Tuesday, 18 February 2014

My tribute to Stan Tracey (1926-2013)

Piano lid, Bull's Head, Barnes 28 February 2004
This may seem very odd to many people but I find listening to music very hard work. I've become more intolerant of music the older I've got, it's quite possible I'm going to turn into one of those old ladies who ask for the background music in restaurants to be turned off.

When I was a teenager I would happily spend hours at the weekends listening to Annie Nightingale on BBC Radio 1. On occasion I would drive my parents mad by playing the same track on the record player over and over again. These days, given the choice, I am very happy to spend entire days in silence. The albums I bought in my twenties remain ignored and closeted in an old green, plastic record case although we do have a record deck I could easily go and switch on.

Now and then I am prepared to make an exception and go and listen to live music – last Friday we went to Union Chapel and saw the Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra and I enjoyed stomping on the floor along with everyone else.

I have fond memories of the time my husband took me to my first Stan Tracey concert at The Bull's Head in Barnes in 2004 which is where I made these sketches. We saw him more than once in Barnes, in a big band concert at the Barbican and the Vortex Jazz club in Dalston. Each time we thought it might be our last opportunity because he was getting on a bit even 10 years ago.

I'm not sure why I prefer live music over recorded music. I know I enjoy the sense of occasion and the anticipation when we are sitting waiting for the evening to start. I like looking round and seeing who else is in the audience and eavesdropping on their conversations and there's always the chance that the musicians will improvise a bit.

I recall when we were at the Vortex waiting for Stan to take his seat at the piano. The excitement in the audience slowly built in anticipation of being transported by one of the grand old men of jazz. Stan, who appeared to be a very modest bloke, was looking quite frail by this time and his son Clark, who plays drums, looked after him very carefully. Stan sat at the piano in his ordinary, workmen-like clothes and then launched into an astonishing performance which could have launched the Vortex into orbit. If I want to listen to Stan's piano playing again I will have to listen to a recording but at least I can have the pleasure of remembering seeing him perform live.

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