I went to see the David Murray Big Band and the Jay Phelps Quartet on the last night of the London Jazz Festival, another reminder, as if one were needed, of how accomplished jazz players are. In among the rest of it there were a few fine bass solos. By chance I’d seen on the Tube the previous day – for the first time – John Fuller’s fine poem about double bass players, capturing the paradox of the bass, the essential awkwardness of the playing and the grace of the sound.
Concerto for Double Bass
He is a drunk leaning companionably
Around a lamp post or doing up
With intermittent concentration
Another drunk’s coat.
He is a polite but devoted Valentino,
Cheek to cheek, forgetting the next step.
He is feeling the pulse of the fat lady
Or cutting her in half.
But close your eyes and it is sunset
At the edge of the world. It is the language
Of dolphins, the growth of tree-roots,
The heart-beat slowing down.
The painting at the top of the post is ‘Bass Blues’ by Ann laForge, and is used with thanks. It, and other jazz-themed paintings can be found at her website. Thanks to Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog for the tip.