One of my new year’s resolutions is to experience more jazz in New York. It seems strange to have to make this a formal pursuit when I have such passion for the music, and when the city offers so much, but being an early morning riser puts me out of sync with most venues. By it’s nature jazz is not usually played at matinees! We’ve been to the Charlie Parker Jazz festival a couple of times, and heard Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center, but last week we decided to venture out to the Blue Note in Greenwich Village. The Blue Note is famous, and I am probably the last person in the world who claims to love jazz to finally go there. The enticement came in the form of Jack Dejohnette who was celebrating his 70th birthday with his band at the Club, ahead of being inducted into the jazz world’s hall of fame, the NEA Jazz Masters. He sounded just my style when I heard him interviewed on the radio, so I booked a couple of seats and looked forward to getting my groove on….
There are usually 2 sessions at the club, 8pm or 10.30, and you can be assured of a table if you book ahead. Otherwise you queue on the night for a spot at the bar. Even though we arrived an hour early, the place was packed and we were relegated to a small table on the far side behind the bongo drums. We were not fussed – who needs to see at a jazz session? The clientele was a mixed bag of old and young ( a boy sitting next to me played ‘plants and zombies’ on his nintendo but at the time I didn’t realise this was prophetic ). People were ordering dinner and the wine list was quite formidable – there was not a cask of red or ( of course ) a cigarette in sight.
Mr Dejohnette arrived with his band, dedicating the preamble to talk about his new CD and then introducing each member of his band of 5 as “the incredible…..”. That included the bongo player in front of us and the very stylish electric bass player. There was a hush and when they started to play, my initial joy quickly changed to despair as the eclectic, esoteric, not-my-kind-of-jazz filled the room. But I was on my own, the audience loved it. They tapped and rocked as each band member went into a frenzy of instrumentation as though jamming on their own. I could hear my music-loving father saying – ‘I’m sure it would be great it they were all playing the same tune’. It became louder and louder and LOUDER. The grin on the face of the bongo player grew to joker proportions as he shook huge strings of bells, blew whistles, and pounded any surface within distance of his hands and feet. So much noise! This was not the pure elegant sound of Winton or Louis. I was in the wrong place, everyone was in a trance except me. Just as that hit home, and the creepy smile of the bongo guy suddenly looked directly at me, all I could think was the Wickerman! Get out of there Mr Woodwood – they are on to you! So that’s exactly what I did, Sean did not need any encouragement, we grabbed our coats and fled.
PS. Please be assured that the Blue Note is an excellent venue and Mr Dejohnette is an outstanding artist in his field. It’s just that I realise I am more of an uptown jazz girl than a Greenwich Village disciple, and next time I’ll do more homework. After all, jazz is still on my list for 2012.