“I remember the first time I heard John Coltrane”

Feeling generally overtired, a bit ill, and reeling from all sorts of things that are stressing me, I was delighted to be asked out by a good friend of mine for a Corona or two tonight (a very good rule of thumb is that any drink that can reasonably have a lime in it is a good drink). She and her partner had to leave around 9 because of study/parenting and work commitments respectively, but I stayed on at Rics for an hour or so, as it was Tuesday jazz night… I’m very glad I did. When I was a student, some friends of mine played in the excellent Brisbane jazz band Black Cat Circle at the much missed and greatly lamented Sitting Duck Cafe at West End, where many a VB and Stones’ Green Ginger Wine cocktail was dedicated by me and my impoverished student friends to the Muses once upon a time. This band, for whom I was an occasional doo-wop boy (particularly when Shirley sang “Motherless Child”), was my first introduction to several remarkable musicians – John Jones on percussion, Trevor Hart on sax, and Andrew Shaw on bass. Trevor and Andrew are still playing around town in various jazz combos, and tonight I listened to Crop Duster, who are releasing an album soon, with Andrew on bass.

I ran into a former student of mine, who said he thought the music was “too experimental”. I begged to differ. What’s wonderful about good improvisational jazz is the extremes creativity and musical anarchy are taken to. The other thing I never fail to note when I see an excellent jazz band, is that even for a by definition unrhythmical boy like me (of Prussian, Danish and English extraction) is that the music moves my entire body, and I dance even despite myself. So, to adapt Emma Goldman, if my revolution occurred ever, it would have a jazz soundtrack. I’m well aware that there’s been some brilliant writing on jazz, by Kingsley Amis and Eric Hobsbawm among others, and I’m falling far short of the standard they set, but one thing I will say is that – as Aldous Huxley writes in his book Moksha – there’s an urge to transcendence in us transient human beings – and jazz for me engages my whole body and soul to the exclusion of all else. That can’t be a bad thing. I’m still home early enough for it to be a “school night”, so I for one will be building Rics’ jazz on Tuesday nights into my regular habits…

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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21 Responses to “I remember the first time I heard John Coltrane”

  1. James Russell says:

    So does everyone go to Ric’s?


    Jazz does bugger all for me. I almost always find it to be too self-impressed and middle-aged for my liking.

  2. Mark Bahnisch says:

    What sort of jazz have you been listening to, James? The endless replays of old standards that passes for jazz too often – that’s so not jazz.

  3. yellowvinyl says:

    bloody hell! stuff this wheelchair/cancer thing – first I don’t get to go to the Mardis Gras now I can’t even make it to Rics on a Tues. night. would have loved to have been boogying along with you, Mark :)

    you are so right about jazz – good jazz – moving your body and soul.

    hey – is that cutester girl who does the sound/mixing who could have been in Ghostworld and is generally Ms Geekgrrrl Pinup 2005 still working there? she also hangs out @ the alibi…

  4. Mark Bahnisch says:

    Yep! She’s still working there…

  5. Nabakov says:

    You want jazz that doesn’t sound like jazz?

    Check out The Necks. No one expected Australia to come up with the world’s first post jazz band, But there yer are. No one saw The Saints (or The Laughing Clowns) coming either.

    James, pick up a copy of the The Necks’ ‘Sex”. Great bonking music. Shame it only runs for 44 minutes though.

    Seriously, buy a copy. It really is an classic Australian summer symphony of lazy lust.

    And if yer don’t like it (and that would be only because you have a pebble for a heart), I’ll buy yer preloved copy off yer (I’ve just put that promise on record here) and give it to whoever I’m trying to bonk next. Works like a charm, every time – and always in time.

  6. Mark Bahnisch says:

    Nabs, tip too late for some – The Necks played the Judith Wright Centre in the Valley in Vegas a fortnight ago and I declined an invite to go see them as I had never heard of them… darn!

  7. yellowvinyl says:

    Zero7 always works for me, Nabs :)

  8. yellowvinyl says:

    what was that jazz standard where the refrain goes “I want a one hour man, no ten minute boy for me”… there’s something in that for every woman, let me say just quietly…

    so, Mark, you were a doo-wop boy?

    were you any good as a doo-wop boy?

    Australia wants to know the answer!

  9. Nabakov says:

    Mark, you fool! The Necks are stunning live. Just saw ’em recently at Melbourne Town Hall where they were let loose on one of the world’s great organs, recently restored to its full glory, Heads were blown, hearts dissolved, libidos liquidated and bowels set free by the bass tones alone.

    Then, a couple of weeks later, The Residents hit town. Homer and Adrian still remembered me too. (“Yeah, weren’t you that drug fucked kid at the Seaview Ballroom in ’86 who took us to that crazy Bavarian bar down the road?. Man, you done got old like us.”)

    Yup, it’s been avant-garde, old timey arty-farty music time in Melbourne lately. Drew the line at that pooing on stage band though. I can play that tune in the comfort of my own home, and not so corny either.

  10. Mark Bahnisch says:

    Nabs, I’m really confused now – you and Homer went to the gig together?

  11. Nabakov says:

    “…you and Homer went to the gig together?”

    A thin vinegary drizzle went down my spine at the thought. No, I take that back, Homer P strikes me as basically a very decent person – but a pisspoor dancer I reckon.

    I was actually talking about Homer Fox and Adrian Flynn – “The Residents”.

  12. Mark Bahnisch says:

    I knew, Nabs. Intention of the author was a joke! Deconstruct that, Dr D!

  13. Amanda says:

    Instrumentals of any genre don’t grab me really (seeing it live is different.) More an intellectual appreciation that a gutfelt attraction with jazz for me, but saying “jazz is X” is like saying “Rock music is boring” just because of Nickleback or something. Don’t like bebop, try swing (or western swing if you like your jazz with a bit of twang), don’t like hot try cold etc etc etc etc

    If you can’t dig (the more accessiable stuff of) Coltrane or Miles at least … have you checked for a pulse?

    But hey, I’m seeing Neil Diamond in concert this week so what do I know.

  14. Jethro says:

    I second a recommendation for The Necks.

    Unfortunately I was in the US when they played in Brizzie last month, but I’ve seen ’em many times (at the old museum, the Zoo, and the Travelodge, and the Great Northern at Byron Bay, of all places).

    My faves include the aforementioned “Sex” (which is 56mins, not 44mins, Nabs, so you get 12mins more sex for free), “Drive By”, “Aqua”, and “Hanging Gardens”. Some stuff is a bit “out there” and does nowt for me (such as the latest double CD “Mosquito/See Through”), but the ones I mentioned above are good starting points. However you got to love yer hour-long, minimal, repetitive, piano/bass/drum sound. If yer into Steve Riech, The Orb, Coltrane or Keith Jarrett, then check ’em out.

    Never been a fan of post-1963 Coltrane meself, I much prefer my Coltrane to be Miles-influenced, such as “Giant Steps”, “Blue Train”, and “Soultrane”, and even the Coltrane/Johnny Hartmann collaboration when I’m in the mood for some vocals.

    Been going through a bit of a Bill Evans phase lately — “Live at the Village Garden” and “Paris Concert Edition One” have been on non-stop at Chez Jethro.

    Oh, and Dexter Gordon’s “One Flight Up”, and Diana Krall’s “Love Scenes”. Damn those are nice recordings.

  15. Homer Paxton says:

    Miles Davis and john Coltrane together were fantastic to listen to.

  16. Niall says:

    Yes, I’m afraid I’m with James. Jazz has never turned me on. I’m much more an instrumental R&B type with a little sophisticated rock thrown in. Jazz always reminds me of brainless beatniks and/or highly educated dickheads, as Fred Daly described the pseudo-elite, sitting around listening to tunes they’re not sure they even like and saying how good it is.

  17. Nabakov says:

    If yer like Coltrane, you’re gonna love this (sound on).


  18. Tony.T says:

    That’s a good link, Nabs.

    PS: I’m with James. Jazz bites.

  19. Irant says:

    I’ve attempted to try jazz a couple of times in my guitarist life. The last time (about a year ago) I had a teacher that finally got the concept through to me. But I just don’t have the discipline (though I harbour a secret desire to play in a Western swing/rock band ala Commander Cody).

    To paraphrase F Zappa, I just love the disgusting stink of a too loud electric guitar. I still remember the day I first saw some footage of Hendrix back when I was a lad. I sat there stunned for a good 5 minutes before I could put together a coherent thought which was “Who the hell was that?!” Son House is the only other artist I’ve even seen (on video) who had the same visceral impact.

    As for Coltrane, I remember being on a railway platform in Japan (early 90s to date me) listening to the live album recorded at the Village Vanguard on my walkman. It was “My Favourite Things” and I remember having trouble understanding what was going on. But when Coltrane hit that familar melody it all made sense.

  20. Jon Jones says:


    I was the drummer with Black cat circle. Feel free to contact me on [email protected]. I love that band and indeed it was great times.

    Jon Jones

  21. Hey Jon – I remember you well – I’ve caught up with Andrew Shaw recently – I’ll be in touch.

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