Jazz: This isn't jazz. This is just terrible telly
Sunday 15 March 1998
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.
Life & Style blogs
iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
From Topshop to Burberry, London Fashion Week spring/summer 2015: Distraction could not disguise a distinct lack of focus
Exclusive interview with Jourdan Dunn: Mother, one of the world's best-paid models and ambassador for sickle-cell disease
No new blood and no fresh ideas at Milan Fashion Week: How do you solve a problem like Milano?
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...
£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...
£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...