Debbie is a regular jammer, Secretary for the Newport Jazz Festival Committee and runs a peripatetic outfit called Bootleg Daze. She has a unique ability to light up an audience with her smile.

Everybody’s got to start somewhere, right?

I’ve been thinking lately about the issue of starting as a beginner and then (hopefully) getting better as a performer.

For me, this is what the jam sessions are all about, so I’m prepared to cut some slack for the beginner singers, for the drummers who really don’t know their bossa from their swing (yet), and the three-chord keyboard players. We were all like that once. Some of us still are.

I’ve heard some grumbling in the past from audience members when there’s a train wreck, or the singer can’t find the right key (yes, that was me). I’ve been guilty of wincing myself sometimes, but c’mon people, we’ve got to nurture the new talent! Except possibly for the multitude of vocalists, who keep enthusiastically turning up (pre-COVID) and expecting to get a slot when there’s just not enough hours in the session to fit them all in (tip – turn up early).

I well remember (sort of) the first time I got up to sing at a jam session. It was at Dizzy’s in Burnley, when John Curtis was running the jams. I needed two glasses of red to get up the nerve (that’s why “sort of”) and I expect I sounded like it, too. John was very gracious and so I came back the next week, when he was gracious again.

Everybody was (gracious I mean, or at least they didn’t tell me how awful I was) and I reckon for those of us who’ve started out as jazz newborns and grown up a bit (or at least older), it’s up to us to give a hand to the newer newbies.

Certainly while I’ve been coming, since that La Pena days, through the Glasshouse, Leinster Arms, The Junktion and The Post, I’ve noticed regulars who have improved from being “give him/her a chance, s/he’s still a beginner” to “actually, you’re pretty good – want to join a band?”.

So I’m looking forward to being able to get together with all the regulars, sink a few, sing in an inebriated fashion and clap enthusiastically those whose best performances are still to come.



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