I used to hate jazz when I was much younger. I mean really hate. Jazz offended me because I thought music shouldn’t hurt the ears like that, with its weird cacophony of sounds.
I did appreciate some jazz, but only those that incorporated more mainstream melodic vocals. I liked listening to some Christmas carols sung jazz style. And I enjoyed Kenny G, although I know jazz purists would call it sacrilege to associate Kenny G with jazz.
But I hated jazz in its pure, undiluted form. The tunes go up and down like a roller coaster ride in a seemingly random fashion. There’s no melody. The tempo is schizophrenic. Trumpets are noisy. I didn’t understand the genre and I didn’t understand why people would call it music, because it’s just noise to me. Like how the older generation calls heavy metal noise.
Unfortunately, the Goonfather loves jazz.
When I first found out, I was like, “OMG I’m dating an uncle.”
(In Singapore, “uncle” is often used to describe someone who’s not old but acts old and dated. Of course, we also call old and dated people uncle, but it’s funnier when you call a young man uncle.)
I was of the mind that only old people like jazz.
Whenever the Goonfather played one of his jazz albums in the car, I would make a face at him and change the disc.
But I have to allow him his pleasures sometimes. He likes to put on a jazz CD at home, dim the lights and then sit or lie down and zone out, maybe with a glass of red. Totally uncle behaviour. But I let him do it because he doesn’t do it too often.
Thankfully, his choice of jazz veers towards the more melodic type, like “Dream a Little Dream of Me”.
I used to hate that song because I found the melody irritating, like many other jazz melodies. But I’m beginning to like it now, thanks to people around me who won’t quit playing or singing it.
After knowing the Goonfather, I gradually, unknowingly changed my status from “Hate jazz” to “Don’t mind the Goonfather’s jazz”.
The most incomprehensible thing happened.
Last night, I was at Bellini Room (the jazz/blues outlet of discoplex St James Power Station) and the band was playing this piece featuring a saxophone-clarinet duet and no vocals (exactly the kind I used to hate vehemently) and I was thinking, “This is quite nice, doesn’t hurt my ears.”
I turned on the Goonfather, accusing him, “You make me old!”
“What?” he said, startled.
“I’m actually enjoying this stupid music and it’s all your fault! You make me listen to jazz and bring me to these jazz places. You’re making me old!!”
“Nay,” he said sagely. “You’ve upgraded. You have to be of higher status to appreciate jazz. So, congratulations.”
I gave him a look. “Old people listen to jazz. It has nothing to do with status.”
“Ok,” he said. “I shall quit my job and work at McDonald’s and next time we go Dragonfly instead of Bellini.”
(Dragonfly is the canto-pop arm of St James, frequented by young adults. I’ve been trying to get the Goonfather to go to Dragonfly since St James opened for business more than a year ago, but my plans have never materialised for some reason or other, one of them being that the Goonfather claims he’s graduated in taste and status and now hates teeny-bopper music.)
That wasn’t much of a threat. Wasn’t much of anything, in fact, so our conversation veered away because it was ridiculous in the first place.
But I was quite perturbed by my realisation that I didn’t hate jazz anymore.
I listened to the band intently, analysing the sounds, trying to figure out why I used to hate it and why I didn’t hate it now. Maybe the bands I had occasion to hear in the past sucked. Maybe the band at Bellini Room is really good.
Or maybe my tastes have really changed. Which is quite possible. I used to love Pez candy when I was a kid but now I can’t imagine why. It’s hard and tastes just like sugar. I would probably get more pleasure out of sucking rock sugar, an activity I don’t fancy in the first place.
I DON’T KNOW.
I just know that the sound of jazz doesn’t offend me anymore.
For the moment, I’m putting it down to the charismatic singers at Bellini Room.
My favourite, suave and dashing Tom Brown:
Smouldering Darius Mendoza, who prances on-stage and off-stage like a rock star instead of a jazz singer:
Sexy Jeassea Thyidor, who was a Singapore Idol contestant.
They’re all really good and are contributing to my mysterious conversion.
I can’t say I love jazz yet. But I can say that I’m looking forward to being a Bellini Room regular.
Does that mean I’m getting old?
Mr Mendoza serenades to an unsuspecting birthday girl with a seductive rendition of “Happy Birthday”.