Nobody writes about jazz and fashion any more. There was a jazz age, when jazz was THE fashion (above). But why do some people now strain so hard to be unfashionable?
I reckon I’ve read just about the right amount now about jazz and the locrian sharp two (don’t worry, I didn’t get it either). I keep meeting people who like to expound their views on jazz and cricket, or jazz and real ale (once they get going, in fact, it’s very hard to stop them.) And, egad, I’m now way beyond saturation on the subject of jazz and global hegemony. But jazz and fashion – never. So here goes.
On Saturday night, vocalist Jacqui Dankworth was was wearing a dark Diane von Furstenberg one shoulder shift dress with a colour block hem in black.
She was out doing a duo gig on the stage of Blackheath Hall with Chris Allard on guitars, in front of a good Saturday night crowd.
As she talked about the momentous events of the past six months, as she sang songs, the dress was just one of many things which seemed just right. Blackheath Hall had provided an attractive on-stage lay-out. They had lit and amplified the performers sympathetically. Chris Allard was impeccable, whether playing acoustic guitar, or finding variety in a whole range of subtle pedal effects. And impeccably dressed. The duo setting is tough. You have to work hard, and be harmonically responsible and supportive. On Saturday, it was job done by both performers. Everything seemed to click.
A succession of good and great songs, and Dankworth’s experience and compelling stage presence held the audience throughout. The songs from the most recent album, Back to You, have now settled properly into Dankworth’s repertoire, and there are some new ones. Sweet Devotion, written while her father was going through his final illness, sounded like a gem on first hearing – I’d love to hear it again.
But how many jazz musicians do think properly about the value of good presentation?
Jacqui Dankworth’s next London appearance is on Thursday 22nd April as part of the jazz festival at the Millfield Arts Centre in Silver Street, Edmonton
In 1996, Billy Jenkins did a month of fashion shows at the Vortex. Django Bates and Iain Ballamy were very fetching in strapless numbers.
Presentation is so important to me as a performer. I know that people will have come to hear me sing at a gig, but I don't want them to be distracted from the music by something that doesn't quite fit – be it a bad outfit, or a messy stage. It's also important for people's perceptions and anticipations of the performance to be positive – if they see a well-set stage, or see the performers looking smart/confident/professional before arriving on stage, they will already have the impression in their minds that they are going to enjoy what's about to happen.
It wouldn't be a good idea to give an audience an excuse to not like you before you've even opened your mouth!