Well, survived the weekend. South Africa lost at the cricket, and I found the perfect evening outfit by mixing and matching cheapo Dorothy Perkins top with vair vair expensive French trousers.

The Ronnie Scott’s gig was good. First up was Rachel Calladine fronting Dave O’Higgins’ band by the looks of it. I hadn’t heard Dave O’Higgins for a while, and was surprised to see him doing grits and gravy funk numbers instead of the free-ish stuff I heard all those years ago. Calladine has a beautiful, rich, soulful voice, but the band was a bit on the clunky side, and she even outclassed O’Higgins, in my opinion. Louis Yates and his Cannonball Adderley tribute band were in a completely different class: Adderley-style riffs and spot-on ensemble work executed with soul, style and grace. The sax and trumpet work got CJ racing around the womb, and the piano work was sheer class. As for Yates himself, he didn’t transport me to another plane of existence – as Elvin Jones did last year – but he was probably the best drummer in London that night.

Perhaps it’s because jazz is an American art form, but American jazz musicians seem to possess an almost effortless elegance and ease to their playing that very few European players can manage. When I hear British jazz musicians (apart from the true greats, such as Courtney and Gerard Presencer, to name two), it always sounds like they’re striving for an accurate facsimile of an American sound, without actually getting there. Maybe Courtney and Presencer succeed where many British musicians fail because they don’t try to sound American – they just sound like…well, Courtney and Presencer.

I’ve got a private theory that jazz in this country is damaged. There is good work being done out there, but the jazz world is divided into weird little factions and cliques that assiduously promote their own champions while deriding work that comes from outside their faction as “not jazz”. So, Courtney, despite being possibly the best and most popular jazz musician in this country, will never get to play Ronnie’s because the Ronnie’s faction does not consider Courtney to be “proper jazz”. Horizon 22 never get to play proper jazz gigs because their frontmen didn’t go to jazz school, and came to jazz through the student indie/pub blues circuit; and also because their sound is too “pop” for diehard jazz fans – who wouldn’t know the funk if it bit them on the arse. Yet Dave O’Higgins can play Maceo licks at Ronnie’s five nights a week.


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