Thursday, March 1, 2007

Spirit of Satchmo

Live: The Brindisi Prison Boys (Trad Jazz)
The Devon Arms, Torquay, Devon, UK

My dad and I arrived in Torquay this evening for a typical British seaside break. We scouted the town for live music and were happy to discover that a trad jazz band called The Brindisi Prison Boys would be performing tonight in a local pub.

The Devon Arms is located at the top of a hill in a quiet cobbled alley a stone's throw from Torquay's bustling town center. As you venture a little farther up the rise you can enjoy a fine view of Torquay's harbor. The ozone - what's left of it - is refreshing and it's easy to conjure up images of gruff old tars downing pints of scrumpy before splicing the mainbrace and putting out to sea, England expects every man to do his duty and all that.

The pub was already packed and The Brindisi Boys swinging
hard by the time my dad and I made our entrance. You couldn't imagine a more good-time music than trad jazz, and a crowd of all ages and types were already going wild, encouraged by lashings of powerful local brew.

The Devon Arms employs one of the sexiest and most buxom barmaids I've ever seen, and it was a treat to return to the bar for more ale and admire the fine wares she had on display. Not only that, she was a rosy-cheeked, friendly nymph who spoke with the most naughty and alluring South Devon twang I've ever heard.

The Brindisi Boys themselves were an excellent band
- accomplished and professional - authentically invoking the spirit of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens through tight ensemble playing and spirited soloing. I hadn't realized until the landlord informed me that the South Devon coast is in fact home to a thriving trad jazz community, and the Brindisis' good-time vibe made me recall Satchmo's famous dictum that, "There are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music."

Although the mood of the evening was joyous and carefree, there was a bittersweet aspect to the proceedings. It emerged that The Brindisi Boys' banjo player and leader was terminally ill. This was to be his final performance with the group, and he made a dignified and touching speech urging his bandmates to carry forward the trad-jazz torch.

It was a testament not only to the inner strength of the gentleman concerned, but also to the healing power of music that such sad news in no way diminished the buoyant, effervescent mood which The Brindisi Boys had created.

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