Sunday night was spent at Chelsea’s 606 Club. Sine I don’t drive, I am put off by its remote location, tucked away by the old gas works in the gritty end of Chelsea. But I made the effort on Sunday to hear Barb Jungr. Hilary Cameron, the Chico Chica pianist, used to work for her – a chair presently filled by Jenny Carr. It was great to see the old club again and seeing owner Steve Rubie.
There are a few diehard Jazz musicians who think that as soon as someone in front of a Jazz band starts singing it ceases to be Jazz and becomes Cabaret instead. They may be right but it suits me fine because I like to see a well-rehearsed show – I feel as if I’ve got money’s worth.
Jungr’s entire show was devoted to the songs of Bob Dylan. She is a well-established interpreter of songs and so it goes without saying that she sang them all with a beautiful flourish – everything was right, intonation, dynamics and clarity. The show got me thinking about Bob Dylan. You see, I feel almost ashamed to admit this, but I have never quite understood Dylan. There are lots of things I admire about him – the sheer quantity of songs he has written, the ready flow of words and evident passion he brings to his art, but I never understood the reverence with which he is held. Ultimately, I grew up with a musical mind – words were a em confection which decorated the melody. In my maturity words have taken on a much greater importance and yet I still can’t quite get Dylan. I find his rhyming schemes lazy, his imagery narrow in scope and , as with all the Beat Poets, a lack of lightness and humour. But one thing I do concede, the songs transfer well to other idioms. I love Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watch Tower and I once heard Stevie Wonder sing Blowin’ In The Wind as a joyous shuffle.
Last night, Jungr sang neither of these but it was a selection of rarities and a few favourites such as Like A Woman and Like A Rolling Stone. It is through singers like her that I can get to appreciate Dylan. As a matter professional interest, I was amazed to see how well she kept the audience’s attention. When I talk to audiences, I have a rule never to give information which can be from a quick search on Google. Jungr understands this. She talks about Dylan, not in an encyclopaedic way, but as a very personal emotional response to someone who has played such a big role in her life.
There was one other aspect of the show I liked: it was fairly short. This sounds like a criticism but it’s not. I don’t like long shows – my attention span is far too short. Many musicians feel they are giving audiences value for money by playing at length. There seems to be a Law of Jazz here: the length of a show is inversely proportional to the length of rehearsal. Music is art – it’s not meant to be bought by the pound. A performer should see himself as an event organiser – it’s not just the show, there’s also the food, the beer and the conversation. Thank you Barb and the 606 for a great evening.