Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And All That Jazz

I went to a jazz bar Saturday night. I'm a music fiend, as if you couldn't already tell. So. I was there, and I was having fun, listening to a group of musicians (in suits and ties) play, and it was then that I realized something that shouldn't be important, but in the provincial squalor of my mind, made sense: I couldn't tell if what I was listening to was good.

I was operating under the assumption that the performers were at least respectable, since the place looked neatly appointed enough (an upper floor, with understated low light, black couches and wall-mounted coat hangers), but because I never listen to jazz, i was basically clueless over whether the music I was hearing was the real thing. Even worse, I was overheated and dehydrated, so the longer we stayed, the more I started getting irritable. The set up was this: three guitarists, one of which was absurdly talented (playing an electric, naturally) and the other two basically there to keep the song going (on acoustics), a bassist (as in stand up) and a person who played clarinet and the saxophone.

Here's how a song went: The really good guitarist would lead the other two, and then as soon as the song got past the second verse/chorus he'd go off for a minute and a half guitar solo, with the other two guitarists repeating the same part of the song for 90 seconds. Which, okay, he's a really, really talented guitarist. Props to him. But there wasn't really much interaction between him and the other two guitarists. Even during the jam session part, in which he would trade parts with the saxophonist, he never really let either of the other two guitarists pull lead.

Occasionally, the bassist (least prominent in the mix) would get a solo, which felt a little more deliberate than the spectacular, finger tapping solos of the guy on the electric. But while getting increasingly irritable and dehydrated, I tried to work over the idea that I could like something even if I wasn't sure it was...fashionable. Okay, being my age, dressing in black and going to a jazz bar is fashionable enough, but it's almost a cliche within itself. I felt like a poser.

And maybe that's not the right word, but I was out of my element and I felt my posturing (regardless of sincerity) was immediately telling. I'm used to knowing what to expect from gigs, to the point where my behavior is basically off-hand. But even in trying to critique the performance I saw I'm...also painfully aware that I know nothing worth mentioning about jazz. It might all just be the return of my punk rock comfort zone trying to regain its lost ground. It didn't sit quite right, which may have been influenced by sitting uncomfortably myself.

I've gotten very comfortable in my little punk rock bubble and I hadn't gotten it musically punctured in a damn long time. I don't want to say it was a great experience all around, but it feels a little bit refreshing in retrospect to be that uncomfortable again. It's keeping me on my toes and next time I'll think ahead enough to get dinner before I do it again.

Have I introduced you to fun. yet? (Yes, a band called fun..) I would bet overworked arts editors everywhere secretly want this band to die for using a period at the end of their name. Anyway. We're all better off that arts editors haven't, because fun. play a kind of psychedelic pop that's surprisingly...short. There's only one song over five minutes and that's the last one, which, historically, is the place to put 5+ minute songs for normal bands.

And, of course, I'm not giving you that one. Have "All the Pretty Girls" instead. The opening is playful and there's a guitar solo I don't mind near the end. I'll say this for the song. It's chorus is "all the pretty girls on a Saturday night" and I love it bouncing around in my head, despite the fact that I normally loathe the very traditional expression of "girls on a weekend/night/not daytime" theme. It's probably a single by now, and if it isn't, the parent label is braindead and asleep at the switch.

Press play and thank me later.

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