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Now You Got Jazz

[Originally posted here at my Twilight Universe blog...]
Lillian BouttéA 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.

Spike RobinsonWhile 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.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
9th May, 2005 17:38 (UTC)
I love jazz too! I did a report on Louis Armstrong when I was young. :) When I used to work in Hartford, I went to the park at lunch with my friend Mike and we talked to and listened to this guy named Leon who was just amazing. He played out there all the time. I miss that. *sigh* I don't know what happened to him. If you like jazz, you should definitely check out Lyambiko. I have seen them live twice, and every time I'm just mesmerised. Lyambiko has the most beautiful voice!
9th May, 2005 20:18 (UTC)
I am a HUGE jazz, blues, funk, soul fan and in fact, I am also a jazz singer. Would you take a moment to give some advice about working in the industry, not so much as a musician, but as a promoter?
9th May, 2005 20:52 (UTC)
Well from my (albiet limited) experience the best thing you can have is a cd of recorded music. Details are also important.

A website (listed on the CD) helps me as a promoter check you out, see any buzz, and what places you are playing/have played. Basically as much information as possible (and multiple ways of contacting you) makes my life easier when booking.

As far as the Jazz world goes however there are two things that will get you noticed: word of mouth, and quality. Word of mouth is simple - gig like hell, and make the performance memorable.

Generally also the people that get re-booked are the ones that aren't just good, but are also really pleasant to the staff and not demanding. I threw a band out once because they were taking 1hr 1/2 to sound check, and that was the whole time we had for both bands - and when asked to hurry up they got pissy. Needless to say after that they didn't get a gig in the area again, and as far as I know they broke up a few months afterwards. Word spreads.

The key thing though is point of contact, and that generally is a Demo CD. I really should find my old "guide to a demo disk" that I wrote and post it ...
10th May, 2005 18:49 (UTC)
You ever listened to Bessie Smith? I'm not really that into jazz but I just did a play about her and the director used a lot of her music in the show. It's really good.
10th May, 2005 20:04 (UTC)
Some, but not a lot. I'll check her out some more :)
10th May, 2005 21:56 (UTC)
i'm bored and karen does'nt have yim or msn. i tried txting you but you never responded...that is all
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )