I´m writing now from Bonn where I´m staying with a lovely friend and his lovely girlfriend. My first stop in Germany however was Munich, still my pet favourite.
One night there I decided to track down a jazz club that had its week´s programme typed up on an A4 piece of paper and stuck on one of the walls of the hostel. This club was called Jazzclub Vogler, located on Rumfordstrasse.
Vogler has the perfect decor for a jazz club, dim lighting supplemented by small candles in the centre of the tables, dark brown wooden tables with wooden chairs or else black banquettes along the wall. Corners and a few booths so that people can get cosy in their own area. A stage that seemed to take up a fifth of the room, to make the performers look close and the music sound loud. The band comprised four people: a pianist, a double bass player, a saxophone/tambourine/cow bell (?) player and the star of the show, a Panamanian man called Cesar playing the bongos as well as the square box he was seated on.
I sat one small cafe table back from the stage and was alone in that particular section until a German couple came and sat down near there partway through the first set. At the end of this set at around 10:30pm, the figure of an old man appeared in front of our tables and inquired as to whether he could take the place next to me.
We talked during the break, during which time he told me that he loved jazz and had been listening to it since he was a young boy. Jazz was not allowed in the early days though as Hitler did not approve of it. In the last months of the war and under the influence of his 17 year old older brother, he would secretly listen to the jazz programmes played late at night on the American-run radio service. Their parents didn´t approve but they would be asleep by the time the programme aired, so what they didn´t know couldn´t hurt them.
He was retired but used to work as a journalist. The first response in my head was “Oh cool, a journalist!”, prompting me to try to find out more. Well, he was glad to be retired. He burst my bubble with a nice shot of reality by saying that he was glad that now he could write what he really wanted to, without having to cover only that which his editors were interested in and that which would satisfy public demand. Made me think back to a British documentary maker I briefly met in NZ who said that although he had gotten into the job out of love, namely for research and telling worthwhile stories, over the years he´s found it to be a highly stressful job and one that can at times be very disheartening. Because to get funding you can only cover topics that producers want you to cover and even once you have a project you are subject to direction from on high. You don´t have the story you´re really interested in telling and then you don´t even have your approach to what you are allowed to film. It´s the same old story everywhere perhaps but he said that the only way he could get something out of it was to find little ways to subvert the orders he´d been given and to slip in little “him” pieces into the film.
Anyway, back to old man in the jazz club. He also mentioned that he was closely involved with the museum of traffic (I kept thinking I was hearing him incorrectly, but then I suppose there is a museum of pigeons in Nuremberg) and said that one of his main activities now is talking to people about emissions and pollution. Telling them for example that ships are worse than airplanes, and that sea traffic is much much heavier than air traffic, even with the latter being as dense as it is in European skies.
You know that question about if you had the chance to choose from anyone, dead or alive, who would you want to have dinner with? Usually you can choose 3 – 5 people. I´ve always found that a difficult question. There are certainly famous figures that I admire and if really pressed I could perhaps pull some of those names out from my back pocket. But I know that I don´t really know them, that to choose them I´d be going on an idealised vision of what they must be like and of all the sparkly wisdom dust they must be able to sprinkle on me. So it´s a good thing people don´t ask me questions like very much 🙂
This guy though, this is my type of hero. He even said that he might buy a double bass when he is older (he was mid to late 60s). He knew how to play it, which already impressed me hugely because I love the sonorous sound of a good cello or double bass, but didn´t own one at that point in time and said that he would take it up again to help keep his brain active in his old age. I´m not sure why he would think it necessary to add something else to the complement because it already sounds like he´s doing quite a lot what with writing, teaching, guiding and learning… as well as listening to lots of quality music 😉 Hmm… where is the scientific study about jazz staving off senility….
Yeah it´s great to know that I don´t need to search to answer that question. The answer comes walking into a dimly lit jazz club and asks if the table next to me is free.