I'm not normally a Jazz fan, but seeing as Manchester Jazz Festival 2015 is in full swing (pun?) and seeing as a friend suggested it, I dived into local jazz hub Matt & Phred's to see Gypsies of Bohemia on Thursday night. I know this is a cliché, but I didn't expect to enjoy it- I just wanted to see what jazz was about.
I queued for 50 minutes to get in, but it was surprisingly comfortable once we'd made it in: a calm atmosphere with mint fragrance and 20-something hipsters with out-of-control facial hair filling the floor. On the stage: a singer, a pianist, a bassist and a drummer entertained the crowd with surprising skill. They weren't some bunch of old schoolmates fresh out of a dad's garage. Each member knew their instruments well- the singer included- and had obviously spent years perfecting their craft. As I entered, I didn't recognise the song that was playing until the melody started to emerge- a cover of something from my youth, or maybe my 20s. It was fast, and manically-played, and it took a moment from it to dawn on me I was listening to Britney Spears' Toxic done on a bass, guitars and a piano.
The group quickly rolled back the clock, and treated us to a medley of nineties and naughties hits done in a jazz-stylee, blended seamlessly aside from a few breaks for water and- presumably- so the pianist could rest his lightning-speed fingers. Jesus Christ. I've never seen anything like it.
The singer- not looking a long way off Jesus Christ with his beard and robe- displayed surprising range, going from a brilliant rendition of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's Boom! Shake the Room through to nailing Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. Even the Prodigy's No Good Start The Dance appeared, mixed into other songs in part, with the musicians transitioning between tracks in perfect harmony.
I'd been meaning to try Matt and Phreds for about a decade, when I was getting ready to finish uni and making plans for what I could do once I got a steady wage. Hmm. Well, I got there eventually, and I loved it. Each track came with a penny-drop moment when you realise what you're listening to, which in itself was funny and unexpected. I'd never been to a jazz club before but I suppose the dim lighting and woodwork suits the music and relaxed mood.
Absurdly enjoyable. Keep your eyes peeled for the Gypsies of Bohemia. I went to the gig- which I think might actually be my first gig- with someone I met through Meetup, through the After Works Drinks group. There was going to be a few of us but, hey, it was a weeknight. This shows that, for making new friends and seeing more of the city, Meetup is working.