Compere and contrast: me and the band

This coming Friday I have to go out briefly on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and initiate the proceedings of a jazz concert which Stan Tracey is giving to mark his 70th birthday. Do a bit of compering. Chat for a while if there is a hiatus. And already there is a part of me wishing I hadn't said I would do it.

Introducing a jazz concert is not exactly climbing Everest, but it is still one of the most thankless tasks in the world. The people who have turned up to listen to any jazz concert are generally knowledgeable and sensible, so when someone who is clearly not one of the musicians comes through the curtain or shuffles on stage and approaches the mike, the general feeling among the audience is: "Whoever he is, why doesn't he get off and let the musicians on?"

I have had to do this from time to time over the years and, however nice it is to be asked, it is never much fun to do. Someone has got to do it, however, because very few jazz musicians enjoy talking to an audience, and it helps if someone tries to establish a rapport. I had a conversation once with Chris Pyne, the jazz trombonist, who told me about the time he was asked to join a group called Coe Wheeler & Co.

"They didn't really need a trombonist," he said. "The line-up was fine as it was - trumpet, tenor, rhythm section. So why me? Well, it gradually dawned on me that everyone in the band was very shy. Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. Shy. Tony Coe. Hardly says anything. I think the pianist was John Taylor. Not very forthcoming. Whereas I am quite happy chatting. And it suddenly dawned on me one day that the only real reason I had been asked to join the group was to make the announcements ..."

Even when you aren't on stage, you can be in trouble. I was once asked to write the programme notes for a Lol Coxhill concert. Lol Coxhill, if you don't know, is a soprano saxophonist who not only likes to play completely unaccompanied (I once came out of a Count Basie concert at the Odeon, Hammersmith, and found Coxhill busking, beautifully, on the pavement outside) but has a caustic attitude to any more conventional approaches. Anyway, I attended the concert for which I had written the appreciative notes and was somewhat puzzled when, before he even started playing, Lol pulled a programme out of his pocket and proceeded to read out to the audience every word I had written in a pretend Pseud's Corner kind of voice, making it plain he didn't think as much of it as I did. I didn't think the scorn was deserved, but then I would say that, wouldn't I?

It isn't much better backstage, because the so-called compere is with musicians with whom he has no artistic right to be mingling. I once got involved in introducing a jazz concert at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival which featured the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and American trumpeter Red Rodney in a tribute to Woody Herman, and I can remember wandering round backstage occasionally trying to talk to the star musicians I was rubbing shoulders with, and finding it difficult because they hadn't the faintest idea who I was. The one moment I remember with great clarity was when the veteran Red Rodney found himself on stage playing against the young British trumpeter in the band, Gerard Presencer, and finding it extremely hard to make any headway against the brilliant youngster.

"My God!" exclaimed Rodney when he came off stage. "Why isn't that young kid out getting girls in trouble, instead of showing me up like that?"

So why did I agree to go and say a few words at Stan Tracey's 70th birthday concert? To get a chance to hear Stan for free, of course. Or rather, to blackmail myself into going. When you live near Bristol, you tend not to go to London for an evening out unless you force yourself to, and although Stan Tracey's piano is still one of the joys of British music, I haven't heard him live for years - or hadn't till last Sunday, when he happened to be in Bristol playing with his Quartet at the Albert, Bristol's great jazz pub. And with him on trumpet he had the very same Gerard Presencer I heard in Edinburgh some 10 years ago, still boyish-looking but a wonderfully mature player now.

The Bristol pub gig was being filmed for HTV. I don't think the BBC or anyone else has any plans to record the QEH concert tomorrow. Maybe London folk are slower off the mark than down here in the West Country. Anyway, if London folk knew their business they should have given him a knighthood by now.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London