It is said that one can get somebody’s vibe by driving their car, or sitting on their favourite chair, or playing their trumpet… likewise… when people have organ transplants some of the innate characteristics of the donor do affect the recipient. Thus when delicate souls who spent their days doing embroidery and macramé in a lady-like parlour receive a heart, liver or toenails from a hell’s angel, the delicate one inexplicably gets a taste for motorcycling, beer and listening to heavy metal.
The last time I went to Italy, the very wonderful jazz trumpeter, Tom Kirkpatrick, saw that I was wearing a very silly tie, so he rushed off and showed me his eclectic collection of ties, some featuring musical motifs, instruments and exotic flora and fauna. He invited me to take one… so I chose this goldy thing, hoping that once I put it on, my musical skills might miraculously emerge while wearing the tie, and I might be able to sing and play the horn with consummate skill… but when I put it on for the first time last weekend, the nearest I got to osmosing Tom’s prodigious talent was revving up the sound system and listened to the fabulous Shirley Horn with an (almost) new set of ears… but it was worth it.
Tom Kirkpatrick is such a brilliant jazz musician. To hear him live is always thrilling, he is a dazzling exponent of bebop, but just about any kind of jazz is as natural to him as breathing. How sad it is that we so rarely if ever hear him in the UK, where he is not known. He lives in Italy in a jolly little town called Bondeno, a bit of a way away from Ferrara, and there he resides with his wife, close by her family and their friends, and a bit of a distance from his family and home country of the US where he grew up and became well known in New York jazz circles.
Tom is a team player, he interacts exquisitely with his students, bringing out the best in them, making them harmonise as perfectly as any professional group. His humour and joie de vivre are completely infectious, which is why he has a great popular following both locally and nationally in Italy, where the Italians have adopted him as one of their own. Italy has always had a great relationship with US jazz musicians.
When we visit Italy we always share a wide range of sounds, as diverse as Dusty Springfield and Vaughan Williams. It was Tom that introduced me to Red Garland, and many other greats. Last time I was there I played Tom some of the dotty stuff to be found on the album called ‘Larkin’s Jazz’, a strange compilation of the favourites of Philip Larkin (‘This Be the Verse’). We fell sideways at the witty sound of Ray Noble’s Tiger Rag, not to mention the seriously tinkling tones of the Washboard Rhythm Kings. I was having a phase of listening to Shirley Horn then, and Tom explained to me what a great jazz pianist she was, and how she loved to do everything ‘real slooow’.