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Smallville: It Didn't Happen In Monterey

"I was led into the world of the jazz guitar after nearly seeing Julian Bream, the classical guitarist, in concert,'' says Peter B Farrell as he tells of frustrated quests to hear "live'' jazz.

I have long had a yearning to holiday in California. The romantic appeal of Monterey and Big Sur was engendered for me after seeing Play Misty For Me, the film starring Clint Eastwood, themed by jazz pianist Errol Garner’s accompanying masterpiece.

Conversely the events of the film couldn‘t happen here. Not only would the DJ be hounded out and eventually get his just desserts, but the cleaning lady, pianist, bar-tender and sound man would be put out of their misery too, cheered on by the long suffering audience. Being a Modern Jazz fan I should know.

I was led into the world of the jazz guitar after nearly seeing Julian Bream, the classical guitarist, in concert. We had travelled the sixty miles on the appointed night only to find the theatre deserted, Julian having been taken ill, “You should have phoned, just to make sure,” sound advice from the Box office which I have continued to ignore at my peril.

I was taking lessons at the time from a young student during my lunch break. After a fortnight I had learned how to hold the instrument and practised the technique to the delight of my wife. Becoming bored with the silence I switched to playing jazz riffs, “...there‘s a jazz concert in Boston and my tutor says we should go,'' this being Boston,UK, not Massachusetts. The star would be the dazzling French guitarist Birelli Lagrene, who was the latest sensation.

The first half featured a British band, with no sign of the star performer. Following the interval, the band took to the stage for the second half and played manfully on. I assumed that Birelli was so good that he had been earmarked for a spectacular virtuoso spot at the end. Presuming I had missed an announcement I was still puzzling over his absence on the way back to the car park.

Fortunately my wife, who had switched off even before we left for the concert, hadn‘t even noticed.

I made tentative enquiries the following day and apparently the cause was “…legal, contractual difficulties.”

A few years later our daughter, who was living in London, planned an anniversary surprise for us involving a day shopping in Regent Street and an evening with dinner at Ronnie Scott’s Club in Soho, where the legendary American trumpeter Chet Baker was performing.

The dinner was a rushed affair as we were hustled out of the way to make room for the next booking. The backing band tried hard but Chet was slumped at the bar for most of the evening and could barely manage to blow a few notes before we left, much earlier than planned.

Luckily my wife hadn’t even noticed and was glad of the early night after her successful day at Harrods.

After a break of almost five years I was tempted when a leading jazz octet from America was advertised to perform locally. “Could be good and it’ll make a change, ”…well it would make a change if the performance met my expectations.

I’m sorry to say that the leader appeared in a shell suit and trainers and the bass player kept leaving the stage to fill up his glass from the bar. The star tenor sax player couldn’t reach the high notes and bridged the gaps with either total silence or notes only a dog could hear, that is unless the dog-hearing thing is an old wives tale. The half time interval arrived and we departed earlier than planned from the worst jazz concert I have ever attended.

Since that time we have attended innumerable other musical events ranging from pop to classical, and most things in between. ”At least they usually turn up sober, and you can recognise the tunes,” as my wife constantly reminds me.

Taking solace from the fact that my library of jazz recordings is but a finger's touch away, I continue to holiday in such places as Yarmouth, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis.

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