28 June 2013
This morning, the white Ford Transit from QMW Courier Solutions drew up at the end of the gravel drive by the security gate here at The Gables, precisely on the dot of Between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Delivery vans only ever come when you are engrossed in something else, in this case trying to get the lime scale out of the kettle with a sachet of Oust, whilst simultaneously trying to reunite my friend Mike with his trombone which he’d left round here by mistake after a particularly vigorous night out at the Swan. I’d had to lurch out of the house ill-prepared with the left shoe on properly but in my haste I’d only got the right one on halfway, and thus it was hanging off like a genetic fusion of club foot and flip-flop.
They say that security is the watchword. They should also know by now that given the fact that delivery vans will only ever arrive during an episode of high domestic imbroglio, and that the poor deliveree will most likely be distracted by a crucial item of clothing not properly affixed. This can range from, in my case today, a badly attached shoe through the whole gamut of dressing gowns which won’t stay tied or the singular unpleasantness of pants on the wrong way round to the full horror of having to appear at the front door covered head to foot in shower foam with the inadequately-sized bath towel covering the naughty bits getting caught in the front door. Whatever the garb, the mind won’t be properly focussed on the job. In addition, as we all know, you get handed a thing which looks like a 1980’s TV remote with Ceefax, and asked to sign it on the screen with the pointy thing on the bit of string poking out of the corner. Even if you’re absolutely on top of it, these things can distort calligraphy to such an extent that the resulting LCD squiggle is about as reliable as the Times publishing the Hitler Diaries. Security my arse.
However, driver Mohammed seemed perfectly happy with my squiggle, and didn’t even seem to notice that by the time I’d got to the end of the drive I had one shoe and one sock on, on opposite feet. I was then presented with my consignment of things. I’d been looking forward to my consignment of things since the end of January. Months of fervid preparation, self-denial, practice, organisation, discussion, revision, visualisation, design, analysis, soul-searching and last but by no means least, expenditure, had finally resulted in this-
Yes folks, it’s a big pile of cardboard boxes pictured here at The Gables in the forward merchandising storage area, or kitchen. Within them are the first thousand pressings of the new CD of the Peggy Duke and Benny project featuring the magnificent singing of Her Indoors. If you’d like one, or just want to know what I’m writing about, you can have a look on the band directory page here. For a small fee, you can have one sent directly from the Despatch Department (or Shed) here at The Gables to you. If you’d like to enjoy the full delivery experience, for a couple of extra quid I’m sure we could send it to you by some rather more de-luxe postal tariff so you have to sign for it, thus creating a knock at the door when you’ve got the dog in the sink trying to get it to hold still while you wash the fox poo of its shoulder. Or something. Don’t forget, Christmas is just around the corner.
Mind you, as fun as it’s been getting an album together, recording the chaps, having inevitable curries and post-session chippy teas, I’m now faced with the problem of what to do with all of these individually shrink-wrapped pieces of quality home entertainment until the listening public greedily snaps them up over the next couple of decades or so. The Home Studio (or Shed) is currently stuffed to the gunnels with Duke Ellington sheet music, small plastic Axis seaplanes and military history books so very dull that I’ve not yet dared to own up to Her Indoors as to my ownership of them. Occasionally I get really scared by my inner nerd. I’ve got my eye on a bit of space in the cupboard under the stairs, but I may have to put the Henry on eBay. I’ll think of something.
Whist I’m on a bit of a self-proclamatory roll, the Great Experiment to see if it is possible to interest a wider audience in the dark art of jazz is about to enter a new phase. On July 8, the good work began down at the Green Dragon is going to move into the rather swankier surroundings of the Hippodrome in Leicester Square. Essentially, it’s a Jazz At The Philharmonic concert, and will be two hour’s worth of wall-to-wall excitement. It was obvious to me that the basic musical formula was a winner from the word go, as the thing which music needs in order to communicate with the general public is a clear groove and hooks. Quite a lot of live jazz has by its very nature a disguised groove and no hooks at all. Not so here- we’re going to be as groovily hard-swinging as you like and by use of riffs and plenty of short solos played by a largish ensemble of ten musicians, have more hooks than a trout farm.
However, in order for the music to have a sustainable future, a new audience needs to be cultivated. To this end, M’Learned Colleague, Richard Pite has actually thought the unthinkable and formed a focus group of people between the ages of 20 and 30, and then sat them down for a whole month to find a way of getting the jazz gig as we know it to be understandable as a form of entertainment as they know it. The good thing about Jazz the Philharmonic way is that it shares quite a lot of common elements with rock and club music. As I mentioned, strong rhythm will be a big selling point, and the energy level will be set high, which it turns out are attributes not generally associated to jazz by the people we spoke to. This will be music which is about inclusion and communication. There will be battles of prowess, as prominent feature in Rap music as it was in the cutting contests of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. The lads who are doing it all understand the purpose of the mission- there’s going to be some delicious controlled musical explosions. I do hope the purists won’t be turned off by the “Higher-Louder-Faster” aspect of this- we are trying to sell raw excitement here, and hopefully in the long term open the jazz door to a greater public who may go on to love and enjoy Jazz in all its colours and moods.
It has been in the labelling of the gig where the largest amount of midnight oil has been burnt. Rather than calling the thing a Monday Night Gig, it needs, apparently, to be called a “Club Night” and then have a zizzy one-word title. Ours is called “Burnin!”. It also needs to have a genre. We’ve plumped for “Hot Jazz”, as we felt this would let the jazzers understand whilst imbuing it with a sense of postmodern cool-anti-cool for the newcomers. The band itself is called Jazz@The Phil:Reloaded. With all the spare capital letters and @’s and the : , it seems to me to be a new sci-fi version of its old self, but this is only labelling to try and communicate to a wider public. A ro5 is still a rose, after all. My theory is that as long as we can get the room nice and full, they’ll really go with it. It is my experience that whenever there’s been some form of accident in the booking and some good hot jazz has been let off in public, the reaction has inevitably been enthusiastic. I’ll stop this now, as I feel that I’m tempting fate a bit too much, and once again my inner nerd is frightening me with the thought that at last, I may be on the brink of being carried round a room on a giant silver salver by cheering women. In a nice way, that is, rather than in an about to be chucked onto the big blazing ceremonial fire sort of way.