Since becoming a parent, I’ve started to feel just a little bit more middle-aged. More mature or responsible might be a more positive spin to put on it, but really I just feel older. Not old, but older. And never have I felt more middle aged than last Saturday night. My wife was on a (rare and well-deserved) night out, and I spent my Saturday night in curled up on the sofa with a couple of bottles of ale, a good book (well, a terrible book actually, my own fault for thinking I might enjoy a novel just because it was set somewhere I used to live), and a listening to a three hour long jazz album, as well as the occasional shuffling of my daugher over the baby monitor. “My god, how did I get here?” I thought, like David Byrne in that Talking Heads song.
I’ve always spent much of my alone time reading, so that’s no big deal. And I’ve long since realised that I enjoy one or two nice taste beers rather than getting drunk on tasteless lager, so I don’t care if that makes me sound middle aged (it does). But jazz? When I was younger, jazz was something that deeply uncool middle aged men, like my friend’s dad, enjoyed. It’s reputation wasn’t helped by The Fast Show’s Jazz Club sketch which portrayed jazz as an unfashionable, unlistenable, dated joke. So I went through life mainly ignoring jazz. Even buying Miles Davis’s ‘A Kind of Blue’ didn’t convince me that’s I needed more than one jazz album in my life. Occasionally I would try a jazz album that I had read about, but they never stuck. Part of my problem was that, being deeply pretentious, I assumed that if I did like jazz it would only be the most experimental, avant-grade jazz out there. I was wrong.
The album which may have changed my mind is ‘Kamasi Washington’s ‘The Epic’, which only came to my attention because he played on 2 of my favourite albums of the last few years, by Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar. Because of these collaborations I was expecting some kind of jazz/hip-hop/electronica fusion. At 3 hours in length I was also expecting a tough listen. I was wrong on both counts. It’s very much a pure jazz album, covering many different styles, but nothing that I found hard work. In fact I loved pretty much every minute, and was left feeling as though I’d been on a journey (see it’s making me more pretentious already). I’m not going to describe the album in at great detail. As I know so little about jazz, it would be obvious I don’t know what I’m talking about. Like Donny in The Big Lebowski, I have no frame of reference.
So the question remains, does this just happen to be an exceptionally good jazz album? Or does it turn out that I liked jazz all along? Will I be the embarrassing middle-aged jazz dad after all? Well, regardless of the answer, I’m sure I will find numerous ways to embarrass my daughter as she grows older, so if jazz happens to be one, it will make little difference. At worst I’ve discovered an album I love. At best, a whole new genre to dive into. Perhaps heading towards middle age won’t be so bad after all.