All That Jazz

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Jazz means a different thing to everyone — be it relaxing, cool, confusing or just plain annoying. I don’t really know much about jazz myself, but I do like the concept — the smoky, romantic and erratic nature of it. Even though jazz seems more like a way of life than a genre you can dabble in, I’ve always wanted to go to a jazz bar and pretend I belonged, if only for one night.

Last Wednesday became that night when a friend invited me to the Paris Cat to see African Poet Soul, an 8-piece jazz-funk-tribal band. Truth be told, I expected the venue to be a cheesy, dated place perpetually reeking of spilt alcohol and dimly lit (if only to hide the stains). I also figured the entrance fee was only $15, so if I had adverse effects to the jazz it wouldn’t be a complete waste of money.

Standing in the narrow entrance next to the old-fashioned maître d podium, I took in the chandeliers, the old wooden staircases and the gold framed portraits of jazz musicians and realised I had it all wrong. The bar downstairs was just as beautiful — more dark curtains and gold frames (this time on the ceiling also) chaise lounges and those iconic 3-seater round tables with a flickering tea light on each.

The band filed onto the small stage, arranging themselves around the baby grand and the drum kit. They were eclectic to say the least. There was a 40 year age gap between the oldest and youngest member (five of the eight had a beard or goatee, one had a pony tail, four wore collared shirts while the others had a more relaxed attire. One sported a cool velvet jacket and seemed truly possessed by the spirit of Jazz as he writhed in his seat).

The songs were inspired by African music and it was fun to close your eyes and let your mind paint a picture as you listened. It was also just as fun to watch the band — their eye contact and hand signals, banter and laughter and their feet all tapping to a different time. Luckily for me I got a jazz lesson included in the two hours of entertainment as it was the band’s first performance and they explained their vision and inspiration for each song.

One thing I’d forgotten from my glory days as a trumpet player in my school’s junior band was the spit valve. I lost count of how many drips I saw hit the carpet and found myself wondering how often they steam cleaned.

While I still don’t fully understand the world of jazz, at least I know that there are no real rules, you can make of it what you want, and it’s an experience that must be had. As I left the bar, the music drifted out into the street and I found myself thinking the words of one of the great modern poets ‘I’ll be back.’

Paris Cat
Jazz Club
6 Goldie Place, Melboourne

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club
25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Uptown Jazz Cafe
177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Dizzy’s Jazz Club
381 Burnley St, Richmond

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