A rare sighting: A few years ago John Garfield ran an excellent Sunday afternoon session in what was then called the iBar, now the Stone Marquee, in Whetstone, north London.
A jazz singer in the tradition of Frank Sinatra, every week for about nine months he appeared in residence as singer and MC with his swinging trio and guests of the calibre of Liane Carroll, Sebastiaan de Krom, Robin Jones, and Frank Holder, plus many more.
The atmosphere was convivial, fun, slightly unusual in an old school way, and a lot of this was to do with John.
In his heyday John made more than 200 broadcasts with the BBC Radio Orchestra, and Midland Light Orchestra.
Jazz standards in his hands are not like those performed by someone going through the motions: the songs mean something.
Garfield manages to make the songs come alive as if each line was a character, someone you know, or a set piece in a drama that like life itself you could have lived through.
At slow tempos, and still now when he’s well into his eighties Garfield has the kind of poise that young crooners like Alexander Stewart and Anthony Strong aspire to and even Jamie Cullum would admire the artistry of.
In New York Garfield performed with Dakota Staton, and worked as a staff writer with music publishers, and back in London recorded a tribute album to Sinatra at Abbey Road, with an orchestra arranged by Dave Lindup better known as writer of the theme music for classic TV sitcom Rising Damp and as a collaborator with John Dankworth. He professes a great admiration for Lena Horne, who he also performed with, as well as Bing Crosby in the unlikely venue in Bing’s case of the back of a cab!
John is guesting with the quartet of Derek Nash, Graham Harvey, Len Skeat and Neil Bullock on a few numbers for Jazz at The Comedy Club, in the George IV pub, 185 High Road, in Chiswick on Wednesday night.
I’d read The Bosphorus Dogs: it raised funds successfully through Kickstarter last year, but it won’t be published until 2015 apparently. Why so long? Who knows.
But we do know it’s a “character-driven, literary novel set in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul", according to Zabor, that begins in September 2003.
Three main characters, an American expat in his fifties, now teaching in a local college; his estranged grown up daughter; and a Israeli friend of the expat’s, are the main engine for the action. The intriguing bit based on this tiny summary is the last of the three, as he or she (Zabor leaves it open so far) may or may not be a stringer for Mossad.
Zabor says “Istanbul’s roving dog packs do get a mention and a look, but the title refers more generally to anyone who has come to Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul for a scrap of its old and new glories and a richer sense of life."
I’m a big fan of The Bear Comes Home, Zabor’s earlier much celebrated novel about a saxophone-playing bear. If you like any author, and appreciate the style, sincerity and energy of the writing, the little indulgences, quirks and irregularities, particularly someone as funny, engaging and knowing as Zabor, then the subject matter is less important.
If it corresponds with something you’re interested in deeply than it’s even better. But he could write about marmalade or gorse bushes or tiny little trinkets or great big sculptures and I’d probably read it. I won’t even be too disappointed if it is a dog: promise. Stephen Graham