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Friday, May 15, 2015

Jazz ain't jazz!

Hi there,

I can't count how many times my brief at a gig has been 'jazz' but I've ended up doing everything but. Even wikipedia admits 'Jazz' is a slippery beast to define. I'm talking Ella, Louis and Duke when I say Jazz. My mum says Jazz and means 'lively'. I've heard many a muso make a booboo and call that 'jazz'. I think a lot of venue managers like the 'cool' that the word jazz conjures but don't actually want the blue notes. After all 'Jazz on the Deck' sounds much better than 'a bit of pop music outside there past the pokies'. 

So when I've been booked for a 'jazz' gig and ended up doing anything but, it's not because I'm being a rebel - after all I know where my bread is buttered and I always aim to please the client. But sometimes, well, we entertainers actually know what we're doing! We are being booked because we are professional and know our craft, right?

I remember being booked for a wedding where the bride gave us a list of all her favourite (non-Jazz!) songs us to play at the reception. They included songs from Garbage, Portishead, Blondie, Morcheeba and the like - a woman after my own heart when it comes to taste in music. But not for a wedding. As soon as we cracked out her requested rocker: 'I'm Only Happy When it Rains' you could see the tumbleweed rolling across the barren dancefloor. 

So we played 'Moondance' and 'Love is in the Air', like we always do at a wedding and suddenly all was right in the world. The bride was happy because everyone else was - and cavorting bodies on the dancefloor is the best yardstick for a wedding band's success. 

So I soon learnt that when dealing with less-than-experienced clients, my job was to nod my head, smile and say 'sure' and then turn around and play what actually works rather than what was asked for. What is the point of hiring a professional and then telling them their job? When you hire a chef you may choose the dishes and of course it will be to suit your tastes, but you don't tell them exactly what ingredients to use and how to combine them. Jazz, rock, polka - whatever works is what is best. In the end, as Mr Ellington himself says, 'it's all music'.

See you next time,

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