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Suave raconteur and dinner party favourite. Once held the Olympic torch, has delivered newspapers to prime ministers, shaken hands with Prince Charles, wrecked Jason Donovan's skateboard, climbed 300 metre granite cliff faces, surfed with dolphins, appears on community radio and is in demand for these and the accounts of other thrilling exploits!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

There is Jazz and then there is...

Last week (boy that seems like a lifetime ago) I got invited to see an experimental jazz trio called 'The Necks' (probably seemed like a good enough name at the time).

I say experimental and use the word Jazz here in a very lose, flippy floppy sense of the word. Before I go into a well researched and attentive review let me share with you my perspective of Jazz and Blues for that matter. Jazz is not a style, it is a discipline. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Milt Jackson, Count Bassie, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis; these are all great names, great artists.
They worked hard on their craft, they honed it. Music was changed forever because of their spirit and ambition to create a new sound. A sound based on improvisation but also of structure. Coltrane would practice scales for hours every day, not just to improve his speed but to tune his ear.
So let me say that there is good Jazz and there is bad jazz. Bad jazz is what you'll usually hear out in the open at a bear garden or wedding or function. Its a couple of guys who do this gig in their spare time. They emulate. They copy. They repeat. They sometimes even hurt music. What they do not do is demonstrate true talent.

With Blues, in my opinion, it is the same. I see blues acts a lot that are just idiots who ape the musical style, either through theatrics or just blaise note for note copying. Or even worse through excessive use of the slide guitar. Let me explain this way, Eric Clapton plays the blues but Buddy Guy is MF The Blues.

Okay you still with me?

So this band called The Necks, they were weird. The theatre was packed, we were lucky to get tickets it seemed. The lights dim and 3 guys come out on stage (drums, double bass, piano). For a moment they fiddle around, tunning, adjusting a seat here, collecting drum sticks there.
Then, nothing. They pause eyes bowed and wait. Judging the moment someone starts a riff and slowly the others join in and the concert has begun. The music was of an atonal variety. Meaning there was no devotion to melody or harmony, but there was structure. The first hour was a freakish collection of sounds that evolved into a story. I found my self with eyes closed imagining a haunted house, with errie dripping taps and shutters banging on windows.
The piece or construction built and built, it was hard to tell where they were going with it. But it did end. Rapturous applause followed. It was a true sound scape indeed.
By the second half the gimmick had worn off some for me. I found the next hour to be tiresome, lots of disjointed bangs, squeaks and the occasional chord. You could get a half dozen drunken monkeys to do something similar, but it would take an awful lot of time to train them to be that annoying.
So the second half did not work for me at all.

But there is another review (HERE) please feel free to compare and contrast views.
So if I were to conclude and given my earlier statement on passion, discipline and commitment - where do I stand on The Necks? (sic).
Somewhere in between to be honest. To improvise the way they did requires an excellent knowledge of the other musicians as well as your instrument. But if it misses the mark, it does so widely in my book.

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