Jazz Pilgrimage

It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve been very busy with the business of playing my instrument. That’s what it’s all about – playing my bass. When I’m not doing that, I’m generally focussed on creating more opportunities to play. There are some exceptions – I have to eat, for example. In fact, I’m a bit of a foodie. I thoroughly research where to go and eat, or how to cook meals properly. I’m starting to suspect I might be a nerd – my two main passions both involve hours of research and preparation, and an endless quest to source the best experiences, always trying to improve my skills and my awareness of what went before. Building on traditions is a mainstay of being a jazz musician, and of being a chef. I mean, I’m not actually a chef, but my interest is deep enough to see the parallels.

Anyway, as I write this I’m sitting in New Orleans. I love New Orleans. This is my forth visit. I love it mainly for its food and its music. It’s a town with a rich history of both. You’re unlikely to find a lack of integrity in either field here – the locals wouldn’t put up with it. The place is steeped in jazz, food and cocktails. Walk along Frenchman Street and you’ll hear fine jazz in almost every establishment. All over town bands are swinging away at all hours, with the tantalising aromas of gumbo, jambalaya and mint juleps wafting you on your way. The church on Jackson Square might have a jazz combo outside playing for a wedding, or a marching band might be making their way along Basin Street. I always come away from here inspired at the sheer joy jazz brings to people. I love New York too, but the jazz is a much more serious strain up there. The thing with New Orleans is it’s so warm and welcoming. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere than New York. I think of it as being America’s version of Brighton.

Next week we’ll be leaving here and driving (yes, driving) to LA. We’re giving a workshop to some jazz singers, and we have a couple of gigs. We’ve been there before too. We’re friends with a lovely American jazz singer named Cathy Segal-Garcia. We have a kind of informal exchange program with her: whenever she visits us in Brighton we set up gigs for her, and she returns the favour when we’re in LA. It’s a lovely way to have a holiday, and we always meet new musicians and make new friends. There’s a strong jazz scene there too, and we always make sure to go and hear some great bands whilst we’re in town.

I’m of the opinion that to be anything like a convincing jazz musician, you need to immerse yourself in the jazz life – the traditions of the various Meccas of jazz need to be observed and respected, and being out and about amongst the musicians and audiences of the great jazz towns can only assist you on your quest to absorb the music into your bones.

South Coast Jazz