Ian Martin plays the jazz of architecture
Monday. It’s Jazz Architecture Week, and everyone’s hoping there’s no reprise of the ugly scenes we had last year in Brighton.
Rival gangs of Trads and Shockers battling it out on the seafront in a series of running theoretical debates, bringing shame upon the world of syncopated design and irritating passers-by. Adverbs were thrown. At one point harmless banter escalated into dangerous levels of pretentiousness; deckchairs were adduced as paradigms of exterior tensile furniture.
There is no place for sectarianism in jazz architecture. Whether you be a Trad, with your old-fashioned notions of symmetry and proportion and a solid 4/4 grid. Or whether alternatively you be a Shocker, producing experimental jazz architecture with a freestyling drivel of rising fifths and augmented pods on splayed pilotis.
The whole point – the whole babbeda babbeda glap bap ga-tish POINT – of jazz architecture is inclusiveness. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ jazz architecture. There is only hubbeda hubbeda GOOD jazz architecture. And babbeda babbeda squee-honk blap tss-tss wap bap ga-biddly bad.
Tuesday. Amazing evening of chops, licks, anecdotes and improvised criticism at the Jazzual Architectural Association. Marvellous impromptu lecture on the whole Italian post-Baroque, pre-bebop fusion movement by visiting professor Antonio Daddio.
Outside in the square, students have jammed together geodesic riffs and a big polypropylene drum solo to create a temporary ‘flop-up’ structure, Velvet Smackpad. The exterior resembles a giant pair of bongos. The cool jazz interior is modelled on a heroin den of the 1950s: minimalist with lots of big cushions. Everything’s suffused with the colour blue but, cleverly, on the off-beat.
There is an aural landscape too: a soundtrack of mysterious scraping, squeaking noises. The visitor imagines that he (possibly ‘she’ but NB must be goatee-capable) is in some urban jungle, the everyday noises of life transmuted into a collage of dislocated, jagged existential rage. Then he realises he’s listening to the Archigram Quintet Live in Charrette and starts clicking his fingers, randomly and knowledgeably.
Wednesday. A tour of London jazz pubs organised by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Jive. Our guide is Darcy Farquear’say and his hepcat dachshund, Bauhau.
We focus on the very earliest jazz pubs of the 1920s, when society sought to assauge the horrors of the Great War not with affordable housing for the poor but with innovative drinking holes for the hip. Inevitably, most of the original buildings survive today, not as jazz pubs for the poor but as converted townhouses for the hip. This is exactly the sort of irony that adds 50 grand to the asking price.
Happily, the Lord Alfred Douglas in Shaftesbury Avenue survives. Darcy hoists Bauhau onto a bar stool; the hapless ‘jazzschund’ wobbles uncertainly there throughout Darcy’s little talk, quietly howling from within a miniature beatnik onesie.
‘Observe the pish pish wabbeda wabbeda modulation of style. A standard 2/4 panelling is backlined by proto-boogie woogie flanging, with plenty of bass-end left hand overbabble. See how the glass, mirrorwork and mahogany is punctuated with bright, joyous stabs of hubbeda babbeda tish tish ga-drap bap brass…’
The landlord comes over and tells us ‘the weird dog’ will have to go. Darcy querulously complains that he was happy enough to serve us when we came in with Bauhau. The landlord says he inferred from Darcy’s dark glasses and painfully mismatched clothes that Bauhau was a guide dog. Tempers fray, in a confusion of time signatures and keys, and Bauhau has a little scat accident.
Thursday. To a jazz architecture conference: Whither Freeform Parametricism? Summary: up bup shoo-wup its psst psst psst own fuggeda fuggeda fuggeda arse.
Friday. Try acid jazz architecture for the first time by taking a trip into my surrealistic mental catacombs.
Saturday. All the cats on the UK scene are at Kensington Gardens for the official opening of the annual Mellow Pavilion. This year’s has been designed by the jazz architect’s jazz architect, Scrim ‘Solid Gone’ Scrimson.
Sure, the squares and breadheads say it’s just a big box with a garden in it. Ignore them. They understand neither containment theory nor haughty culture. Scrimson mumbles an intro – ‘baba zoom, baba zoom, humdrum bubba mubbeda pff pff, two three four’ – then we all get pissed and just pure dig the ambience, man.
Sunday. Chill out in the jazz recliner with some metabolist feedback, probably the avant-garde jazz scampi from last night.