Many, many lives ago I played jazz. Live jazz. As in performing with bands with an audience listening and assessing every note.
Great fun. Stressful. Crazy mad. Scary. Lots of alcohol involved too!
The thing about the way we worked the genre was that it was all by ear, no written music. Often we improvised upon known melodies, sometimes it was all made up as we went along, someone would call a melody and a key and we'd all tip ourselves head-first into the piece. Timing, pace, improvisation, repeats, segues etc. depend almost as much upon knowing and trusting your band members as upon being a talented musician.
I learned pretty fast that the band never ever stuck to a plan, playlist: order, solos, everything was open to change at any moment, even the trumpeter calling for a refill to his beer was enough to jig the order within a piece in the middle of playing.
Jazz musicians are fantastic; quick witted, laid back, creative as they come, fabulously talented, able to adapt and improve in a split second, and more. But heck, I just could not hack it.
I was reminded of all this yesterday when I spent a few hours at the Jazz Project. I sat and listened to the music, the craic, the jokes, questions, discussion, phone calls trying to keep the events of the evening on track and it was ace. I love being in the middle of things musical, musicians are a race apart, and it was highly entertaining, to wit:
the RTE were supposed to be filming some of the music and were out at a pub waiting whilst the musicians in question were standing in the school lobby criticising the evening's play list, playing snippets to each other from their iPhones, discussing Eric Clapton, relaxing and insulting each other and the administrator who was trying to shift them out. The organiser was on the phone comforting his daughter because her hen had died and trying to locate the band for the evening's concert who had been delayed for hours at Dublin Airport and were on their way without their luggage or instruments. A piano had been mislaid (yes, apparently it is possible to lose a piano...), three double basses needed to be in three different venues, a box of electric leads was AWOL and to be honest no one was in the slightest bit fussed.
Classical musicians would have been climbing the walls at the unpredictability of it all, pop or rock performers might have been playing the drama queen, but jazz musicians? They were loving every minute!
There should be a mug somewhere which reads: Jazz musicians never die, they just Improvise, adjust and carry on.
So I returned to my Classical roots and the heart palpitations stopped!!!