Ever a slave to the thought that a small piece of equipment was going to improve my fortunes, somebody who runs one of my regular gigs suggested that I invest in a vintage- style mic – you know the one: it’s based on a 1930’s car grill, and the sight of which, when held by a woman with a flower in her hair, is shorthand for ‘jazz singer’. Thank goodness this suggestion came along as I was perilously close to splashing out twice the cash on a sensible high-quality condenser mic. In the end I opted for modern dynamic mic technology in vintage casing. Despite many of my friends and colleagues in the business warning that they couldn’t get on with it, and that it was a pain in the *ss (it’s heavy, and nearly always requires a stand, unless you want to end up with one ridiculously pumped arm, which is quite a… specific look to carry off), I took it to my first gig, got a great sound, and I LOVED it. Also, early reports suggest that my new objet d’art is something that screams ‘PHOTOGRAPH ME!’ – it gives people permission to take photos and share them with friends online, which is nice for those of us who wish to amplify their social media profile (but not for the shy, retiring singer of course). Which leads me to…
My Sister Likes My Instagram Posts, And That’s The Main Thing
Will a thoughtfully curated Instagram page help my career, or is it yet another big and beautiful scream into the echo chamber? Who knows, but at the moment it’s the fashion for musicians to share videos of coyly conceited practice efforts, and fetishised images of new gear on the platform (SEE MY GORGEOUS NEW MIC! No it hasn’t got a name yet but WE’RE VERY HAPPY). Some might despair at Instagram’s focus on the material, and how it drives all of us to keep up appearances whilst hiding all our piles of mental crap in the wings of our digital lives. Hey – that’s what Twitter’s for; an exhaust pipe for all the bad feelings within! And what could be more cathartic than an argument with a total stranger on Facebook about Brexit? I could make a spirited defence of Instagram in the jazz context, especially as music and image were tightly intertwined in the golden era of jazz thanks to the cutting edge atmospheric graphics of Blue Note record sleeves, paired with pioneering chiaroscuro-style photography. But the truth of the matter for me personally is much more mundane. I’m a total scruff away from the stage, so a self- imposed Big Brother-esque eye on myself combined with peer pressure is helping me to keep my overall presentation smart, steering me away from the seducing effects of comfy tracksuit bottoms. Mmm, soft, warm, comfy tracksuit bottoms. #healthy #initfortherightreasons
Doing an Impression of An Impression Of People Enjoying Jazz In The Good Old Days (TM), Today!
Ah, the Vintage Party! Some musicians decry the devaluing of live music on the one hand – why have
a motley crew of living breathing (and drinking…) musicians when you can book just one DJ? – whilst accusing peers, or more self- loathingly, themselves, that one has somehow sold out when agreeing
to play at an event viewed less than esteemable from an artistic standpoint. Such an event could be anything from an award ceremony when everyone is drunk and ignoring you, or The Vintage Party, where, rather disconcertingly for the seasoned jazz musician, everyone is actually listening to jazz and *gulp* enjoying it. The Vintage Party is a popular choice for those who want to dress up and visit The Good Old Days (TM) – we dress up Gatsby style, or Andrews Sisters style, and there’s a live band instead of a soundsystem the size of a council estate, and you dance with sweaty boys and have a great time in spite of the war, goddammit (fortunately both prohibition and the racism of early 20th century Americana is checked at the door). For the jazz band in this environment, their music can become a kind of Schrodinger’s Scat*: part living thing, and part pickled curiosity in a museum cabinet gathering dust. The musicians might feel – especially as they squeeze into their spats, braces and feather hair bands for the 8th time that season – that they lose a piece of their soul each time they do such a gig, and that they’re selling out their jazz idols. So when the shine** starts to fade, I want to remind these musicians that most of the attendees don’t get to do this very often, and to them, it’s special. Jazz IS, after all, a dance music. So please pay us to make this music, and as well as bringing along my snazzy new vintage mic, I promise you that every £ you spend goes towards keeping me away from working with spreadsheets again. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME STARE AT THE ENDLESS FIELD OF RECTANGLES AGAIN, PLEASE! I see them when I close my eyes***
* My nature compels me to shoehorn the dodgy jazz/physics pun here, sorry
** Also the name of a song popular in the early 20th century, whose racial lyrics will make your eyes water. Strictly for instrumental use only
Bandwiches, for the uninitiated, is a term for food that musicians get offered on gigs – if they’re lucky enough to get offered food, that is. This week, the hilarious Facebook group Bandwiches #TIASTFU was brought to my attention – and boy does it deliver. Musicians share reports of their Bandwiches – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Beige – for the delectation of other musicians around the world. Musicians of every genre, creed and instrument come together to marvel at the rare ‘actually nice’ feast, verbally eviscerate a plate that looks not unlike genitalia, or experience sympathetic pangs of hunger at the sight of old white bread with tiny fragments of cheese tenuously attached. This month, the acronym TIASTFU was added to the group name, in honour of a musician and chef who said, in brief, that he thought if you’re fed anything you should be grateful, so ‘tuck in and shut tf up’. Since I last checked, TIASTFU has inspired poetry, song (sample lyric: “Don’t matter if it’s beige / Just get the f*** onstage”) and oodles of snark, and appears to be on a trajectory of entering legendary niche-meme status. At the time of writing, just 5 days from the original post, there’s no sign of the TIASTFU train stopping. So, in that spirit, I will share my pain. We were playing at a posh wedding garden party and the catering crew brought in a huge tray of vegetarian cheesy lasagna into the green room (well, conservatory actually with 4 chairs for 15 people). This was intended to be a flexible choice for everyone to eat…everyone that is, except me – the difficult vegan… And so, despite notification at the point of booking, my dinner that day consisted of a small dollop of hummus, 5 carrot sticks, and a single cracker. Any more meals like that and I’ll require a celebrity charity single. Or maybe- just before the lasagne gets cold- I should immediately cease being such a snowflake millennial, and TIASTFU.