Well, it’s finally happened: I have started attending my local jazz club.
When I moved to this area 15 years ago, I was aware that the local boozer had a small live venue out the back that was somewhat renowned in jazz circles. But I was still in my early thirties back then and thought I was too good for jazz. I believed jazz was daft and pretentious; for posturing weirdos and earnest chin-strokers in berets and polo necks. I saw myself as too cool, modern, thrusting and dynamic to set foot in such a place.
Things change. I started secretly listening to jazz a few years ago strictly as an accompaniment to work. I found that the meandering, lyric-free sounds somehow aided my writing process. I kept the output of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk contained to my AirPods, too ashamed to let the world know that I was ‘using’ jazz to drive my productivity.
You must understand that, initially, I didn’t actually like jazz. I was abusing jazz. It helped focus my thoughts and navigate me gently into a state of work-hypnosis. There is probably some sort of neuro-scientific explanation for all this that I am too lazy to look up.
In lockdown, I bought a book of mid-century design that featured a number of beautiful covers for albums by the likes of Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck. My father-in-law, a true and unashamed lifetime jazzer, caught wind of my interest in the aesthetics surrounding the music. Next thing I knew, he’d sent me some records in the post. Entry-level stuff, really. Nothing too dangerous. But I began to play these discs occasionally, whenever I found myself alone in the house, while I sipped a coffee and stroked the cat. Soon, I realised I was starting to actually enjoy the way these strange noises were making me feel.
Cut to the autumn of 2022 and my best mate Olly and I are squished into the tiny jazz club I once vowed never to attend. We are watching a band comprised of men decades older than us, with grey hair, wrinkled skin and unfashionable trainers. They are performing with such skill, passion and enthusiasm that it is making us both feel quite emotional. They play a bit of jazz, a bit of soul and by the end it’s all verging on the edge of the sort of funk music Olly and I have traditionally had more time for.