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My Ramsey Lewis Moment

I had one of those time-passing-by moments the other day.

While browsing through the rapidly-thinning shelves of CDs at HMV in Oxford Street, what should I find in the jazz section but a great-looking compilation disc by one of my oldest heroes, the great Ramsey Lewis. Those of a certain age will recall ol’ Ramsey’s grungy, grainy overture to Barry Norman’s weekly film programme – groaning, and slightly sweaty, exactly the way the piano blues is supposed to be. Fine stuff.

I snapped the disc up eagerly and took it home. It was an immaculately transcribed collection of all the great man’s finest works, technically perfect. And it was just embarrassing. The god of authentic seventies jazz cool had been wedded to Tamla Motown all the time, and somehow I’d never noticed. After three decades of sharpening up my ears to acid jazz and today’s much tighter jazz rhythms, it sounded shambling and well-intentioned. And you couldn’t blame that on the recording quality, because Charlie Parker had done much more exciting things on shellac 78s, way back in the 1940s.

No, there was nothing for it but to accept that nostalgia had got in the way and clouded my vision. It was corny. Which brings me, finally, to my point.

Re-Examining what We Think We Know

Our recent IFA roadshows have shown us that an awful lot of advisers still think their clients want nothing but unit trusts – the blended whiskies of the investment world. Safe, short on individuality, but always acceptable. And that investment trusts, the highland malts of the investment world, are rather too scary to propose to a client. All that volatility! All that reliance on one manager! And what’s all this complicated stuff about premiums and discounts anyway?

Food for thought there. But then, you might ask, what was I doing in a ‘record shop’ anyway? I mean, who goes in those places any more, apart from wrinkled jazz fans and white-haired gentlemen in sensible coats looking for boxed sets of La Traviata? Haven’t they heard of Amazon? Don’t they have MP3 downloads? What do they want, paper sleeve notes too? What a bunch of fogies.

To those of us who bridle at this thought, I can only say that the world is changing, and often in ways that shake up our assumptions by bringing new opportunities and maybe – just maybe – new efficiency too. We need to re-examine them, before our clients re-examine us. 

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