Friday, 22 February 2013

Jazz and Blues in Bangkok

Burger with eponymous iron fairy

Besides jetting around on semi-private long-tailed boats, the wife and I, being the hep cats we are, took in a couple of the best that Bangkok has to offer in terms of musical entertainment. As may be expected, the choice is much wider than it is in Hong Kong, and the prices very reasonable. Both places we visited have no cover charge, and the drinks – and food – won’t burn a hole in your pocket. In fact the only thing in Bangkok that is noticeably more expensive than in Hong Kong is the Skytrain.

The only drawback to Adhere the 13th Blues Bar (besides its name) is its location. It’s stuck away in the northwest of the city, so you’ll have to shell out around 90 Baht on a taxi ride from downtown. If you go here, you basically know what you’re going to get, since the resident band, featuring a gnarled veteran from the midlands of England on lead vocals and a decent supporting band, consisting of lead guitar, bass and drummer, give two sets of wall-to-wall blues separated by a 30-minute fag break out on the pavement.

Dude at Adhere

The area – and the bar – is very popular with British Council types who teach locally, and the vibe is very laid back indeed. Expect the odd wacky Western woman dressed after the Marrakesh fashion to wander through the narrow seating area touching assorted male limbs on her way to some unexplained rendezvous at the back of the building…

Closer to home, in fact, a 15-minute walk from Thong Lo Skytrain Station, is one of the odder live music venues you’re likely to come across. Slightly bigger than Adhere (this sounds more and more like something the wretched RoadShow would use to bombard us with their mindless advertising), The Iron Fairies is a blacksmith’s workshop by day – well, it makes a good story – and a jazz venue by night.

Dude at Iron Fairies

The place has two “stages”, one at the top of an iron spiral staircase (Led Zeppelin would have to play up there) – actually, that’s just a fancy way of saying it’s on the first floor - while the other is wedged between a counter and the wall on the ground floor – pretty much in the middle of the workshop. Acts start their gigs at around 9.30pm, but the canny Aussie owner says it’s wise to get there earlier, as they limit numbers to 55. As it happened, nothing like that number of patrons were in the bar the evening we went, so you’ll probably be okay if you take pot luck, unless it’s a Friday or Saturday. Or, of course, if Led Zeppelin’s in town.

Top stage at Iron Fairies - behind the staircase
The evening we went along, having arrived in good time to sample their signature burgers, a band called “Energy”, if I recall correctly, were playing. This time we had drummer, guitar and tenor saxophone, who were joined for most, but not all, numbers, by a highly accomplished local male singer, who gave fine interpretations of standard Sinatra and Nat King Cole numbers such as “New York, New York” and “When I Fall in Love”, as well as “Invitation”, a tune written by Bronislau Kaper for a little known Lana Turner/Ray Milland film in 1950, which hit the big time when recorded by tenor saxophonist  John Coltrane in 1958.

Here it is played by Michael Brecker with the Kenny Barron trio.

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