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The Savoy. Jam in a jar. Who is the busker?

By 19/02/2018 Jaz's musings

I started off tonight in the afternoon by playing at one of my favourite bars in town, Jam In A Jar (Green Lanes) where I am in the employ of my dear friend Quto. The upright piano there is characterful and probably needs tuning in the top end but I love making it shake and bounce as if I were in the Old West again. The tiles in front of the bar are particularly good. Just before I played, I met a gentleman named Af standing on the new tiles with his feet. It was his birthday, and he looked pleased as punch with life and everything.

He walked out before I could wish him happy birthday.
I was there with my girlfriend, the lovely Kayleigh, who is starting to get to know our scene here in London well, and we had the great pleasure of catching up with my friend Mike Alvarez, who plays guitar in the band #Frauds. We were at college together years ago and Tankus the Henge and his then band, Namasté played the same circuit and were all good friends. Life happens though, and regrettably I haven’t seen him since Polly’s wedding over a year ago.

After the Jam In A Jar gig, Kayleigh and I rode the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden, where I left her to go to the Savoy Theatre on the Strand. I perform in their Cabaret show from time to time. It is the complete opposite end of the live music spectrum from my previous engagement, or so I thought. It’s a beautiful theatre and hotel, the Savoy, and I probably wouldn’t be able to see the inside of it if I wasn’t a piano player. It’s crazy the places a piano player can end up, I tell you. The tree was epic to say the least, and sat on the black and white tiled floor (very nice tiles) as if it was a glittering spaceship about to launch through the roof of the hotel in a dazzling spectacle of light.

There was a brilliant juggler named Matt performing also, who I spoke at length with about immersive and alternative theatre, and as we gambolled through different subjects, I told him where I’d been playing that afternoon. He mentioned his friend who was having a birthday was over on Green Lanes tonight, that his name was Af… Yep. The very same guy. I feel like I underplayed the weirdness, but that’s probably because that sort of thing happens here. Here and New Orleans. I’ve never experienced it in other cities.

Af is a performer in his own right, which I didn’t know, with an Indian Elvis act called “Patelvis” and a hilarious Indian Punch and Judy, too. The sort of guy I expect to see again. I hope he had a great birthday. Af, if you read this, #manyhappyreturns

Then I performed my short set on a very well kept baby grand piano in the Savoy. The piano is always unamplified, as the sound carries so well, and I was also just able to pick out people in the audience and look them in the eye in the half-light. I relish playing the piano for hours, and enjoy playing for a short time too. It’s a different challenge to be able to communicate emotion and a story in the passing of less time.

Afterwards, I was hanging out backstage with Matt, the compere Polly, hand balancer Felipe, foot juggler Ulrike and burlesque dancer Jolie Papillon, when a front of house host knocked on the door and came in asking if any of us had a CD of the music we had performed. I ventured out into the auditorium again holding a CD and found myself face to face with two lovely people from Liskeard FM, although I didn’t know it at first. They bought the CD, for which I am always grateful, and mentioned then how they were DJs on the radio. I explained how I knew Liskeard as Tankus the Henge had played down there last week. They exclaimed that they knew the band, and indeed played us on the radio quite regularly. I was genuinely pleased to hear this and told them so.

Then it got a bit stranger. They told me that a friend had gone to see Tankus the Henge last week, but hadn’t been able to take their daughter along, because of the age restriction. I recalled this, and at the time we had humorously made a quick video on a phone, with me and the audience member (Tracy) waving a friendly greeting to the daughter.

They asked for a photo, and it occurred to me it would be funnier to do another video, this time to Tracy, obviously absent and at home in Cornwall, but along the same lines as the one we had made for her daughter. So we did. I love loops like that. I get a kick out of it. I wonder what will be next.

I gave them a list of music to see this week in London as they were staying the entire week. I should tell you, too.

Monday – Jamboree (Limehouse), Whiskey Moon Face.
Tuesday – Jamboree, Ali Caplin’s Celtic folk session.
Wednesday – Passing Clouds (Dalston), trad jazz, swing dancing and me on the piano from 11pm.
Thursday – Jamboree, trad jazz (or me on piano and songs at The Great Exhibition in Dulwich!)
Friday – Epic (Dalston) for Oddbeats, Turbans, and the amazing Shishko Disko.

Back on the Underground, I passed a busker with a floppy hat, just like mine, and a lovely voice, not like mine. He was singing the song “I get along without you very well”, which is one of my favourites. I would have usually dropped a coin into the hat in such a situation but I had the wrong trousers on my legs. If anyone knows who this busker is, please let me know. I don’t hold out a great deal of hope, but bearing in mind everything else which happened today, I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t like being walked past and ignored, and I didn’t ignore him, but I also had nothing to give and when you’re a busker, someone stopping to listen then passing straight on can be demoralising at the end of a long day of that happening repeatedly. So, if you know him, tell him I’ll get him a drink. It was a beautiful rendition of that song, reverberating through the tunnels.

I ascended the escalator at Paddington, and as I got to the gates at the top, Tim, a friendly guy who works on the Tube said “Hi Jaz!” I wasn’t expecting to see him there and may have appeared slightly confused.

We had a chat and he said how he was okay and that he’d been separating drunks today, but otherwise uneventful. I gave him a “Smiling Makes The Day Go Quicker” sticker. Thank you Tim, you cheered me up. Tube staff are often much friendlier than mainline rail staff, and deal with a lot of crap. They deserve a smile or a nod as we pass them by every day.

So do the mainline staff, and everyone, actually. Can we do that?

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