Terry Waldo and the Basin Street Brawlers at the Holywell Music Room

The name ‘Oxford’ brings to mind (my mind that is) two general impressions. The first is of a place of highly esteemed educational activity with a predominantly conservative and high-brow perspective, steeped in layers of ritual and tradition. The second is of a place of ‘cutting edge’ intellectual enterprise; a multicultural melting pot in which the brightest people from all around the globe, and from every academic, scientific and cultural field conceivable, converge to carve out a future of great promise for the world. This dual narrative was embodied, in a sense, by the Terry Waldo and the Basin Street Brawlers concert, featuring works of early jazz and ragtime.

Apart from Ertegun Scholar Jake Gill’s impressive showing on the acoustic guitar, this concert gripped my interest in several contradictory ways. The whole way through I kept thinking: “This is great music, but is it not misplaced in both time and space”? – my preconceptions of what I thought I would experience in Oxford did not include the inventions of the American early jazz period, performed in the august setting of the Holywell Music Room. “Pretty progressive!”, some might say. Yet at the same time, as wonderful as the music was, early jazz and ragtime hardly reflects the cutting edge of what jazz has to offer in 2015: “Not so progressive”, others might say. But then there was a third perspective, which was the one that captured the audience: “Who cares! the band’s still swinging!”

The concert lives in my memory as a highlight of my Oxford experience thus far, since the music was able to transport me as a listener to 1920’s New Orleans and allowed me to encounter something of the flavour of that time and place in the history of the world’s music, of which I had learned as an undergrad. A good experience all round.

Diale Mabitsela