Conventional wisdom has it that, like the Queen of England, working performers have no right of reply. Anyone posing as a ‘critic’ may villify you in print or online to their heart’s content; any reply from the artist merely validates said ‘critic’, who dines out on the reflected glory, (to mix a couple of metaphors). There is the memorable case of a particularly thin-skinned star I once worked with who took a dislike to a review he found in his cuttings service from, I think, the lowly Kent Messenger newspaper, an inky local rag with a readership of about ten. The celebrity sent a strongly-worded note to the Editor of the Messenger, who, thrilled with all the attention, promoted the hack to ‘entertainments editor’ and ran the story on the front page, instantly doubling the readership and exposure of the offending article. It only ever gets worse.
On the London jazz scene, Jack Masserik of the London Evening Standard has some influence. If you have a run of dates at Ronnie Scott’s or the Pizza Express Jazz Club, an opening-night stinker from Jack can play havoc with ticket receipts for the following nights. Just like that guy Frank Someone who can close shows on Broadway, only smaller. Jack has always detested me and my stuff. Not the least of the several benefits that come with being retired is that now I don’t have to care. At the back of the Pizza last night he tapped me on the arm and ushered me out of the way – I was blocking the little light there was from his scribblings. Happily he enjoyed the group we’d both come to hear – Impossible Gentlemen – featuring ex-Earthworker Gwilym Simcock.
I met drummer Adam Nussbaum for the first time. We drummers feel we know each other because we know each other’s music so well, we know each other’s style and touch on the instrument. Even though we’ve never met, it feels as though we are old friends, because in a way, we are. Adam tells me 75%% of his work is in Europe now, and that the US scene is ‘flat’. I note that Impossible Gentlemen are brought to us in part by funding from the UK Lottery and the Arts Council of England, so that will have something to do with it. Thank heavens impoverished old Europe still manages to find a few Euros to throw at the jazz musician, right of reply or not!