Jazz Takes

0 Comments 20 July 2015

Imagine a freezing, grey Melbourne day where there is nothing to do but strum your guitar aimlessly and picture yourself as an incredible rock star. Not too unfamiliar to many of us, right? But there seems to be more days like these than interesting songs to pretend to sing, which creates a problem where one must sing the same song over and over in different keys to make it seem less repetitive. Well, I hit that brick wall long ago. So when I was lucky enough to go to a concert at a groovy place in the city called The Paris Cat for some real jazz, I was excited.

Alexander Nettelbeck on piano, Conrad Henderson  on bass and John Milton on drums accompanied New York jazz singer Vivian Sessoms, who I had never heard of before. Sessoms’ singing was a paradox to me: she sang freely but was in complete control; she sang quietly but with strength and she sang loudly but with resistance. It was beautiful and inspiring.

The Paris Cat was the perfect venue for the event. Being a small, hidden away building in the heart of the city where jazz is the focus, me and my family settled in right away. I remember the night vividly even though it was in May because of the artists’ and the venue’s uniqueness and chic.

The biggest change for me was that before the evening, I had a mild appreciation of jazz with little knowledge of the breadth and diversity that it has. Now, I see jazz as a beautiful way to express raw and shallow feelings, as well as a relaxing style to listen to and a difficult style to master.

Another quality of jazz is that it can be luxurious and casual at the same time. This relates to all aspects of the genre. The dress code to go and listen to jazz can consist of jeans and a t-shirt or a beautiful dress (I chose the latter because I like to play dressups). The venue can cater to kids but also have an exotic wine list and late hours. The performers can talk straight to the audience but also have star-like qualities. The music itself can be achingly complicated or simple, but whichever it is, it can be listened to and accessed by anyone and everyone.

Unfortunately I didn’t know nearly enough of the songs performed as I would have liked, but one that stuck with me was a standard about “leaves” and maybe “Autumn” and perhaps a “window”. So the next day in my singing lesson, I gave this vague bit of information to my teacher who recognized it immediately. Now, Autumn Leaves is my standard as much as anyone else’s. I sing it in the shower, I hum it at school and yes, I strum it on the guitar. Perhaps I’ll broaden my jazz syllabus soon. I have in fact written the beginnings of a jazz song myself. Is two songs enough for a concert? Hmmm…

Vivian Sessoms, Alexander Nettelbeck, Conrad Henderson and John Milton have inspired me to take up jazz as more than just a song that happens to be on shuffle that I choose not to skip every once in a while. I highly recommend the genre , the venue and the artists to anyone looking for some new music. AS Louis Armstrong once said, “Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, man, jazz is jazz”. Take this and do with it what you will. I dare you.

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