Did I say that out loud? I certainly didn't when I was at secondary school surrounded by wood shavings of the letters A, C, D & C carved into wooden desks with bare finger nails. It's alright being an individual but in some instances you're much better blending in. Keeping schtum.
I was 13 and my English teacher asked a packed class, “who likes Jazz?” and went on to describe the intense pleasure of placing the needle on a Billy Holiday record, opening a bottle of wine and getting smashed. I got it instantly and immediately wanted to stick my hand up, to “come out” in some musical sense.
Now, if he’d been some roguish Sam Shepard type of literary figure, I might have thrown my lot in with him.
However, in a room full of mulleted metallers he was very much the class wimp. A Mr Bean type literary figure. I weighed up my options and instead threw him under the bus.
However, to this day I remember the almost uncontrollable desire to raise my hand, stand tall and say ‘I like jazz - who the fuck wants some!!??”
But it didn’t happen. The mob won. The mob always wins.
It’s a lesson that’s stayed with me.
Looking back I realise what the real problem was.
They had all the stuff, the logos, the t-shirts, the mullets, the denim jackets, the patches.
I had no t-shirt. I had nothing. I couldn’t pin a badge on or draw a logo on a copy book to subtly signal my love for the dominant seventh flat five.
At that stage my only option was standing up in class confessing to it in some sort of show trial.
I eventually found the only other person in town who liked jazz.
I made a pin badge of Miles Davis’ On the Corner cover cut out from a review in The Wire magazine.
I wore it into into a pub in town one night.
Someone came up and offered me £5 for it. I gave it to him.
It turned out I had Bitches Brew, he had In a Silent Way… the mix tapes flowed.
About 5 years later I was at a gig at the Queen’s University Arts Festival.
They had a jazz festival - one of the best in Europe at the time.
The venue was known as the Guinness Spot (John Scofield named a song after it).
The band was Stan Tracey’s Hexad. I think it was £3 in. Pete King was on Alto, ‘nuff said.
There was the English teacher - left of the stage. He spotted me and came over during a break.
“I never knew you liked Jazz” he said.
“You never asked” I said.
So I’ve made the perfect t-shirt for the closet jazz lover. The t-shirt I needed when I was 13.
To the mob it just looks like an accountancy firm.
To those in the know it’s got jazz written all over it.
Miles Davis' 2nd great quartet