I have got the furious needle
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I have got the furious needle
I have got the furious needle. Richard Rodney Bennett is the cause of it—or rather, his “Jazz Calendar”. For those of you who don’t follow the comings and goings of Covent Garden, “Jazz Calendar”, written by R.R.B., has been used as the basis of a new ballet.
I watched him with bemused fascination as he was interviewed on Late Night Line–up after the opening night, and some of the things he said made me very angry indeed. The reason for my venom is that he has little or no love for jazz and treats it with so little respect that I wish he would keep his prissy little hands off it.
On this interview, he as good as admitted that he only wrote the music for a little light relief and, when asked if he minded his music taking second place to the movement on stage, he calmly informed us that had it been a String Quartet or something ‘serious’ he would have minded, but as it was only jazz . . . ! To prove to us just how lightly he did take jazz, R.R.B. treated us to two excerpts from his work, playing pianoforte himself. He was supported in the difficult task of trying to make it swing by bass and drums.
My wife, ever watchful for such outbursts as this type of performance brings out in me, calmed me down by degrees and my blood pressure returned to more or less normal. I finally attained my usual state of ‘cool’ and eventually found sleep.
That was that, I thought, until I began reading reviews of the new ballet in the morning papers. These, to my horror, also treated jazz lightly—one as some type of ‘in’ joke. After looking at The Times and Daily Telegraph, I decided not to tempt fate any further. Music critics are usually ill–informed enough when they write about jazz. Ballet critics, it would seem, take the prize.
Why is it that whenever a ‘serious’ composer attempts to write jazz he always ceases to be serious? If only these people would bother to dig down into the roots of it and realise that jazz isn’t just a matter of writing down a few ‘changes’ and playing them in regular tempi! Jazz is not just a pretty face—it also has a bloody great heart and an enormous pair of other things! When jazz is properly used as the basis for a ballet it may not be a great commercial success, but at least it won’t be thought a joke.
All God’s children got what?
Ignoring the very young (who had not yet mastered the art of co-ordinating their little limbs) and the older ones (who had become too individual to indulge in team work), I was left with the most natural group—those between the ages of 6 and 10 years. This group all appeared eager to get their routines correct and had not yet reached the stage when they felt the need to ‘cut’ each other. Of course, they were under–rehearsed and the accompaniment was not the best in the world; but it was remarkable to observe the divergence of opinion as to where the ‘beat’ came.
Why should this be? I feel it can only be due to the differences in their individual rhythmic senses. So, having observed the effect and partially convinced myself as to the cause, I was no nearer being able to say anything specific to explain this phenomenon. Why is it that the ‘clock’ within each of us should differ so from one individual to another? Is it possible to regulate it? Does one either have it or not have it and that’s that? Can it be fostered? Does it make any difference if a child is brought up close to rhythm? Can it be inherited? If any of you know the answers to any of these questions please let me know.
Where have all the Johnnies gone?
While on the subject of Honours, here are my Plastic Skull Awards for 1967:
To Steve Race for his unbelievable ubiquitousness.
Copyright © 1968, Kenny Graham. All Rights Reserved