Early, I know (gets earlier every year), but here’s a plea to musicians. If you’re going to take bookings in December, please have some seasonal repertoire ready. Even just a few numbers. Doesn’t have to turn into a full-blown carol service with bells and smells, you can still have fun and do your thing.
While we’re on the subject, there’s nothing more pathetic than a band that can’t play Happy Birthday. And in all seriousness, I was once at a New Year gig as a civilian and found myself scrapping down the chords for Auld Lang Syne on a bit of till roll for the guitarist. (It’s also not a bad idea to have a rough grasp of “Wagner in, Mendelssohn out” on a wedding gig, even if you’re just the party band for afterwards…)
SOME RESPONSES TO JAZZ SCROOGES…
- What, you think the tunes are cheesy?
Actually, they’re very good tunes and lend themselves really well to adaptation and improvisation. Jazzers have it easy, in fact, because you can be cheeky and chuck quotes around.
- Or that’s not what you do, man? Not your vibe?
Well okay, but while “anti Xmas” gigs are often tried, they usually involve an audience in festive mood (pissed up), a stage decked with tinsel and an argument with the management to get paid at the end of the night. Because your edgy Stockhausen-meets-hiphop project reduced the kids to tears.
- The audience is tired of hearing the same stuff wherever they go for a whole month?
Really? Any given “chick’n’guit” duo does pretty much the same dozen or so songs all year round.
- Or – could it be, just possibly, that you’re afraid to play well-known tunes? Of course, if you make a total figgy pudding of an obscure bebop head no-one’s going to give a flying reindeer, but mess up on Silent Night and they’re going to notice. Worth a thought, perhaps…
Ahem (with apologies to Clement Moore, and based on a true story):
‘Twas the night before Christmas: upstairs in the bar
There were carols and fun and “fa la la la lah”;
Downstairs was a blues man, who was rockin’ the most,
But the antlers drooped down as they poked at their roast…
Upstairs was a riot, there was even a quiz,
With prizes and laughter, and a touch of showbiz.
They were all of good cheer, and they all sang along,
Even taught them some Swedish – “halles dingly dong!”*
The blues man came up, asking: “lend me some charts,
Coz my hot funky mojo ain’t warmin’ their hearts”.
He took some – but by then the restaurant was bare,
They’d taken their brandies and climbed up the stair.
So musicians, there’s one thing you have to remember,
When playing those gigs in the deep of December:
They’ll claim it’s all nonsense, be arch and dismissive,
but love it – and might even give you a kiss if
They’re fractious and moaning, and you gladden their ears,
With Good King Wenceslas, not bloody Britney Spears.
* [translation] “Jingle all the way”