72-year old Doctor Jazz has an alternative approach to life reflected perfectly through his bizarre yet entertaining musical performances.
He entertains audiences regularly at Buffalo Bar.
Whisky in hand, washboard sat behind him and eyes twinkling, Doctor Jazz, otherwise known as Keith Western, is the eccentric granddad we all wish we had.
With a passion for jazz and a love for making people smile, his performances are like nothing else.
Starting off with a backing track of 1930s jazz he begins to sing. His voice is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong, his idol, with gravelly tones and evident passion for the music. Dressed head to toe in a mish-mash of colours and styles, with a patchwork waistcoat and paisley scarf paired with bright red trousers, he really looks the part of an entertainer.
The act isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen before. He never gives a straightforward music performance, but an entertainment act with audience participation and party poppers. He repeats the same few jokes over and over - not brilliant jokes, but they work. The audience, to whom he refers lovingly as “brothers and sisters”, are warming to him. He grabs a silver megaphone from his bag and decides to sing into it. As the audience begins to sing back, he starts holding it up to his ear, laughing to himself as the crowd replies. They repeat his scat singing back to him with varying accuracy.
Wise true to his years, he speaks of life and what it means: “Respect life, respect other people and respect yourself and have fun. “The issues that we all have, most of them are not worthwhile to worry about but it takes time to realise that.” It soon becomes very clear that he is a doctor of jazz but also wants to make people feel better through music and laughter.
Buffalo Bar is a brilliant place for his performance. Dark and bohemian, with rock twist-rickety chairs, theatre seats and an old lamp next to a broken piano, it is the perfect place for him to introduce young people to jazz. Buffalo has played host to Doctor Jazz on most Tuesday and Thursday nights for over a year, so he is a real favourite performer with the regulars. The crowd though are not a jazz lot. They are dressed in rock t-shirts and many have dreadlocks and piercings; but they can’t deny that Doctor Jazz is entertaining.
At 72, he works the stage like nothing else, as if he was always meant to be a performer.
He dives into a bag filled with party poppers - cheap ones from a local shop, and throws them to people who are waving manically at the promise of a free gift. Some people choose to fire them that second, and others wait until a prominent moment in his next song, a number about being unable to play certain instruments, but playing them anyway.
He then picks up an invisible trumpet and begins to play, smiling at the crowd.
Inviting a few people up on stage, he lets one young man take charge of the washboard. He teaches him how to play it, dances with a couple of girls, (who he had invited to “come forth and multiply”), and then switches to play his imaginary saxophone.
Born into a “hippy family” in Bournemouth, he has lived here most of his life, and spent the rest of it travelling around the world; he lived in the Netherlands for a number of years.He has travelled extensively on a budget, and was inspired by a trip to China. “China’s something else. You’ve got to try to travel because it does broaden your mind a lot,” he says.
Doctor Jazz wasn’t always a performer though. He used to be an Art Deco antiques dealer, a career that does indeed suit an eccentric man such as himself. He then retired and one of his sons suggested that he should turn his love of New Orleans jazz into a performance - a suggestion that turned out to be a brilliant idea.
He also runs a local event, the Slim Slam Boogie, a variety show based around jazz. Similar to his own act, it features singing and entertainment through the ages with an overarching retro feel to it. For a man with such a distinct character, he is remarkably down-to-earth and enterprising.
A brilliant performer, who prides himself on having fun and bringing back the sounds of New Orleans, as well as the African-American jazz of the 1920s and 30s.
He sums himself and his way of living up perfectly: “I am eccentric but I know what I’m doing and I function well with my slightly nutty approach to life.”