On my way to SW19 to catch a few tennis stars practicing for the Wimbledon Championships on Sunday, I detoured to South Kensington to visit the Royal Albert Hall, where one of the biggest names on the planet, Woody Allen, was appearing with his jazz band that evening. My intention was to try and catch him in person or failing that, leave a drawing for him to sign. I gave myself a window of an hour. I had a letter written and a stamped-addressed envelope already to go. What I didn’t have was the sketch. I had plenty of tennis players but I had left Woody on the drawing board. Bugger.
So, not for the first time, I quickly looked up an image on my phone and did this literal two-minute scribble. The concert notes said there would be no set list and the band would go with the Woody flow, described as ‘an energetic collection of improvisation’ …a bit like my drawing.
Woody was labelled “a treasure of cinema” by Roger Ebert, but jazz has been his lifelong passion, playing clarinet from an early age. Apparently his stage name is based on the American clarinetist and Big Band legend Woody Herman. A regular on Monday nights for the past 40 years at the upmarket Cafe Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East side, Woody and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band have been part of the fabric of New York since the 1970’s. When he won his first two Academy Awards in 1978 for writing and directing ANNIE HALL, Woody was not present at the ceremony. It was Monday, 3 April and he was playing jazz. His priority may also have something to do with his dislike of awards and he’s on record saying ANNIE HALL was not his favourite film, which also picked up Best Picture.
Anyway my hasty and rough rendering made it to Woody, as the kind gentleman at the stage door desk promised, because it came back signed and dedicated in two days.