[Dixielandjazz] Strange gigs

Tony Davis tony@tony-davis.co.uk
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 11:50:35 +0100

I had a weird gig last month.  The organizers of a series of events in
London under the title 'Jazz On The Streets' sent out (by e-mail) an
invitation to participate in the opening event.  The plan was that groups of
musicians should start from different points and walk through the streets
playing a specially commissioned piece, finally converging on Covent Garden
where the piece would be heard in all its glory, played by some 200

It sounded like an interesting (if slightly insane) project, so I signed up
for it.  I filled in the online form, stating my instrument as 'trumpet',
and downloaded my part from the JOTS website.  I had some misgivings when I
found the part was headed 'Soprano Sax', but I thought, what the hell, I can
play it an octave lower and it'll sound ok.

Accompanied by my navigator, minder and soulmate, Judy Eames, I arrived at
the West Piazza in Covent Garden, was given a T-shirt and map, and went to
my starting point which was the JOTS shop in Broadwick Street.  It was a
beautiful morning, and we meandered through the streets of Soho, stopping
for a leisurely pint at a pub near the shop and feeling that life was pretty

When we arrived at the shop I found that I had only one companion, another
trumpet player called Loz.  (We later found out that instead of 200
musicians only about 20 had turned up.)  Loz also had the soprano sax part
but had been given a slightly different route from mine.  Jude thought we
should join forces, but he agreed with me that he should stick to his route
(he must have been a Virgo too).

We played one chorus together (more or less) and then marched off in
opposite directions.  We never saw him again.  I walked through the streets
of Soho alone (except for Jude), alternately playing a chorus and having a
breather, in spite of the injunction I'd had from the organizer to 'keep
playing VERY LOUDLY all the time'.  He obviously wasn't a trumpet player.

When we arrived back at Covent Garden the others (mostly sax players) had
already got there and were playing the piece together.  When I say
'together' I mean that they all played at the same time.  There was no
discernible form or structure to their playing.  They all had the music in
front of them, but they had either started at different times or were
playing at different speeds (or both).  The Organizer crept up behind me and
shouted "Play as loud as you can!".

After playing a bit of modal stuff and exchanging a few musical ideas with
the only remaining trumpet player, I decided that it was irrelevant what I
played, so I started on some classic solos.  'Singing the Blues' fitted in
rather well, I thought.  I was a few bars into the 'Potato Head'  stop
chorus when everything stopped.  I opened my eyes and found that the
Organizer and his partner were holding up big red signs that said 'STOP'.

Finally we all played the piece once through in a really organized way,
starting and finishing together.  It sounded rather good, but anyone who
heard the initial cacophony would have gone away with the impression that
'jazz' was just musical anarchy; an awful noise best avoided.

Money?  I was paid 20 quid, not bad for a twenty-minute walk through Soho,
if you ignore the tube fare from Hammersmith.  Unfortunately after the gig I
was seduced into spending 80 quid on a band jacket...

Tony Davis
Zenith Hot Stompers/Kaminsky Connection
Aston, Oxfordshire, UK