Improvizone

9th gig: Tuesday 30 October 2007 at The Plough, E17

Andrew Booker 2007-10-10 22:36:24

How do you like my poster?

Yes, yes, I said I would never put up another one in the rest of my life. But the North Circular has never looked so good, because you can hardly see it, and attendance was down at the last gig, for which I partly blame my stubborn refusal to put up a nice poster at the venue. Plus I am thinking of sending smaller versions out as e-flyers to interested personages.

OK, on with the show. This month's players are

You will recognise Os and Mike if you've been watching what's going on with the spring and summer gigs this year. Jim Lampi is one of the finest stick players this side of the Atlantic. Which is why it humbles us all to know that he originates from the other side of the Atlantic. Chapman Sticks are unusual instruments that combine the pitch range of a bass and a guitar. This is because essentially a Stick is a bass and a guitar fused together on one great big plank. Jim is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this. Anyway, while the bass-guitar hybrid lends itself well to solo playing, much like the piano, they are often overlooked in standard knuckles-on-the-ground rock instrumentation. Like, uh, are you a bass player or a guitarist? I don't understand! I think my head's going to fall off... But while Os and Mike spread sleek and slightly edgy ambient strokes over the forthcoming gig, I'm looking forward not only to an evening's tuned rhythm-sectioning with the Lampster, but also the more melodic input he will be able to provide.

We will surely split into smaller duos and chop and change around to keep the creativity going. What I won't do is plan a running order here like I usually do, because when I do, it just about guarantees the gig doesn't turn out that way.

Now, let me say something about The Plough... actually I never quite know what to make of the Plough, enigmatic Upper Walthamstow drinkery... the bookshelves lining the walls, the stinky bogs, the modestly diverse selection of continental lagers, the totally varied mix of genial people, the charming little music theatre to the side that even has its own bass amp... What I can tell you is how to get to it. By rail, there is Wood Street station right next door, served by trains from Liverpool Street via Walthamstow Central. By bus, you want the 230. By ambulance, that will be Whipps Cross Hospital, half a mile down the bottom of Wood Street. I guess a little diversionary assistance from the ambulance driver would be ideal. For all other motor vehicles, best approach from the North Circular, exiting at the Waterworks roundabout, which is the junction with the A104 and which, GOD I'm so helpful, is pictured in that little poster above. No really, it is. Yes I know it's dark. It'll be dark when you arrive too. See? I have done you a favour.

About this poster... does it strike you as odd that it does not show the names of the players, even though I've put pictures of us? For the real one I put our names on. My original thoughts were, if you don't know who we are, names will not tell you any more about us, and they'll just clutter up the image. But I decided I was probably mistaken there.

A name on a poster is good for more than just enticing you towards someone you would want to see. Suppose I see a sign outside a pub near me saying Live Jazz. This is the year 2007, not 1957, and I'm going to be deeply, deeply suspicious of the authenticity of that statement. My taste in jazz is primarily bebop or hard bop, with a secondary soft spot for the earlier bigger dance bands of the early 1940s. Like hell am I going to get any of that at the Napier Arms on a Wednesday. If I'm lucky, it's going to be an electric keyboardist and a singer. If I'm unlucky, they're going to have a drum machine.

Now suppose the poster had listed four people, in the standard sax/piano/bass/drums lineup. Suddenly, the instrumentation tells me a great deal about what I'm going to get. Doesn't matter if I've never heard of them. I'm going to assume they are OK players, because nobody has the bollocks to go out and play jazz without knowing what they're doing. Better than that, I can be sure who's not playing. There are certain musicians I will avoid watching. Actually there are hardly any, all of them are drummers, and if there were appearing at my local pub I'd watch them anyway. You can always learn from incompetence just as well as from excellence.

So that's the next gig at the Plough. After that there should be two more gigs this year. We'll do one more at the Plough in early December, plus we hope to be trying out a new central London venue. Details coming soon.

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