Inside, this club is seriously devoted to jazz, among other things.
In the centre of the floor are many chairs set out in totally straight lines and occupied by the jazz cognoscenti: serious characters who make not a sound neither do they move. They sit and they watch. Every move of every musician is given attention, and they give silent small nods of approval and quiet applause at a spectacular achievement of finesse. Bass solos are greeted with a degree of concentration that could split the atom, drum solos accompanied by tiny movements of parts of bodies in synch.
Self-congratulatory grins slide from face to face in this elite audience.
‘See that? Yeah me too! Are we not clever fuckers? YEAH man, cool. Nice. Solid’.
I walk softly past them, stand at the back. I am a woman of little discrimination and less expertise about jazz, an obvious person. Love it all: sexy sax, strident trumpet, cool clarinet.
But the blues are my thing. Along with a million other birds I want to BE Billie. Meanwhile at the edges of the dance floor quiet hubbub rules as the crew waits for between-sets music so they can dance along, show off, feel up and make out.
Knocking shop meets salon here at the Mapleton.
The girl singer, envy of us all:
“Well all right, OK, you win, I’m in love with you
Well all right, OK, you win, baby what can I do?
Anything you do or say
Didn’t realise I was singing along. My voice screeches to a halt as some female glares at me, she moves off. The musicians play on, and they are some of England’s finest. A sharp bunch of wise guys with their egos in their instruments and their minds caught up in the glamour and responsibility of being musicians and adored by dopey females who glare at people who sing out of tune. I know these guys, they use the basement where I work to rehearse, but now, they have their mystique wrapped around them: I am intimidated.
The club breathes in smoke, breathes out jazz, flourishes on the mixture. Dark walls, softened with a nicotine patina, give off a dank brick stench. The carpet on the edge clings to the feet, tenacious as a limpet, both slippery and sticky on the soles. Jazz has sunk into the walls. Early morning when the music has stopped and the players long gone, I am convinced it breathes out the sounds like some old harmonium, bronchitic lungs relaxing, until the walls settle into sonorous silence that sighs on to a blue beat.