The sound of bickering . . . some traditional, some modern

Share
Related Topics
THE JAZZ world is in one way very like the Tory party, or Scotland, or the world of chess, or almost any minority you care to mention. It looks homogeneous from a distance, but the closer you get to it the more signs of internal feuding you find. Like all movements that suffer from a vision of perfection, there is great disagreement in the jazz world over what constitutes perfection, and the writers of different gospels within the movement tend not to talk to each other.

A parallel might be the steam railway world, where GWR people and LNER people still tend to be a bit sniffy about each other, even though both companies vanished in 1948. Jazz is not yet quite as dead as steam railways, though it is nearer to being a heritage industry than its proponents often realise. And yet what jazz fans do, given half a chance, is fight among themselves. Ask Geoffrey Smith.

Geoffrey Smith is a genial American who presents Jazz Record Requests every Saturday on Radio 3 at 5pm. Jazz Record Requests sounds like the kind of programme where listeners write in and request jazz records. Superficially it is. But it is also a programme where listeners write in and slag off each other's tastes in jazz.

The other day Geoffrey Smith's patience finally snapped, or at least stretched audibly, and he read out some of the comments that listeners made about the music requested on the programme which didn't fit in with their own image of jazz. It's rubbish . . . total claptrap . . . it's not jazz at all . . . there can be no such thing as British jazz, which is a contradiction in terms, as only the American article can be the real thing .

. . and so on.

All right, said Geoffrey Smith the other day, all right, for heaven's sake, if you don't like what other people consider to be jazz, let's hear what you think is the real thing. Why don't you all nominate one jazz record which to you represents what jazz is all about, and on 29 October I'll play your nominations and then you can all stop complaining, OK?

That must have shut them up. It's bad enough asking a jazz fan to narrow his record collection down to eight records for a desert island, but asking him to narrow it down to one is like asking a fantasy football man to name an all-time great one-man team.

(Mark you, even taking jazz records to a desert island has its risks. When the film-maker John Boorman was asked by Sue Lawley what his discs were, he named among others Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. Bitches Brew is a famous LP Davis recorded in 1969. What they actually played on the programme, masquerading as Bitches Brew, was some scratchy old live club date from the mid-Fifties, nothing like it at all, which suggests strongly to me that the staff of Desert Island Discs can't tell one jazz record from another, or at least that the subject of Desert Island Discs doesn't always get to hear his own records.) One of the reasons I switch on Jazz Record Requests, apart from enjoying what I like, is to endure what I don't like. I can't stand the old George Lewis/Ken Colyer vision of trad and I don't much enjoy long-winded John Coltrane pupils, but I grit my teeth through it as if it gives me the right to enjoy the stuff I do like. But this last week or two my mind has been wandering. One record to stand for my whole collection? One sound to symbolise the way jazz sounds? This is madness] Well, even madness has its advantages. The last time I made a request to the programme it was for a version of 'Tea For Two' played by Cassino Simpson, a pianist who was locked away for life after murdering the singer he was accompanying - in fact, he recorded 'Tea For Two' in an Illinois mental hospital during his life sentence - but the BBC turned out not to have a copy of the record. This time I hope they have a copy of . . .

Of what? I have narrowed my list down to about 100 nominees. By 29 October I fully expect to be down to 50. But I will predict one thing here and now.

After Geoffrey Smith has presented his peace-making 'And That's Jazz' special, he will receive a huge mailbag from all the listeners who hated all the other people's definitive nominations, and the sound of bickering will be heard loud in the land, and it will all start all over again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition