23 October 2007

Hot and cold (Moruya 1)

A cold front came in on Friday afternoon. Short sleeves and t-shirts were in abundance and lots of musos were chilled out. Then Sunday morning was hot and the Canberra inlanders disappeared to the beach for a spot of sand and sunstroke. Changeable weather perhaps, but inside was pleasant, and the music was hot, or at least warm, so the weather havoc was easily forgotten.

There were a few name bands at Moruya, but this is really an outing for the Jazz School, and somewhat like a family get-together. Especially given that, for some, it was the final fling for the year, or even for the degree. So there was chatter and commitment throughout.

As for the featured acts, Mike Hallam is a regular and he was back, but perhaps the most notable name was Catherine Hunter. She’s an ex-Canberran and Jazz School graduate who’s made a name for herself in Sydney. In her band were two Hauptmans (Zoe on bass, and James on drums) who have a similar history, so this just continued the Jazz School theme. And there were the Jazz School faculty, who are names in their own right: Eric Ajaye, John Mackey, Miroslav Bukovsky, James Greening, Col Hoorweg.

As always, the Jazz School’s large ensembles were there. For some, it was the last performance in the current line-up. These bands are reformed annually with auditions early in the new year. The Recording Ensemble is playing Wangaratta, but the Commercial and Big Band were perhaps doing their last performances. I missed the Big Band, but the Commercial played a great last set to see off several of the front line from their studies.

I heard lots of music, but also missed lots, because of conflicts, especially as I played 6 sets over the weekend, and 5 on Saturday, which was the major day of the festival, but here are some of my recollections.

How could you not be interested in a band called Erogenous Tones? ET are a piano trio with several stalwarts of the Jazz students: Ben Foster (piano), Hannah James (bass), Ed Rodrigues (drums). Ben’s a lovely player, with a rich, calm approach, and very satisfying chordal work and long, richly textured solo lines. Hannah is playing better than ever, with a sweet tone and thoughtful, true solos. Ed is always busy but subtle, and richly interpretive. These are students who play together frequently rather than a standing band. The set included some known standards (Miles’ Solar and Nardis, How deep is the ocean, even C-Jam blues), but also some lesser known ones (at least for me: Elsa as played by Bill Evans and Lullaby of the leaves) and some originals. This was the first band I caught and it set a high standard. Congrats for an excellent set, and congrats to Ed for a very appealing name!

Ivory Hunter is Daniel Hunter’s outfit for presenting original music. IH is Daniel Hunter (guitar), Yen Nguyen (drums), Kane Watters (bass). The program includes Ben Foster, so maybe this is not the normal, full band. This was largely guitar-instrumental, in a US West Coast style, perhaps reminiscent of Pat Metheny with an Eagles influence? The Eagles? There seemed to be a country twang, with fully strummed chords merged with sophisticated, effected guitar lines. Nice to hear some original music. It seems to have been a theme recently, with several people talking to me of making new music. It’s a good development. On this theme, Miroslav Bukovsky highlighted that pieces don’t need to be permanent. They can be experiments that work or not, but it’s important to originate. He’s a good example, having recently written a piece called Tilba for Carl Morgan’s home town. The message seems to be: just do it, and if you don’t like it, just do another.

Red Barron was comprised of some of the next generation of students, along with some older stalwarts. RB were Matt Sykes (drums), Matt Lustri (guitar), Chris Pound (bass), James LeFevre (sax), Jonno Apps (trumpet). They played a psychedelic style: soundscapes, heavy and successful guitar effects, mesmerically rhythmic. It seems like the ‘60s are fashionable again, for this was music with references to that era, and two of the three musicians even sported afro haircuts. (Obviously it’s a time to revisit, with Iraq as our new Vietnam). Again, this was original music and it was impressively played. Chris is obviously a new bassist to note. I praised him with the Recording Ensemble recently. He was equally impressive here, and also got the gig with John Mackey on Saturday night. Matt S impressed me with several good compositions, including one that James Greening played at a concert at the Gods a few months back, as well as a great feeling for overlaying complex rhythms with subtly moving colours. Matt L was reliable and believable with pedals. Jazz players go light on effects; they can corrupt otherwise good solos. But Matt’s use was apposite and effective. Nice work. James and Jonno are strong, mature players and added complexity to the ‘60s theme.

Moruya 2

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