09 November 2010

Life on the outside

It was a pensive sound that was wafting through Woden Town Square as I emerged from shoppers’ paradise into fresh air and reality. Jazz had finally supplanted the buzzing rockers. Mick Elderfield was playing tenor under the bridge next to the Soul Bar. The bridge is an apt location for a solo tenorist: for the wonderfully rich and echoing sound under the massed concrete, but also for the reference to Sonny Rollins’ Bridge. I listened a while. That sound was so big and smooth, and the slow but sturdy statement of the underlying harmony was satisfying. I wondered if the lunchtime crowd, mostly brought up on fast pop or staid country lines over 3 chords, would think of this complexity. Would they hear the more intricate harmony? Would they hang around long enough to recognise a standard? Really, I shouldn’t expect so little: this was a well-educated public service crowd at lunch, and they probably listen to Miles and classics at home. Like me. They were probably rushing back to work for a meeting. But it was lovely weather and that sound was so nice. I commented to Mick and he confided he was playing a Selmer Mark VI, so there was good reason for the sound. I noticed tarnished metal and fresh-looking pads, so this was a cared-for vintage instrument.

Much of our public life now happens in commercial private spaces sporting agreeable charities and piped music and well-presented people and informed by eminent business sense. It’s all safe, ordered, efficient and comfortable, but it’s soulless. It was lovely to emerge into the rag-tag of public life in a public space and hear such sweet and thoughtful sounds. Thanks to Mick Elderfield who busked Selmer tenor under the bridge at Woden Town Square.

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