The Debonaire Gentlemen @ The Promethean
10:30pm, Wed 4 Mar 2009
Right. So. Jazz.
I don’t really have an ear for it. At all. I’ve tried, I really have – but outside of the usual Glenn Miller Big Band stuff that my Dad used to play (interspersed with German beer-drinking songs) every Sunday morning, my first real exposure to jazz of any kind was one of John Zorn‘s many free-jazz / hardcore guises. So that’s coloured my understanding of jazz somewhat, and made every jazz gig, every jazz festival, seem kind of… well, lame. Unstructured, but soft. Self-indulgent noodling pap.
But the blurb for these chaps declared they do things “a little different.”
And so I return to The Promethean (still an awesome venue, with gorgeous bar staff of the female variety) to check out The Debonaire Gentlemen – Grant on trombone, Sam on double bass, and Max on saxophone. Max on sax – I like that. There’s a fair crowd gathered for the start of the show, and they open with an original composition, which – as with all their tunes – started and ended tightly, but was the usual muddy meandering mess in the middle that I’ve come to expect from trad jazz. Away from the rigor of the intro and outro, they flounce over each other in extended solos with no structure… just like normal jazz, so I don’t see what’s “a little different” about it.
Now, that all sounds a little caustic, but here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter. I’m sitting here, typing whilst listening, and it doesn’t matter. I’ve disengaged my brain for a while, some Annie’s Lane Cab Merlot is gently warming my stomach (and skull), and I’m just at ease. Jazz? is part of the background, yet actively enabling my relaxed state – one which I rarely enter, and never seem to appreciate. And that’s just fine by me.
The second set is shorter – and much tighter, much less noodling, as a result. And it’s lovely. And it’s a pity that most of the crowd had already left; they missed out on the cool-as-fuck harmonised whistling on the final number for the evening. And so I left with a smile on my face, cheer in my heart, and a belly full of lovely red. Top night, really.