THREE MINUTES WITH MR. LANGHAM, MR. BOWLLY, and FRIENDS: ENRICO TOMASSO, NORMAN FIELD, JENS LINDGREN, EMMA FISK, MARTIN LITTON, MANU HAGMANN, RICHARD PITE (Whitley Bay, October 27, 2012)

Thomas “Spats” Langham by George Coupe

We live in an age of plenitude — for the fortunate entitled ones. I’m not even speaking of commodities we can buy online. I speak of the art we love. There’s more music on YouTube than one could absorb in ten lifetimes; it comes at us through download and streaming and twenty-five track compact discs. So I think we understandably might be both jaded and dazed by the proliferation.

I almost titled this post CHEW SLOWLY, because a story from the past kept nudging itself to the surface. Years ago, a friend of my then-family was a meticulous cook. She had worked many hours one day to perfect some dishes, and proudly served it to her husband and children, who inhaled the results in minutes. “I could have served them hot dogs and they would have been just as happy.”

It made me think of the many audiences I’ve been a part of, where one marvel after another is created for us — magic! the result of how many hundred-thousand hours of practice and experience, and we are just waiting for the next tune, the next hors d’oeuvre to be served.

This is especially true of audiences at jazz parties and festivals, who might hear eight hours of live improvisation in a day — fifty or sixty performances at least? — then shout MORE! MORE! at the end of the evening. What, I wonder, do they and we actually hear?

I think of the jazz fan of 1938 who bought one record a week and had that six minutes of art to study . . . unlike us.

Today, with the Swing Era love song GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL in my head, I wandered past this performance: I was in the audience; I had my video camera — double blessings, I think now. The performance is only three minutes, and perhaps to the very elegantly gifted artists on the stand it was only tune six out of eight in the Bowlly set: I can’t know. Those artists, not incidentally, are Thomas “Spats” Langham, guitar and vocal; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field, reeds; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

But what they create, with no fuss, is just magnificent: a light-hearted blending of New York and London, as if Al Bowlly had been wooed by John Hammond into making records with Teddy Wilson and his colleagues — a true marriage of sweet and hot, with Martin Littton’s chimes, Spats’ sweet evocation and closing guitar arpeggio all included at no extra charge. V. fetching.

I wonder why the audience wasn’t on its feet, cheering. But we can make up for that now, at home:

The alternate title for this post is SLOW DOWN FOR BEAUTY. It won’t always be around, nor will we. So let us appreciate it, deeply and in a leisurely way, while we are able to.

May your happiness increase!

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