It was a cold, gloomy evening before Christmas when I wandered to the relatively local King’s Head pub to see Chris Biscoe. The saxophonist is one of my favourite British musicians, and I reckoned if he were to play in my back yard, I ought to do him the honour of turning up and supporting him. (Some might call this “community”. I’m sure they’d be wrong…) I am very glad I did.
Firstly, the music was great: the quartet were playing the music of Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy. I love Mingus’ music. Dolphy’s I find a lot harder: free-er, it isn’t music that I listen to at home; it requires full attention. Live, though, free jazz comes into its own. And this band played it very well. (As a measure of its freedom, most of Dolphy’s tunes seemed to include the word “Out”: I have “Out to Lunch” and listen to it often; I didn’t know “Out There” or any of the other Outs that were played.)
But secondly, I was glad to be there to support the music I love. Because when the band started, the audience numbered just six, including me. Only six people could be arsed to go out and here these great musicians play such brilliant music?
By the end of the evening, there were twenty or so in the audience.
I don’t know why so few people were there. It was coming up to Christmas, so people were busy. It was a grotty night – I nearly didn’t go out, so manky was the weather. It was a one-off jazz gig in a pub more famed for its comedy club. Who knows why else?
Frankly, that so few people were there made it feel rather special: there was no distance between the band and the audience. Jazz gigs are often low-key affairs where the musicians chat to the audience in the interval, but this felt like it was in my front room. (If my front room were a basement bar… Now that’s an idea!) I felt so strongly that I wanted to support the music that I bought Biscoe’s latest CD. And lots of beer. (Complete self-sacrifice, obviously.)
So: a great gig, bizarrely unattended.