Hello, I’m Sweeny (“Hello, Sweeny!”), and I’m an addict…

At the risk of alienating a hard fought for audience (insert your own joke, as appropriate) I’m going to have to do some talking about the serious subject of jazz today. I generally try to steer clear of the j-word for obvious reasons, but I guess there comes a time when we all have to address our demons.

I have no Yes or Genesis skeletons in my closet and you’re welcome to rifle through my old record collection for Grease or Duran Duran records – you won’t find ‘em. But we’ve known each for a while now and I’ve begun to see you as something of an old friend. I feel I can tell you anything.

So now’s the time to come clean – I did quite a bit of jazz in my teens and early twenties. I know, not jazz-funk, or nu-jazz or anything like that. Jazz.

I’ll understand if you don’t want to read on. But yes it started with Bird and Dizzy, and before I knew it I was buying Coltrane, Miles and Monk, wearing turtle neck jumpers and going to Loose Tubes concerts. I even went to Ronnie Scott’s once to see Buddy Rich in one of his last appearances in theUK. I’m not proud of it, but there you have it…

Obviously this is a while ago (myLondonyears, I like to think) and I’d straightened myself out by the time I was back inGloucester. It all seems like some awful dream now…

It’s important you know this about me, though, because I recently encountered a record that landed me face to face with my old love for the first time in many years.

Polar Bear

A hip bunch of gents called Polar Bear will be playing at Green Man this year, and they are slightly unusual act to be appearing at GM, having no connection to folk, dance or indie that I can see. No guitars, no banjos, no dulcimers. As far as I can see, there’s almost nothing to pluck, strum, bow or finger in any way – it’s all just brass; brass and drums … the one stringed instrument being a stand up bass.

This is hard for me as you can hopefully appreciate, but I purport to be a grown man these days, so I should be able to treat this with a measure of detachment, judge it on its own merits, and all that. And this is what I’ve tried to do – this is why I’ve bought the Polar Bear record, Peepers, and even played it in the car all week. And erm, it’s not bad, in fact.

Actually, I’m being a bit coy there. It’s a terrifically  jaunty, lumbering record. It’s jazz-y certainly – there’s a liberal amount of honking and wailing going on, some eyes-closed soloing, a fair bit of modern dissonance, and the obligatory passing the baton around. But mixed in with all this …. jazz, there are some classic r’n’b style ingredients to the mix up. I particularly like the contribution of the drummer who sounds like a rock thumper rather than a jazz stylist (I do like jazz drummers – just not in jazz bands…)

There’s a really sweet video shot by the Guardian which captures something of the quirky, cheerful tone of Polar Bear. Kinda hard not to like it…

This is the title track of the record, and you can get it free for download (plus a few others) from Polar Bear’s website.

They say, of course that you never beat addiction; you have to take each day as it comes, and this is what I’ll be doing. But that’s not to say I won’t be paying a clandestine visit to the Polar bear set at Green Man this year. I’ll not be hard to spot, I shouldn’t wonder; I’ll be the old feller at the front, duffle-coated, muddied and shame-faced, indulging myself, privately, once more for old time’s sake…