05 April 2006

Julian Banks Trio @ The Gods

Julian Banks presented last night’s session at the Jazz at the Gods series at ANU. What an eye-opener! This was highly sophisticated and energetic modern jazz, varied in tonality, interesting in harmony and melody, rich in capable and inventive solos, and virtually all from original tunes. The trio is Julian Banks, tenor sax, Damien Slingsby, piano, Sam Young, drums.

Julian played with a lovely, rich tenor tone, moving freely into and out of solos, and sometimes playing time with repetitive phrases. He has looks reminiscent of Mingus, which was doubly odd given there was no bass on stage. Damien was highly accomplished on a Yamaha electric piano, often playing bass lines against solos, freely changing harmonic relationships and always soloing strongly. He performed with eyes closed and head rocking back and forth (impossible to get a decent pic!). Sam both closely followed and defined the rhythms. He played minimalistic but expressive solos, including pitch changes by pressing drum heads - common enough, but nicely done.

Their repertoire was all original other than 2 tunes (“Miles mode” by Coltrane was one), although they finally played another non-original as an encore (You don’t know what love is). Chris Deacon (from ArtSound FM) recorded the concert, and it will be played on ArtSound in a month or so, probably on the Jazzwaves program one Sunday night at 8pm.

Julian finished the concert by thanking the audience for being appreciative and knowledgeable, but my heart sank when he added that performing for such an audience is rare for a jazz player. As it is for many other serious and demanding (and non-commercial) areas of human endeavour these days. This is both another issue and a tragedy. For now, we just have to rejoice that we have such excellent music in our midst – and support and promote it as best we can.

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