21 July 2007

Bloody cold night, hot jazz

Carl Morgan and Marc Hannaford each led trios for the latest White Eagle session. They shared a bassist and a jazz school. But otherwise these were very different outfits. Carl’s trio presented standard tunes with go-ahead bop playing. Marc was more the modern, compositional, creative end of jazz. But both gave us highly competent and interesting presentations.

Carl’s trio was Carl Morgan (guitar), Mark Sutton (drums) and Mike Majkowski (bass). This was a straight-ahead jazz outfit. There was at least one original by Carl, but otherwise the set was made up of renowned standards including Recordame, Coltrane’s Lazybird and Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile. Carl is well regarded at the jazz school and is developing into a masterful player. He uses a crisp, clear tone, perhaps with a little reverb, but otherwise uneffected. It allows lots of easily-understood scalar and arpeggiated runs and sometimes abstruse chordal backing (hints of Scofield, of course). And he also shows a more lyrical side at times. Mike capably held clear harmonic structures in walks and syncopated backings, and played several rhythmically strong solos. I particularly liked the fast and highly rhythmic solo passage to start Black Nile. Mark provided strong support or drums and some clearly stated solos. He was the oldest and presumably most experienced of this trio, and I feel it showed. The young guns like their fingers on the trigger; the wisdom of age is somewhat more restrained. Same as it ever was. And it’s great to see the tension. So, Carl’s trio gave us a very interesting, capable, straight-ahead performance.

Marc Hannaford’s was a very different trio. Partly because it was four piece for some time, when Miro joined in. But mostly because the music was so different. The band was Marc Hannaford (piano), Mike Majkowski (bass), Alex Masso (drums), sometimes with Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet).

This was more modern, compositional, exploratory. I think the pieces were all compositions by Marc himself. I saw some charts, and they were pretty sparse, but they had underlying complex concepts, harmonies, ideas that were informing them. Apparently two tunes were based on rhythm changes, but throughout the night, I only heard one limited passage of perhaps 16 bars that was obviously these changes. And apparently Giant steps was hidden in there somewhere, but I never picked it up. (I wasn’t the only one to miss it). What I did hear was some interesting melodies with sometimes odd or broken times, obtuse bass lines, open and punctuated drums, ongoing fluidity and interactive changes of style including occasional free playing and some fabulous piano and trumpet soloing.

Marc introduced the tunes with titles like Beaver in the hallway (this was one where the title actually seemed to match the tune), Mustard cucumber (Mike’s favourite sandwich; sounds good; must try it), Dark pants, Fortunate incompetence, Cubist no. 7 (hidden rhythm changes; in retrospect, the cubist reference is apt). I loved listening to Marc’s piano solos. Fast, fluent passages broken in little snippets of a bar or two, or occasionally longer lines. Sometimes I heard modern classical; perhaps he has some classical training. Miro joined for several tunes. His playing was quite different, more bop-influenced. Again, great playing, and this despite being new to the charts. Both Mike and Alex formed a superbly effective component of all this. Alex was closely following the others’ playing. It was fairly soft volume- and touch-wise, but mobile. Mike changed style throughout, but his walks most interested me. His note choices capably obscured the underlying chords, to give that seemingly undefined tonal centre that makes for modern jazz.

Sadly, too few people attended. They missed some great performances. Also, the piano needs some work, or at least a tune. It was a pretty honky-tonk version of Marc Hannaford that we heard. But despite this, it was another great night at White Eagle.
  • Marc Hannaford's MySpace site
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