The old muso-joke runs as follows: Q: "What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?", A: "A Drummer"! The implication of this joke is that I really ought to become a drummer, or I will be merely a punchline in search of a joke; because I have always hung around with musicians.
The disadvantages of hanging around with musicians is that they can be vain, temperamental, insecure, and difficult! The advantages have been many however, in that musicians have been some of my best -friends over the years, and people who have influenced me greatly, not least by expanding my musical horizons.
This is especially the case when it comes to jazz. When I left school and went to Strode's College, I gained a group of muso-friends who played me all kinds of sounds I had never heard before. Some of it was recorded music that they had in their collections, more of it was what they allowed me to hear them playing themselves. Some of my LP re-discoveries at the back of the attic last week, date back to that era. The first LP in this vein (I suppose somewhat inevitably) was Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. A girlfriend I spent a lot of time with in those days bought me two albums, Gary Moore's Still Got the Blues on cassette, and Kind of Blue on Vinyl. The Vinyl still sounds good, while the cassette died a long time ago...
It's still hard not to be mesmerised by Kind of Blue, though. The melodic beauty and gorgeous atmosphere of the album rightly gives it a timeless quality which makes it regularly feature as the sole representative of jazz, in 'greatest-ever-album' lists. As well as its intrinsic worth, this album was also a gateway to all kinds of new musical appreciation for me. Furthermore, it is also loaded with memories of a critical part of my life, a time of growth and discovery. Soon after Kind of Blue, I went to a record shop, and asked for something similar - and came away with Birth of the Cool. Another treasure in the attic!
Amongst my other closest friends from that era was a certain Mr Goodman, a great friend and a fine musician. Being in his company inevitably involved exposure to music, he played it on various instruments, sang it, played it at home, played it in the car, and drove us to gigs, in venues like The Bull at Barnes Bridge, The Vortex Jazz Bar, The Jazz Cafe and the Half Moon in Putney. He played things as diverse as Al Jarreau, and Take 6, the spellbindingly exhilarating 6-part harmony acapella group - and everyone's very favourite 7th Day Adventists! When my old friend emigrated several years ago, he left me with some of his Vinyl LP's which have been part of what I unearthed. My wife and I went to hear Take 6, live in London a few years ago and were
utterly blown-away by the experience, despite our very-back-row seats at the Barbican!
Since those long-distant days of hearing these new sounds coming from my friends stereos, or keyboards, or saxes (etc) I have picked up a handful of other albums by great jazz-players. Most of these have been on CD, but the other notable forgotten one from the attic-archive was an old Dave Brubeck album, "Jazz at Oberlin". I remember taping this on my Dad's stereo and taking the cassette to Uni. I'm no muso, and I don't claim to understand the technicalities of all that goes on in such records, but the feel of music like this is riveting. I love it when a solo-ist appears to be playing something obvious, but then throws you off track, takes you by surprise only to elegantly resolve the aural conundrum he has created. It's great to be awestruck by a great piece of playing.