Zog Blog - Musings from life on the road (The Crypt Camberwell, Watermill Jazz) / by Elaine Crouch

Gig 10

Jazzlive at The Crypt

This is a really fun venue to play because it draws such a diverse and fun crowd. The downside is that it’s in a crypt (obviously) therefore the sound is boomy and a bit out of control, especially in the bottom end. Tonight, the regular and much loved sound man was ill in hospital (get well soon, Winston!) and an enthusiastic dep, Pascal, had taken his place. Pascal was very nice, and was, I think, under a certain directive which made him suggest “shall I mic the drums?” This place is a brick cave that takes 50 people!! And we're playing jazz!

OK let’s backtrack.... the best sound I ever had in Ronnies was when someone spilt wine on the desk and we had to play totally acoustic. Judith O'Higgins went to see Tommy Smith - Saxophonist play at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club the other night and the whole band, including the bass, played acoustic and she says it was the best sound she’d ever heard in there. I played at Ronnies for a week in the 90s when there were power cuts and no PA and it was certainly the most fun I’ve ever had there. The audience has to STFU and the intimacy was breathtaking.

Can I respectfully suggest that most jazz gigs don’t need a PA? Of course the size of the room and how substantial the piano is come into consideration. I LOVE playing acoustic. Everything sounds better - piano, bass, horns. Remember this is how everyone used to play and record (no headphone mixes!) It’s quieter, so the audience has to pay attention. Come on, let's bin the PA, play acoustic and pay the band the engineer's fee. He’d probably much rather be doing the rock gig he was trained for, anyway, rather than this namby pamby noodling.

And, while I’m on a rant, bass players - you guys sound GREAT acoustic. You wouldn’t use a DI in the studio unless you were insane, because it sounds awful, so either bin the amp or just use it as a personal monitor, pointing at your own head, not at the piano or sax player, for unobtrusive fortification. The sound I pay my money to hear is the natural woody “thunk” with a bit of string rattle thrown in. If that’s not what the audience gets, you’re short changing them: probably with a twangy, mid-rangy rubber band kinda-thing. Dig in and swing

Gig 9

Watermill Jazz, Dorking

This gig is hosted at a beautiful golf club’s 19th hole.

Josh Morrison did his first gig with us on this tour, so we “topped and tailed” the set at the soundcheck. He’d done his homework and it was immaculate, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the warm Watermill Jazz hospitality. Drinks and a splendid buffet dinner were complimentary. Thanks to Paul and Katherine and all the organisation for this, it’s really much appreciated. We had a great gig to a large appreciative audience, and I managed to time the sets with Jim Mullen-esque precision! (Ian Thomas and I always used to marvel how Jim would gesticulate to me to play the head at precisely 10:59pm when we did his quartet back in the 90s!)