Midnight Jazz Sessions (featuring Butt School)
Butt School @ Cuckoo Bar
11:59pm, Thu 12 Mar 2009
I’ve never been to Cuckoo before – it’s fucking ace. Nice bar, tidy (though esoteric) selection of imbibements, and a great little area off to the side to accomodate lots of comfy seating and a performance space… and tonight, for Cuckoo’s Midnight Jazz Session, I’m being entertained by Butt School.
Butt School, I’m informed later (by one of the members for the evening, though he could have been fibbing – how would I know any different?) is a floating free jazz collective consisting of pretty much whoever wants to show up on the night. I learn that Adam Page has performed with Butt School on occasion; nice little co-inky-dink of the day there.
This evening the lineup is a mixture of youth and experience, and consisted of two chaps on sax, a trumpet, a double bass, and a tidy little drumkit. Facing each other in a loose circle, they start noodling – a couple of minutes is all it takes for the three girls at the bar to turn and glare distastefully before necking their drinks and leaving. They were half the audience. Apparently they weren’t into the relatively free-form stylings that Butt School were producing.
Now, the idea of free jazz has always fascinated me – but I hadn’t actually been to a gig such as this: a pure free jazz band in a tiny club in the midnight hours. And, aside from the lack of cool hep cats, this was pretty much exactly as I imagined it; a dark and heavy mood, candlelit shadows flickering across muted walls, and that translates to the music as well; it’s a traditional jazz jam, but with a slightly sinister and chaotic edge. Curiously, despite the completely improvised nature of the performance, there’s no fights between players for the lead; there’s a common understanding between them, a simple glance enough to change the direction.
Sure, some pieces sounded like an angry duck complaining, but this show remains a remarkably positive memory; provocative music, a feeling of rarified exclusivity, and a chat with the band in the set break. And, as previously mentioned, the opportunity to wander home through silent and secretive streets in the early hours.