Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Comedy and jazz

John Fordham writes in the Guardian blog about the duo of Stefano Bollani and Stian Carstensen at Bath, and points out that ""comedy" had a lot of other meanings before it came to be defined as the art of raising a laugh - like testing the endurance of stereotypes, challenging authorities and received wisdoms, or simply resolving chaotic beginnings as happy endings. The balletic flourish, the haunted gaze into the distance, doesn't necessarily point to a more fundamental truth being in the air than the gale of laughter does."
As long as that's true I wholeheartedly agree with him. If comedy is there to hide technical inadequacy or to fill creative gaps, then it grates. But certainly, in being privileged to release albums by Billy Jenkins, he shows that technical genius can be combined with an ability to make us think about ourselves. However, the jazz world is too full of lovers of the music who feel that jazz's role is too serious and comedy hijacks it. I believe that, for too many years, the jazz world just couldn't get to grips with Billy. Maybe in fact it was too frightened.
Comedy can be used to great effect to get over very complex ideas. Not just Billy, but also performers such as Han Bennink, and, over here, Tom Bancroft's Kidsamonium bringing jazz to the new generation. Or even the Fast Show, which to me was one of the best advertisements that jazz had in the last decade - jazz is such a strong music form that it can surely laugh at itself too from time to time. I know several people curious to listen to the "real thing" as a result of watching the show. Here for example is their take on new British jazz.

While here's a track of Billy from Songs Of Praise. (Album out in September.)

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