A Welcome Perspective
Young People Revel in Old Jazz
To the Editor:
For ages we’ve heard that “all that old stuff” is “dead matter,” not relevant anymore, that there are no young people interested in it, and that no young black musicians play it.
Many years ago, probably back in 1984, my wife and I were walking in Amsterdam the Netherlands, and became thirsty. So we walked into a coffee shop (in those days they were just that) and saw a teenage black kid at the not-too-well-tuned piano playing and singing boogie woogie and blues with abandon. While my wife was having a soda or coffee, I spoke to him. To my question what made him play that old stuff, he replied “Because I love it, man!” He just laughed off my comment that, according to the press, no black musicians play it.
At the Whitley Bay Festival last year I saw and heard your contributor, the multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock; today I learned about Dandy Wellington, another young African-American involved in our kind of music.
As to young musicians, there are plenty, on both sides of the globe (not sure about down under). There might be fewer audiences, very much because of lack of exposure. Still, when I walk into a jazz venue in Israel, at 79 I about double the age average. It is less pronounced in the more expensive venues, but I am still in the upper age bracket; I might be going to the British festivals because there I feel young!
I’ll end with an anecdote: a few years ago, Eli and the Chocolate Factory (a Tel-Aviv traditional band) was invited to play as part of some Jaffa music festival. Announced for 10 PM, it (and we) had to wait till another two groups finished their shows. They were featured in an open bar, spreading on both sides of the street; the traditional group was relegated to a small indoor room where it couldn’t be seen from the street.
The band started, and other than a small group of my friends, nobody came. So Eli took his trumpet, marched out with the band, and in a few seconds walked back followed, as the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, by a throng of kids. The room became so full that it was difficult to turn around—and they even danced! I spoke to two of the kids and asked what happened. Both answered that they heard good, danceable music they had never heard before and followed to hear more.
Keep on the good work,
What Do You Call Them?
To the Editor:
The interview in the June issue with multi, multi-instrumentalist Clint Baker, whose fan I’ve been since way back, reminds me of the old riddle; Question, What do you call someone who plays all the instruments in the band (instead of just a couple as I do)? Answer, a musician.