28 Aug

Went to Guildford Lane’s Friday evening jam session last night. It’s got some legs this night. There’s some good regular players and if you’re new they’re an inviting crowd.

I went with a friend of mine who wanted to play there. He brought his accordion and sat in throwing some chords at tunes he didn’t know all that well.

It was what you’d expect. Certain jazz standards were touted. The skins kept the beat and each player took a turn in the spotlight. It was done well by people who knew what they were doing. The mix was usually pretty good; the blend of organic synchopation and bop excursions into the stream of consciousness.

But, as we walked away, my friend and I agreed there was something frustrating about jazz. Something that had to do with the abandonment of melodies. I can’t, even now, say exactly what. The band gets together. They take turns at the box. Now there’s a bass guitar, now there’s an electric upright, now an acoustic. All the cats n hats had good chops. And you’re free to let yourself go. But somehow they were boxed in.

It’s been almost 50 years since the youth of the English speaking world abandoned jazz first to rock then to hip-hop. Last night they were back. A good 40% of the players were under 30. Considering the wish-washy miasma of contemporary pop music it’s easy to understand they’re stepping back in time to find something to shake to. That’s cool. But still we’re stuck.

By what? Tradition? Or a tradition of kicking against tradition? By the same old tunes? When the tune gets tired find a new one. Or maybe dust an old one off that hasn’t played in a while.

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