29 December 2018

The ascent of man

Zackerbilks were their perfectly capable and joyous selves, entertaining on a pub balcony for the 73rd Australian Jazz Convention. We were in Ballarat for a few days and the Jazz Convention was on. I hadn’t known. It’s not a style that’s close to my heart but it is part of jazz history so is worthy of at least a visit. I looked at the program and there were hot sixes and cats and wags and warmers but also a few trios. Perhaps they would have leant to my preferences but I never heard them. Zackerbilks were playing and I rushed off in the morning to the gig and they were fun for the early morning audience. With some goodwill, I arranged with the temporary door people to have a listen (Zackerbilks were Canberrans, after all, and I’d only caught them once before) then go off to the Convention’s office to pay afterwards (so I wouldn’t miss any more of the gig: you can’t pay at a gig). But they were not the official mistress of the door. She returned and came to me with ire for no red wrist band. I responded with too much ire on my own part and the wrap up is I was chucked out. I went across the road to pay but decided against it, being flustered and upset and explaining to myself that I probably couldn’t have hacked so many 2-feels and banjos and clarinets, anyway (true). Thinking further in my defence, despite all my reports (~2,080 to date) and free recordings (450+), I always pay for my gigs other than for an occasional freebie I am offered. On another tack, it reminds me of a story of the Merimbula JF where one of the ANU jazz faculty, no less, was farewelled by the stage manager on PA by welcoming the end of his set so they could get into some real music (read “trad”). So maybe there is a gulf that’s irreconcilable between early and modern. My favourite personal counsel is “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken” / Oliver Cromwell, letter to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland (3 August 1650), quoted by Jacob Bronowski as he stepped into a creek outside Auschwitz in the BBC series, the Ascent of Man. In that light, I recognise I wasn’t innocent and there was guilt on each side, but the result is to ignore Zackerbilks and to avoid the Jazz Convention. It’s on a much, much smaller scale, but somewhat like the European powers sleepwalking into WW1. A Crown Prince or an armband. My experience of the 73rd Australian Jazz Convention. And my apologies to Zackerbilks who deserve a better post.

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