[Originally posted here at my Twilight Universe blog...]
A few years ago I used to be the events manager at a local music venue. Despite parting ways rather acrimoniously (I thought the managment there couldn't manage a piss-up at a brewery) I was glad for my time there. Mostly because of the Jazz Club that was run on Tuesdays.
I've liked Jazz, Soul, and Blues music for as long as I can remember. Louis Armstrong won me over with "Its a Wonderful World" when I was just a kid and didn't even know what Jazz was. While I've never immersed myself in it the way other people do, I always come back to Jazz. More recently this has included the soulful sound of Jamie Cullum, who I met at the Jazz Club.
The nights formal title was Spikes Place, after the legend that used to run it before his death, Spike Robinson. I sadly never met Spike, he died in 2001 - a year before I started working there, but I regularly saw his wife Sue, and she was fiercely proud of him, and rightly so.
Spike, like many jazz artists, loved his craft passionately. A consumate proffessional he attracted artists to the club of a world class calibre. World famous drummers, piano players, and saxophonists like Derek Nash came to play. I felt incredibly lucky to be there. While the club was more the intrumental jazz variety -- which I find nice to listen too, less exciting to watch -- when vocalists came they were, again, world class. Not only were there the new stars of the scene like Jamie Cullum (whose first album Pointless Nostalgic I highly recomend, in fact more so than his latest multi-million seller TwentySomething) but there were established greats too.
Greats like Lillian Boutté.
In 1986 Lillian Boutté was named "New Orleans Musical Ambassador"--only the second person to have been given the honour, the first was Louis Armstrong. Yeah, she is that good.
While Jamie Cullum brings to mind the slow, emotional edge of Louis Armstrong colliding with Dean Martin and Senatra, Lillian is at the edge that Louis and Ella Fitzgerrald used to love to play with: Trumpets, light drums, swinging sounds, and giant gobs of soul. Lillian, and Jamie for that matter, was as personable and likable as you could imagine. A fabulously happy southern woman whose good humour spread to people around her. To hear her sing live is something I will always treasure.
I never knew Spike, but the short time I helped run the venue that held his weekly jazz club changed a lot about the way a view music. It changed the way I heard, and thought of, artists. It also changed the way I thought of jazz.
Now I hear the passion in the music much more. Maybe its nothing the musicians did, but maybe it is. In a way Spike managed to change the way I looked at the musical landscape without every playing, speaking, or contacting me in any way. Spike, in some way, gave that to me. It was something I didn't have before, now I do, before I just heard music.
Now I got jazz.