From Rod Stewart to Robbie Williams, and now Lady Gaga and Annie Lennox, pop stars keep hopping on the jazz bandwagon but just can’t ride the rhythm.
Of all those rubbish ideas dreamt up by major-label record honchos frantically trying to balance their ailing books, the pop star – often fading, but not necessarily – sings jazz standards album feels the most desperate. Like sitcom writers who think sending their much-loved characters to Torremolinos for a feature-length “special” is the best way to re-oxygenate a programme whose days are numbered, the success rate of popster jazz is virtually nil.
Jazz is a serious and noble pursuit, with a culture and history of its own, fed by a pool of nuts-and-bolts techniques that can to outsiders feel as obscure and nebulous as the formula for Coca-Cola. And however keenly Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams, Paul McCartney, and now Lady Gaga and Annie Lennox, think kicking it with a zooty big band can varnish their careers in the mystique and musical sophistication of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra or Sarah Vaughan, they are deluding themselves. The context is all wrong; take Mrs Slocombe’s pussy away from Grace Brothers and the joke is lost.