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Hopping on the Bandstand with the 1-4-5’s

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I play tenor saxophone quite a bit in my spare time. And as such, am sometimes asked to join someone else’s band for an evening.

Joining someone else’s band at the drop of a hat is always an exciting experience – like driving someone else’s car for a week – so I jumped at the chance to fill in for the then-sick tenorist for the 1-4-5’s.


Bar Music Hall

I turned up at around 30 minutes before we were due to go on, in the hope of getting in some quick practice before the show started. 


The venue was packed. And loud! Two things you rarely find at a jazz/blues gig; normally you expect to find a half-empty and fully drunk audience that never really pays attention.

So we were already onto a good night. 

Bar Music Hall itself is in the trendy part of Shoreditch and is one of the larger pubs in the area – with a large stage for bands (luxury!).

The crowd was a surprise too, mostly early twenties in short dresses stumbling around on six-inch heels.

On Stage

With no time to rehearse other than a cursory glance over the set list I knew I would have to fall back on previous experience in blues bands, which I don’t want to talk about.

I was impressed by the tightness of the tunes and by how little time there was between songs.

At one point an enthusiastic young lady jumped up onto the stage, demanding a tambourine. We obliged, then instantly regretted the decision as she shook it out of time to “Johnny B Goode”.

Spurred on by her friend, and not to be out-done, a gregarious leather-clad woman jumped up onto the stage and took possession of the tambourine then proceeded to “play” it using various parts of her body, fortunately covered in tight leather.

During this I assume we continued to play, although I cannot say for certain.

Back to the Blues

I was surprised how quickly some long-forgotten blues songs came back to me during the set.

This is largely due to the blues’ prescribed chord progression, so mastering one means you’ve pretty much mastered them all.

Between our sets the venue put on generic “Bar/club” music which many do, and I’ve never really understood why.

Surely if you book a blues band you’d want to keep the night on topic by putting on some John Lee Hooker during the breaks, not Lady Gaga!

The Fat Lady Sings

The fact that a big trendy venue like this booked a blues band for a Saturday night can only mean good things for the future of blues and its bigger brother jazz.

After last year’s Burlesque revival I’m starting to think that jazz as a genre is making a genuine comeback, to inspire a whole new generation of players and entertain millions of people worldwide!

Watch this space.

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