Jazz: This isn't jazz. This is just terrible telly

"WELCOME to Jazz Club. Nice!" In the wake of The Fast Show's wickedly funny skit in which a bouffant-haired, Seventies-suited compere introduces incomprehensible acts with self-regarding, in-for-a-dig asides to-camera ("Amazing!"), Jazz 606 (BBC 2, Wed) was always going to have a hard time taking itself seriously. If only they'd been bold enough to get Jazz Club's fictitious frontman to present their own programme, the format could maybe have worked. As it is, the series (two down, four to go) is unlikely to please either committed fans or the promiscuous channel- surfers it's probably aimed at. And let's face it, even an actor in a bad wig would be preferable to the presenter they have chosen to go with, the Mancunian poet Lemn Sissay.

Though he does have a jazz pedigree of sorts, Sissay is no Philip Larkin, a jazz fan to whom Sidney Bechet was God and John Coltrane the devil incarnate. No, Sissay is the kind of poet who likes to put an exclamation mark after every single word, and he addresses the camera as if trying optimistically to communicate with the deaf. "Jazz! It's great! Don't wait! Jazz! It's Spazz! Modically interesting! Does he! Take sugar!", gives a little of the flavour. Sissay's manic enthusiasm ends up having the opposite effect to that intended. I mean, if it's really this good, why is the programme filled with dodgy singers and bygone fusion acts? Though set in a real jazz club - the 606 in Chelsea Harbour - it looks more like a set from Muriel Young's Five O' Clock Club, with an audience from a Social Services version of Central Casting looking ill at ease in the background. There's smoke, but not much fire.

This view, of course, will no doubt be used by the Beeb to avoid commissioning another jazz series for years and years. I mean: jazz fans? They moan and moan about the lack of jazz on TV and then, when you finally accede to their demands, they go and slag it off. Bastards.

It's true, we're very hard to please and to most of us jazz on telly has been going down- hill since even before we can remember. Since Jazz 625 in the 1960s, in fact, which was pretty much where it started. The combination of host Humphrey Lyttelton and guests like Art Blakey, Tubby Hayes and Thelonious Monk is a very hard act to follow - especially when most of them are dead - but it does provide a model of sorts, even today: a presenter who doesn't hype; a clear, unfussy visual style; and some of the best musicians going. Jazz 606, whose title cheekily invokes its ancestor, fails on all of these counts (many of the artists are fine, although they aren't given enough space) but it's the visual style - more properly the lack of it - that irks most of all. The authenticity and intimacy that the club setting is meant to invoke is compromised by the very fact that it's being used basically as a television studio, and it ends up not looking like a jazz club at all. If authentic ambience is what was really intended, the Beeb could have done a full Ronnie Scott, put a scratch'n'sniff card of cooking- oil smells in the Radio Times and recorded people talking very loudly over the music.

Faced with the disappointment of the programme, one thinks fondly of the visual style of ECM Records, where they stick a moody photo of a landscape on the cover of the CD for you to look at while you listen. True, the picture doesn't move, but it's very well composed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before