Closely observed, we are all remarkable, beautiful — and eccentric. Even the most conspicuously “normal” or “ordinary” person we might encounter is happily original in some odd way. Keith Crombie was a shining exemplar of this — an individual who lived in accordance with what he believed, who made his devotion into an art form into a place, an idea, a grubby shrine.
I’d never heard of Keith before reading about a new film, THE JAZZ MAN, the creation of documentary filmmaker Abi Lewis, but I am sorry that I missed him. He created a place for jazz in Newcastle upon Tyne, the JAZZ CAFE, and ran it for twenty-two years until his death in 2012. The film is not only a portrait of a “bebop man in a hip-hop world,” but a candid portrayal of the worlds inside and outside the club. Lewis says that the club was like Keith’s home, his living room — where she and others were allowed in to hear and witness live jazz.
The study of jazz as an art form, as a modern phenomenon often appearing out of step with its times, has almost always focused on the musicians themselves, and rightly so. But less attention has been paid to those devoted eccentrics who attempted to balance art and business, to make it possible for creativity to blossom in public. I think that only Barney Josephson has been the subject of a full-scale study, so I welcome THE JAZZ MAN as a portrait of a daring individual who attempted to help musicians offer their art to the world — that often-maligned species, The Club Owner . . . in this case, the late Keith Crombie.
Here’s the trailer for the film — lively, moving, energized, unsentimental. I look forward to its release and distribution.
May your happiness increase!