Space is the Place
(City Arts & Music Project, 70 – 74 City Rd, EC2, 28th April 2010, review by Adam Tait)
It was an almost completely empty bar that I walked into on Wednesday for The City Arts & Music Project’s weekly jazz performance, The Space is the Place. In fact as I finished my cigarette, outside and out of ear shot, I wondered if I might not be in the wrong place. As I opened the door, however, I realised it wasn’t that sort of show.
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The Space is the Place is not the sort of jazz performance that you book tickets for, and make sure you have a table at the front to ensure the best, or best value for money, night. Rather it is the sort of jazz that is just there to be enjoyed while you have a drink with a friend. You don’t go to The City Arts & Music Project to ‘see some jazz’, you go there for a drink and on a Wednesday there will be jazz to be enjoyed.
This should be seen to detract from the skill of the performers on Wednesday night –George Crowley (sax), Sam Leak (Keys), Sam Lasserson (bass) and Josh Morrison (drums)- they were suitably entertaining and talented. But the attitude of the four performers perfectly mirrored the informal atmosphere of the bar. They grinned and joked with each other, and at each other’s mistakes, and stopped every half an hour for a pint.
Owner James Priestley has tried to develop the space into a cultural hub for the area, hosting not just music but also being the venue to fashion shows during the last London Fashion Week. The music performances as well are widely varied, catering for many aspects of cultural society. Jazz, quite rightly, has been recognized as an important aspect of musical society today and so has been awarded this weekly Wednesday slot.
What was nicest about all of this is that it showed a really promising attempt to help Jazz move away from the way it is traditionally viewed, especially by young people, today. There seems to be very little sense of ownership among youth culture when it comes to jazz; it is seen as something formal and in the realm of the last generation, something you make serious arrangements to go and see and you treat it with revered respect while you watch. This sort of view is propagated by places like Pizza Express in Dean Street, with its strict no talking policy. That’s not to say that that isn’t a great way to see a Jazz performance too, but it is a mistake to think it is the only way.
Sometimes jazz is at its best when you’re just going about your business, having a drink and a chat, and it’s just there to be enjoyed. Sometimes its best when you weren’t expecting it, as a few of the customers who walked in later weren’t, but you get a nice surprise when you walk in to the bar. And its in this free, informal, way that jazz is becoming accessible to more and more of society, to people who would never have realised they had any interest before.
The Space is the Place, part of City Arts and Music Project, is currently programmed through to the end of May. Listings are HERE (website only seems to work intermittently)
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