Saturday 22nd August 2009
Jazz in the Cube garden on a summer evening.. the idea might sound like one of those things that people would take on board as just a pleasant ambient backdrop for their conversations over a drink and a cigarette: something akin to “Dinner Jazz” playing on the radio as a background to a middle class dinner party. But when Dave Perry took his alto saxophone outside to play a solo set to kick off the live music for the evening, people were unusually attentive and became entranced by the bewitching sounds.
In typical Cube style we’d forgotten to turn on the garden lights, so as the end of day light faded into an ever-darkening twilight, the garden became illuminated as much by the unearthly glow of the Neon sign above as the sun itself and descended into a reverent hush. Not that sort of jazz gig nervous hush where people want to chat but feel too self-conscious about getting glares from nearby beard-stroking jazz aficianados, but relaxed sighs at beautiful tones and playfully lyrical excursions reverberating gently back from the surrounding buildings. In the background, the occasional distant sound of police sirens going up Stokes Croft seemed a world away (as well as too much of a soundtrack cliche to be real).
On the first few pieces, I can’t claim to have been able to follow quite where the music was going (but then I don’t think it was intended to be “understood” as such). Instead it was just a joy for me to hear someone making such warm and emotive sounds and to gradually tune in as he seemed to explore various melodic ideas – wandering away from anything as confining as a rigorous song structure to improvise over. There was also a certain playful element (cheeky even?) in the variety of sounds he was bringing forth from his sax – not that feeling sometimes associated with experimental music of someone trying to coax awkward sounds out of an instrument that it was never intended to play just to be seen to be pushing back the boundaries. No – this came across as much more of a man at great ease with – and having great sympathy for – his sax. It was a surprise to hear later that this was actually an instrument he had just recently borrowed from a friend and was rather unfamiliar with.
On some of the later pieces, a rhythmic groove seemed to evolve (though still a million miles from a vamp or a self-imposed jam) around which he intertwined his musical ideas. Even one of the Cube neighbours was reported to be seen nodding gently as they did the washing up. (Good to know that sound coming from the Cube can occasionally be enjoyed by our neighbours, rather than a cause for annoyance.. a tricky thing at times for a venue in a residential area).
The set came to an end to appreciative applause and smiles all round at having experienced something that was (certainly to my mind) rather special and touching. Those people who had earlier stepped in off the street and got no further than settling down on the metal steps down into the garden wandered inside to pay their entrance dues. The garden lights finally got switched on. And this was just the start of the evening..
(And thanks to my fellow volunteers that night, who so graciously let me derelict my duties to hear a bit more of the music).