29 June 2006

Happy birthday, Blake

Blake Wilner celebrated his birthday and the anniversary of his engagement on Wednesday night at Hippos. Also present at his party were Brandon Allen (alto sax, occasionally tenor), Sam Anning (double bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). Blake, of course, is guitarist and leader of the Blake Wilner Quartet.

BWQ are currently touring Australia. Apparently, the whole band originates from Perth, but they are now spread widely. Blake and Brandon are resident in London (Brandon told me he’s been there for 6 years); Sam is in Perth; Ben is in Melbourne. They played instrumental jazz with lots of energy. I heard Euro jazz in some of the alto playing. There was Scofield in there too (the last tune was a Scofield composition). It was great playing all around. I especially loved the complex unison lines by guitar and alto (a sweet-sounding combination) and the all-in improvisation (reminiscent of 60s avant-guard). This trad-jazz approach of concurrent soloists bouncing off each others’ lines seems popular at the moment.

Looking up, it seemed like a grunge jazz session. Brandon played, bent over his alto, wearing black t-shirt and moving with muscular, angular motions. Blake played with beanie and t-shirt and looked relaxed but committed. Sam played steadily, and with power when the band lifted, and also played several effective solos. Ben was all over the kit, with complex polyrhythms and lots of rhythmic movement. BWQ gave an energetic and powerful display; a performance that confirms the quality of Australian modern jazz these days.

  • Blake's website - http://www.blakewilnergroup.com/
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