Once In A Lifetime

Yesterday during MGS’s coffee & biscuits at playtime, a colleague (Gordon Gallagher) flagged up a little known gig. An extraordinary jazz quartet featuring Buster Williams (bass) Lenny White (drums)  George Colligan (piano) and Steve Wilson (saxes) was due to be playing in The Jazz Bar in Chambers Street. They had been playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London and had been tempted up by BBC Radio Scotland for two gigs and the promise of a broadcast on The Jazz House. If you get the chance to hear the broadcast, listen out for the unusually free rhythmic play – especially in the second half.

For those not into jazz these names may not register much of a reaction. This is the equivalent of a pal inviting you to a barbeque round the corner from your house, promising a bit of a kick-around in the back-garden, then discovering that the guests included Pele, Ronaldinho, Zidane and George Best.

These players are major heavyweights, two of whom have a pedigree of 40+ years on the road. The fact last night’s gig was the one being recorded induced a reverential atmosphere in the place and, of course, all mobiles were to be switched off – not simply on silent. During an extremely sensitive double bass solo there was the sound of a mobile relating to its satellite. This caused a growing feedback loop and the performance stopped. No sooner had it restarted than the same thing happened again. Embarrassment, compassion and a slight sense of loss pervaded the small room. At the end of the first set, Buster Williams gave details of the tunes played and tried to make light of the disturbance, although he couldn’t resist the words, “you know who you are.” At the beginning of the second half, he mentioned the incident saying that inquiries had been made and heads would roll. He then confessed that it was his own cell-phone which had caused the trouble and apologised profusely.
At the end of the second set, he came out with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard coming from the bandstand. He thanked everyone for the affectionate reception and then said, “now if my ginko has kicked in, I should be able to tell you what we played.”