There are certain things I have accepted I will never fully understand: the allure of Jordan for the country’s lad’s mag readers, the life-or-death importance of the latest England football score, and jazz.
Jazz. Now, I know a lot of people like it, but then again a lot of people like Jordan’s surgically enhanced chest, and care about Beckham’s right foot (or left. Unfortunately, I couldn’t care less.). To me, jazz sounds like several instruments playing completely different songs, and quite possibly playing the wrong notes of said completely different songs, culminating in a sort of racket which people far cooler than I bop their heads up and down to. And, if I am completely honest, I’m not really sure what it is (I mean, rock music involves lots of drums and guitars, classical music things like harps, and pop music overpaid teenagers dressed in very little. But jazz? Couldn’t guess.).
But this sort of ignorance is not accepted by my uncle (of Guardian-reading fame – see earlier post), who called early yesterday offering me a free ticket to watch The Bad Plus and an introduction to jazz. They’re very accessible, he promised. Right, thinks I, sceptically, we’ll see.
The crowd at St George’s – an ex-church off Park Street, Bristol – were, at first glance, more suited to an afternoon of tea and cake after a quick browse at M&S than watching a band describe by Rolling Stone as “badass” (admittedly, the entire sentence reads “about as badass as highbrow gets” but still, the word “badass” was used). Anyway, the point stands: this group of mainly grey-haired, nicely-dressed jazz-lovers were at odds with a group whose drummer was wearing a beanie with a skull-and-crossbones on it.
That said, the three members which made up The Bad Plus – Ethan Iverson (piano) Reid Anderson (bass) and David King (drums) – were an odd mix in themselves. Friends from their teenage years, Iverson wore a suit while sitting at his grand piano, while Anderson was more casual in jeans, and King wore a t-shirt and the aforementioned skull-and-crossbone-d beanie.
Perhaps though, I mused as the concert, this was part of their appeal and – dare I say it – accessibility. Because accessible they were: yes, they played some classics which the M&S audience got dreadfully excited about, but they also played their own pieces – accompanied by slightly unusual explanations (Thriftstore Jewelry expressed the excitement one feels when you find that perfect something in a charity shop. Now, as someone who likes a bargain, this song in particular was certain to appeal…) and jazz interpretations of more mainstream songs ( last night it was Aphex Twin, as a nod towards their English audience, but a quick glance at their discography reveals many more).
It was also – somewhat surprisingly – incredibly watchable as a performance. At one stage, Iverson’s head had dipped to such an angle it appeared a headless suit was playing the piano of its own accord, while King played the drums in a way which my uncle assured me one could only pull of if one was supremely talented, which – I was assured – King was. I think perhaps it needs to be seen to be believed and – let me assure you – it is most definitely worth seeing.
And, as the concert ended, and the M&S 50-somethings had stopped whooping and stomping their feet in appreciation (seriously, this was also an exercise in never judging a book by its cover – actual whoop-whooping I tell you!) I understood – and, dare I say it, liked – jazz a little bit more, just enough so that by the time I appear to be just a 50-something M&S goer to the outside world, I will actually be the kind of person who goes to concerts and whoop-whoops, with a full understanding of jazz.
Next week, I may even try to understand football…
The Bad Plus were part of the International Jazz Festival at St George’s, Bristol. For more information on upcoming concerts please go to http://www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk/showbyseries.php?sid=22
The Bad Plus can be found on Spotify, if you just want to try it out, like me.