Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Johnny Hates Jazz (Me Too)

The Saxophone teacher looks exactly like a saxophonist should: under regulation height, with more stubble than seems feasible, a roll-neck jumper and just the vague suspicion that, in a bag not a million miles away, there is a peaked felt cap which will only ever be worn backwards. I suspect that if I look closely I will see fingers yellowed from smoking too many roll-ups of “herbal” cigarettes, but nonetheless instantly feel strangely reassured.

It’s Wednesday night and his class has about twenty minutes left to run. I’m upstairs in a building that stands on the ground where my Head Master once broke a classroom window whilst playing cricket with the sixth-formers and thinking about lessons in general.

I guess I was about 11 when I first thought about learning the guitar. Our Kid (northern slang for younger sibling) was already playing keyboard by then and was on book three of the Vince Clark songbook (or so it seemed – anyone not familiar with the works of Mr Clark should do a search in Wikipedia for Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure) – but I fancied the guitar as my instrument of choice.

The problem being that by then it had been made clear to me that teachers were Strange Alien Beings To Be Feared and that they were of the considered opinion that I had all the intellectual capacity of a wet cabbage – so the thought of asking about lessons was utterly terrifying to me. It didn’t help that we had two music teachers at our school: one of whom made the local tramp (the one who walked down the subways yelling “AAAAAAHH, up the bee-gees, up the bee-gees” in a heavy Irish accent) look sane, the other couldn’t bear to look at us until her fourth cup of coffee – in three years of music lessons we would see one xylophone once and that was it, but on my first day in class I made a point of walking in first so I could stay behind after everyone else had gone and ask about lessons…and then totally bottled it (chickened out).

I was seventeen when I finally started after school lessons through the community college where the teachers were happy to teach you anything as long as it wasn’t complicated, then left and just carried on playing and recording at home happy in the knowledge that I would never be Eric Clapton (hell I’d have settled for his second cousin Dave)

But at some point along the way I started thinking about other instruments – I’m always interested in trying something new. I have something of a gadfly mind and it tends to jump about and try and do everything (sometimes I think it would be nice to be focussed)

And then a few years passed

And then I saw that my old school were doing evening classes in Saxophone – something I had been interested in for a while: only the lessons were Wednesday night.

Toastmasters night. Bugger.

So there I was, chatting to some old geezer about Guitar Pull evenings at a local pub whilst I waited for the Saxophone teacher to finish up with his class so I could ask about private lessons that would bring me up to speed for the advanced (Monday evening) classes.

Saxophone – invented by Peter Saxon and Padraig O’Phone..or maybe not

The musical instrument most associated with the “J” word (and for my opinion on Jazz see the above and the comment made by Jimmy Rabbitte in “The Commitments”)

When the class have finished SaxMan gives me a quote for tuition and it sounds a bit pricey for one person – which is when I remember that Argent has previously mentioned that she owns an Alto Sax but hasn’t touched it in years. I decide to see if she would be interested in starting again.

SaxMan gives me his number and I go away, texting Argent – who seems positively thrilled at the idea and offers to go and pick up the Sax that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of weeks – I subsequently collect it from her and, after several hours of turning an unnatural shade of beetroot manage to elicit the sort of sound that is usually made by a rabbit that has been tortured by a cat for some hours before finally being bashed against a brick wall.

A couple of weeks pass and things get a bit hectic. Argent and I have agreed to work towards an Open Mike night and now it is upon us meaning that we have Final Practice (Friday eve), Open Mike (Monday), Saxophone lesson (Tuesday) and Toastmasters (Wednesday).

BTW – on the subject of the open mike I’m going to leave it to Argent to comment on that other than to say that I spent too long staring at the floor and my lyrics when I didn’t need to and was relieved a) not to be accosted by the usual drunk man who has taken a fancy to me and b) the crowd were politely indifferent instead of openly hostile.

And then the first practice – SaxMan arrives with barely a sign of the peaked-cap, but still wearing the trademark Jean-Paul Satre jumper and talks us both through setting up the sax and the proper way to blow (turns out that the wording in my book was misleading, leading me to think I had to bite down on the reed). It turns out his favourite word is OK (pronouned slightly nasally to sound like no-kay) and then he shows me what I've been doing wrong and mercy of mercies – a whole two notes come out.

OK so Courtney Pine is not going to be losing any sleep any time soon, but I think we both enjoyed the session and that SaxMan was suitably impressed. It’s like learning my chords all over again – I know that all it needs is a little more practice and that wobbly sound will go away (until such time as it is required)

So the upshot of this post is – if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t gotten around to it: go and try it. You never know – a couple of years down the line we could have a group internet jam as we all play along to Baker Street

Take it away Bob Holness…

(the link to post Gerry Rafferty’s infamous song was disabled, so you’ll just have to visit the site)

NB: despite all the internet rumours to the contrary Bob (the former host of All Time Greatest Quiz Show Blockbusters and one time radio James Bond) did NOT play the famous sax line on Baker Street. Not even a tiny little bit.


the watercats said...

Nice one! I sway between liking saxaphone and detesting it... it's one of them things.. like a trumpet.. only a bit cooler looking and it doesn't conjur images of hotpot swilling northerners... :-)
I'm intrigued by the open mic thingy now... congrats! I think!

Argent said...

Hehe - SaxMan did have a hat but it was one of those things with earflaps on it! Seems to know his onions though and has a nice structured approach which is good for me. It was a great fun session and am actaully looking forward ot next week;s one now. Open mic post to come - with tiny snippet of vid (don't worry, yer own mother won't be able to recognise you)

kanishk said...

I'm intrigued by the open mic thingy now... congrats! I think!
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