Thursday, 4 March 2010

Jazz heaven...

Last night I had a glorious time in my favourite of all London's jazz clubs.

I wonder if it's my favourite because it's the first real jazz club i went to (oh so long ago at such a tender age)? Or because i go there so often that i feel completely relaxed and at home there? Is it because i'm a regular so know a few faces and feel welcomed?  Or that it's a great venue - intimate and comfortable - dark and seductive - and being one of the best haunts in town the music is always always always good.....

I can't quite put my finger on why it's my favourite - but, dear ones, it is a place that i will happily spend an evening on my own - enjoying a glass of something - lost in the music - feeling utterly content.  I think that says a lot about the ambience, atmosphere and charm of the staff.  I have a backlog of evenings there - occasionally on my own, more often 'a deux' or with groups of friends - sometimes even lucky dates get to come along too. Last night was a gentle evening with a friend from work - having a farewell celebration as soon i am off to pastures new.

I'll admit now that when i got home (at a delicious 3am - ooops!) i did start to write a post, but honestly dear ones, it's coherence reflected the hour & the state of mind - and in an attempt to be reasonably attentive in all my meetings today wisdom prevailed & i chose sleep above writing so here i am now enjoying the opportunity to reflect back on an evening rather than dashing headlong into another!

It was a mad dash from a long day at the office but upon entering the gentle hush of the club the hassles of the world fell from my shoulders and stayed outside in the cold, sharp night. Lovely candlelit tables, deep red velvet banquette to sink into - a menu of cocktails and delicious treats proffered by a charming waiter oooh i was instantly transported to my happy place.  I adore the mix of people that you find in there - nearby was a table with what looked like 3 generations of family celebrating a 70th birthday, couples of all ages, at least one first date, groups of friends, people on their own hanging out and chatting at the bar and a table of 4 guys that looked like father, brother and two sons.... but then again ... you never can tell what the connections are. Beautifully dressed elegance and casual laid back jazz cool - there is a little of everything in every way.

We were in for a treat indeed - the house band were lively and excited and warmed us up well -  the stage was set for a big band extravanganza and as it was introduced we felt that it was the end of an era. The main gig for the evening was Guy Barker with his big band. Last time i saw Guy's big band playing there was a Trombone player - Barnaby Dickinson - who in one evening moved my enjoyment of the trombone from ambivalence to enchantment! And he was back - more than that, this 4 nights in London precedes a tour of Hong Kong so you could sense that the band were excited to be together - there were laughs on stage and much fun during the gig. In addition to the Amadeus Suite, a set of pieces inspired by characters from Mozarts operas (highbrow eh!) we settled in for what they deemed could possibly be their last performance of 'DZf'

DZf is a suite of music which plays alongside a narrative story told by Michael Brandon. Now - if ever there was a 'voice of a jazz bar' Brandon has it - deep and gravelly with a soft and grizzly american accent he 'speaks' jazz within every word.  This man can 'be jazz' without the music. But sit him in front of a 14 piece jazz orchestra and behind a microphone there is no need for pictures - the story is told in unmistakeable style through the words and music.  What a story it is - this is the Magic Flute - retold as never before - thriller writer Robert Ryan takes Mozart's story and translates it into a 'Jazz Noir' tale. Set in Brooklyn the characters are gritty and the music takes you on a journey from seedy bars (hatted brass wah wah waahhing ...) through swingy starsky and hutch style car chase music into big bold James Bond big band jazz....

It was huge!

By this point i saw that the 'first date' had fallen asleep on 'his' shoulders.... (good signs?) ... the 70th birthday were ready to swing ... and the 'four men' were deep into the whisky...  perfect - the evening was taking a grip...

The applause stopped and we had a breather whilst the BBC took over the place - not the normal run of affairs, but it appears that there's a documentary series being filmed 'My First Love' which traces celebrities back to their performing roots....  we were treated to Meera Syal on stage, known as a comedienne, writer and actress she started out as a singer in a jazz band... and she held the stage - with a haunting voice rich with powerful emotion she could easily return to 'Her first love'. She was beautifully humble about the evening as well and seemed truly thrilled to be afforded the 'indulgence' (her words) of singing on such a prestigious stage.

It was now buzzing and suddenly there appeared a couple of friends i hadn't expected to see ... so we left the downstairs club and took off up to the Jam Session upstairs.... there's a completely different vibe upstairs, suddenly much brighter and buzzier - i love that at 2am there were people arriving (with laptop bags - had they really come from the office?!) it's slightly chaotic as the musicians heading home from the west end shows swing by on their way home have a few drinks and jam together - so you never know what you're going to get - but you can guarantee that it'll be good..... last night we were treated to an amazing trumpeter -he dominated the show - wandering off the stage into the middle of the room playing to the moon he was in a world of his own - stunning!

And then after some entertaining chat ... it was time to tear myself away - emerge from this decadent slice of life into the heart of Soho - on a dark, cold and foggy night. 2.30am on a Thursday morning and it's buzzing (- this is what i love of London!) - a taxi cab is free and soon i am whisked home to my warm and cosy space... wondering how on earth i would survive a morning full of hectic meetings!

But i survived - and after all - we only live once xxxx

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