‘I have got a lolly here if anyone needs any sugar. Pass them down to the really old people’.
‘None old here. Not when I was playing with Thomas The Tank Engine this morning’.
‘Yes, actually. Grandkids left it lying out last night. Couldn’t help myself this morning’.
I was delivered from more of this wandering conversation between the two old girls sitting next to me by the piano that led us into some jumping 12 bar blues. Though it did take a while for my neighbours to wind down and I heard about her 94 year mother making quiche even though she has had a fall and should not be on her feet. The drummer joined in and added to the jump, then so too the curly headed chap with the profile of Baloo the Bear who picked up the double bass. By now Thomas the Tank and quiche recipes had faded into the background and the trumpet of Geoff Bull finally put the lid on it completely. Such are the vagaries of attending a jazz concert at a retirement village!
Geoff’s specialty is New Orleans jazz and it was only seconds before most of the sea of grey in front of me was nodding and hands and feet were tapping. The infectious music was partly so because the musicians (not all the same as those in this photo) were having a fun time of it. When they are this absorbed in their music they are as interesting to watch as they are engrossing to listen. Baloo the Bear gazes at the ceiling as his fingers snap at the strings while those of his other hand chase each other up and down the neck at a furious pace. The drummer is lost in his own serene smile as his whole body lunges and sways into his rhythms and beats, heat clicking from side to side as he loses himself in his own bliss. The tousled head of the guy on the clarinet makes him look more like a market gardener than a musician. But he is superb and makes that stick sing with the smoothest of notes. He does look surprised when the first note falls out of the bottom of his instrument. The effort of exhaling that first blocked note forces his eyebrows up and creates a look of surprised relief, which then rapidly transforms into a serious frown of concentration.
Do musicians come to look like their instruments in the same way dog owners seem to morph into their canine friends? An idle thought as it occurred to me that trombone was being played by a willowy trombone of a man, gliding and leaning into his instrument? That thought was undone by the piano player who was nothing like the grand from which he extracted the very best saloon hall piano playing, laying the foundation for all the swaying and jiving happening around him. And for Carol Ralph, thankfully equipped with the requisite smoky, smooth jazz singing voice that underpinned the New Orleans thing happening here this afternoon. Aha, better not forget the banjo player who had a mismatched hair/moustache dye thing going on. He looked perpetually puzzled, as if waking up from a dream and discovering he was in reality on stage playing – woops, what am I doing here? They all had us stomping as they closed to Yellow Dog Blues.
Which faded to…
‘…my mother died at 42 and her mother at 36. Longevity is not a strong suit in my family’.
‘You’re looking good for seventy’.
‘Yeah but one piston is not working well’.
‘How many pistons do you have?’
I fled, taking care to ensure I didn’t break anyone on the way out.
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