blog, called jazzistheworst. The first few were mildly amusing, but it stopped being funny a while back. Still, even for us devotees/obsessives (delete whichever is inapplicable) there are things that can take the shine off a live gig, and make what ought to offer at least the possibility of the best jazz experience a poor alternative to an evening at home in a comfy chair with a decent audio system and a selection of good recordings and glass of decent wine.

I find I harp on them from time to time, although this blog likes to accentuate the positive. So here, in one curmudgeonly post to start the year, is a list of the ones that come up again and again. I resolve to try harder from now on to just tell you what was great about a gig, and maintain silence about the rest. If you assume that, statistically, two or three of these things are also likely to apply more or less every time, I can save boring both of us by not mentioning them again. Deal?

*the drummer was too loud for the room – and the rest of the band

*the whole damn thing was too loud for anyone who plans to go on listening to music in years to come

*the sound engineer had never worked on a jazz gig before, and also failed to notice frantic signals from the stage for monitors to be turned up/down/off

*the keyboard player would have sounded better on a real piano

*I wish the real piano had been in better nick

*the seats were so constructed that I lost feeling in both my legs some time during the third number and nearly fell over when I got up to go to the bar

*the audience was “modest but appreciative” but, alas, too modest to generate any kind of atmosphere

*there being no admission charge, the “audience” included a big bunch of loud people who never had any real intention of listening to the music

*the audience were really listening, but the awful noise from outside the room/marquee/from the other stage intruded every time the volume dropped

*the band probably played better in the second set, but it began so late I was too tired to really tell

*the band were all fine musicians but the one standard they allowed themselves served only to drive home that their own compositions were a bit lacking in the qualities that made the standard a work that endured.

*the band were all just out of college, where they mastered some really tricky time signatures, which they used on every single number

*the band were all just out of college, where they agreed to play nothing but retro-bebop, and delivered head, solos and an “exciting’ exchange of fours at the end on every single number.

*there were several solos from the excellent drummer, every one of which was accompanied by a thumping ostinato from the band that hobbled it like a prisoner on a chain gang

*the band mentioned repeatedly that we should all keep on coming to gigs, and buy their CDs, to “support the music”, even though a) this was not advertised as a charity event and b) we were already there.

*the bar offered wine by the glass of reasonable quality at a price that would buy you a CD to take home

*the bar offered reasonably priced wine by the glass that was, frankly, undrinkable

*the bar offered wine by the glass that was, frankly, undrinkable and hilariously expensive

There are, of course, reasons why all of these things happen. But for now, I’ll define my ideal jazz venue as the one where they are all unknown. As I plan to contine relying on other dedicated/crazy people to run them, it may not be up and running any time soon…

Happy* 2015 listening!

*when circumstances permit

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