Part lecture, part concert, Richard Michael takes us on a whistle-stop tour of jazz, from its humble beginnings in the tunes of Scott Joplin to the more experimental Dave Brubeck and all the masters in between.
Jazz, as Michael notes, is all about learning to mess around and experiment: the best jazz musicians are the best ‘doodlers’. This is true of Michael himself. Despite the educational content, he is very much at play with the instrument. His history is paralleled by his own experiences of the genre, coupled with amusing anecdotes, for an informative yet personal evening.
Michael is equal parts entertainer and educator. Hugely knowledgeable on his subject, his delivery puts musical expertise into layman’s terms without being patronising. Playing a number of tunes in succession, each piece is dissected in terms of harmony, melody and rhythmic patterns to explain variations in the different jazz styles. God Save The Queen is also transformed, depicting each reactionary movement of the genre. It’s an informative evening for both aficionados and beginners alike: you’ll undoubtedly come away with a huge stack of names and records to research.
At times Michael struggles with the complex rhythms, blistering pace and sheer amount of notes the music demands, but this barely matters. Michael is not attempting to be a concert pianist. His playing may not be completely accurate but, as he explains, ‘every wrong note is an opportunity’. Moreover, Michael’s enthusiasm whilst playing is electric. If every school teacher were like this, music lessons would be a whole lot more fun.