On Friday 19 October, University of Southampton Arts Ambassadors, Molly and Hannah, attended Buck and Billie, a tribute to the collaboration between Billie Holiday and Buck Clayton. As relative newcomers to jazz, they share their experiences.*
As I sat in the foyer of Turner Sims, I was both anxious and excited of what to expect. I had never been to a jazz concert before and so I had no idea what was to come: would I enjoy it? Would it be my thing at all? I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the concert hall. The Buck Clayton Legacy Band worked in harmony alongside Julia Biel’s renditions of some of Billie Holiday’s famous songs.
I didn’t know much about jazz, but speaking to band leader and Radio 3 presenter Alyn Shipton put me at ease as to what to expect. Alyn has the same ideas as me in wanting to encourage younger audiences to be more interested in jazz, as it is having a great comeback at the moment. He did make a joke about Molly and I ‘reducing the average age of the audience by a great deal’.
The performance itself was entertaining. I enjoyed the chemistry between all the band members, as they made comments to each other during quieter moments, or laughing about a mistake one of them had made. A humorous moment was when brass players Ian Smith and Adrian Fry walked off the stage as they made the band smaller for a song, and then came back on for the next one where they were immediately dismissed as they weren’t meant to come back on so soon.
My favourite song was Julia singing I’m a Fool to Want You which I have definitely heard somewhere before but didn’t know where. Her deep and sultry voice made the piece especially brilliant.
Overall, I would rate my experience watching Buck and Billie very highly, and would recommend people definitely give jazz a go, even if you’ve never had an interest in it before. The live acoustics at Turner Sims are so different to what you might have heard before on a recording.
Billie Holiday’s collaboration with trumpeter Buck Clayton, as reimagined by the Buck Clayton Legacy Band and vocalist Julia Biel, has been described as one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time, and there’s no better time to be celebrating their music and legacy than Black History Month. It’s safe to say the Buck Clayton Legacy Band did their partnership justice. As a newcomer to jazz, I went to Turner Sims knowing only a handful of Billie Holiday songs and I was better acquainted with the chaos of rock and metal gigs than the more upmarket jazz show I had lined up. My own preconceptions about the night were quickly dispelled. The Buck Clayton Legacy Band were dynamic and charismatic performers and proved jazz to be just as relevant in the modern era as it was in 1937. Catching up with bassist, band leader and broadcaster Alyn Shipton before the show, he told us that, ‘It’s a false idea that the idea of progress in jazz leads inexorably to the future, and actually there are lots and lots of sideways and byways in history that need exploring. We’re so hung up as a people on progress that we don’t always stop the progress to take a deep breath and say ‘Is there something else here?’. Despite being decades old, the music felt vibrant and Julia Biel’s incredible vocals brought such depth of emotion to Billie Holiday’s lyrics.
All in all, the night was genuinely insightful. I got to experience a new genre of music in an incredible venue right on my doorstep. Later on in our conversation with Alyn, we discussed the state of live music, especially jazz, in the UK: ‘All over the country at the moment there is a resurgence of interest in jazz… for us to be playing on a university campus, that’s important as well. We’re bringing music to a generation who might not naturally come across it but might have seen something regarding it that says, hey, jazz is the new cool thing’.
With so many incredible, cost-effective opportunities to experience live music at Highfield campus and in Southampton, there’s no reason not to give a new genre or a new performer a try.
*this blog first appeared here