Mercy, Merci And All That Jazz

Dan Reinstein playing the saxophone at the 606 Jazz Club in London
Dan Reinstein playing the saxophone at the 606 Jazz Club in London

This could be the time to confess something I have not yet dared to admit… here goes: I don’t like jazz.

Or, at least, I didn’t think I liked jazz.

Happily though I do have an open mind and am prepared to be swayed – should the music take me – and I now realise that like bodies, art and almost everything else in life, jazz comes in all shapes and sizes.

For the past five years, each month I have attempted to get myself to the 606 Club in Chelsea to see Dr Dan and his sax in action and each month something has conspired to prevent me … or could it have been a subconscious desire not to get across London (I live in North London) for an evening that I didn’t expect to enjoy?

But this month all that changed – and I changed my mind set too. It was a song called Merci, Merci (or should that be Mercy, Mercy?) that did it.

Looking back I realise that my instinctive rejection of jazz stems from an unfortunate session I was once forced to endure. The less than talented musicians attempted to be in some way avant garde; but to me the resulting sounds were raucous and discordant with each instrument almost fighting with the next in some musical battle the object of which was way over my head. It was like having to sit through a  cacophony of  jumbled, angry notes thrown together in order designed (if there was any plan involved) to leave the listener with a tense, nervous headache.

I totally didn’t get it and, after deciding that nails grating on a blackboard would be preferable, I pledged to give jazz a wide berth in the future. Since that unfortunate experience I rejected all jazz exploring instead other musical genres and ending up with an eclectic compilation in my taste mix.  My “Desert Island Discs” selection would include pop, r and b, opera, country, classics and even a stray big band track … but not a jazz note would have featured..

That was until my recent visit to the 606 Club and listening to the Dan Reinstein Quintet in action. Here I learned the lesson that jazz can be harmonious. The double bass, the drums, piano and trumpet all melded together in a rich, melodious manner. Their solos – while giving the impression of being casually improvised – must have been the result of a lifetime of practice. Each was played with the skill and confidence that only comes from total trust in the other members of the musical “team”; then Dr Dan’s saxophone would pull the musical theme together again, directing the melody back on course. It was slick and smooth.

As a student, Dan Reinstein faced a tricky choice: he could pursue a professional musical career or become an eye doctor. I am sure that we London Vision Clinic patients are happy that he selected the latter. Actually, we have the best of both worlds as we can also enjoy his music at various patients’ gatherings and at his monthly gig at the 606 Club.