Dom Joly: Joly Hates Jazz

Colombian jazz guitarist plays in Dom Joly's garden

'A young Jackson showing early disdain for Jazz as Colombian jazz guitarist Manolo Arango performs in our garden' - Credit: Dom Joly

The comedian with wanderlust reports from Cheltenham

I got an invite to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival from a friend. We would meet for supper at Brasserie Blanc before heading off to the Big Top to see a big jazz cheese. This presented double trouble for me. I have had really terrible experiences the last two times I visited said restaurant and was not massively keen to return. On top of that… it was to be a jazz evening and Joly Hates Jazz.   

First, the restaurant. I’ve always been a touch suspicious of Raymond Blanc. I used to frequent his very first establishment in Summertown, Oxford, back in the late 1970s when my parents used to come and take me out from boarding school. This means that Monsieur Blanc has been in this country for going on 50 years, and yet his French accent gets thicker and thicker as the years pass. I have a sneaking suspicion his real name is Ray White and that he has a family in Southend. Once he has finished with the professional Frenchman schtick he drives home for some jellied eels and an evening at the dogs. 

Things, however, were looking up. My experience at the restaurant was a lot better than the two previous occasions. The food was good and the wine flowed freely. But at the back of my mind I was all too aware that the jazz ordeal awaited me.    

I won’t name the act but I really didn’t enjoy it. I am in no way denigrating the quality of musicianship. In fact, they were almost too good. That’s the problem. Jazz folk really, really want to let you know how good they are. Jazz is not known as ,musician’s music, for no reason. It’s more of an intellectual pursuit. You really have to be able to play an instrument yourself to appreciate how good the people you are watching are. This is all fine and dandy but, in my experience, it makes for an unbearable audience experience.  

It was not the big cheese’s fault. It’s my problem. Jazz simply doesn’t move me. It has no soul. Let’s face it, jazz is musical masturbation.  

I should love it. It’s a bit ‘underground’ – full of cool cats smoking copious amounts of ‘reefer’ whilst wearing wraparound shades and cockily-cocked berets. My favourite film as a kid was Disney’s The Aristocats, an homage to the Paris jazz scene. I love the whole jazz image… it’s just the music that is the problem. 

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Having said that, I do own and enjoy one jazz album – Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. On a hot day, when I’m lounging in the garden, it’s my album of choice to have wafting in the summer breeze. The reason for this, however, is that it is background music... posh lift music. It doesn’t hold my attention, but serves to accentuate the general mellow-yellow mood of the Joly garden on a hot summer day.  

Once out of the gig, the all-too familiar public post-mortem ensued.  

‘Didn’t you just LOVE it?’ asked a friend. 

‘Ummm, no,’ I replied.  

‘Whaaaaat? But why?’ they said horrified, 

‘I dunno, I guess it’s a taste thing,’ I said.  

Cue an attempt by the whole group to prove to me that I was wrong. I never understand this. Why does your enjoyment of something rely on me having to love it as well? It’s the nightclub conundrum. I’m having a nice time sitting down, enjoying the evening. Then there’s always someone: ‘Why are you not dancing? Come on… dance.’ 

I guess I’m just a grumpy git. I need to relax, get a bit loose, become more… jazz. 

Bollocks to that, cat. 

Follow Dom on Twitter: @domjoly

Dom’s latest book Such Miserable Weather: An English Staycation is available to order from