31 December 2007

Black noted in Adelaide

It was a visit to Adelaide for Christmas, and a chance to catch up on jazz in my hometown. I’d checked the Net before the visit. There seemed to be plenty of jazz in Adelaide, but not much at the time I was around. But I’d found an informative site that listed a young band playing “bossa to cool jazz and hard bop”. The band was the Christian Weber Quartet although it performed on the night as a drummerless quintet.

The CWQ were young players with connections through jazz studies at Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium: some were current students, others met there but were now further afield. They played a well-known set of charts (Blue bossa, Alone together, St Thomas, Softly, Song for my father, All the things you are, Bird’s strangely lighthearted My little suede shoes and obscure Segment, etc) with just a few originals in the final set. The two originals were by the guitarist and bassist, and were perfectly presentable. I would have liked more. Ross’s “I can’t believe it’s come to this” was in the standards tradition, and Quentin’s “Cruisin’” was laid back groove. Both were decent tunes, and worth the outing. The core of the band were capable, smooth swingers. Chris Weber (trumpet, flugelhorn), Quentin Angus (guitar) and Ross McHenry (bass). They played with restraint and gentle volume: Chris was lyrical with a sweet tone and frequent falls to flat fifths and sevenths; Quentin was typically jazz guitar smooth, capable and fluid. Ross interested me with his 6-string electric bass, some occasional slaps and thumb work, but mostly fast and melodic solo lines high on the neck. This was quiet music suitable for restaurants and cocktails and perhaps a little too laid back for the venue (but maybe I’m just displaying my preference for a bit of raunchy, hard swing).

The ring-ins were Matt Sheens (piano) and Patrick Thiele (trumpet). The two trumpeters had played together some time back at the Con, but Chris had gone to Japan for work, and Patrick had departed to Melbourne for further study. Patrick played much hotter and tougher than Chris, free from bar lines and root notes, and frequently and comfortably moving in and out of tonality. His intro to Autumn leaves at breakneck pace was clear evidence of his approach. I particularly liked Matt Sheens (piano). Piano is an orchestra in itself, so lends itself to rich ornamentation, harmony, invention. Matt was confident and free enough to sit in or out, reharmonise and move through discordances, play through extended atonal sequences, anticipate and otherwise mangle time, switch from chords to lines and back at will. I also enjoyed what seemed to me to be a rich sense of the history of piano, as he played in various styles. This was an impressive display from a current student, and he’s obviously someone to watch.

It was a disappointingly small audience, but I met several local jazz supporters. Ross Spain is a music writer and reviewer for the Australian Jazz Scene and the South Australian Jazz Archive. Yacek Szocinski of the Yacek Jazz Agency is the promoter of the Black Note Club. Chris (missed her surname) is on the committee of the longstanding Jazz Action Society in Adelaide. It was also interesting to hear news of the current course at the Adelaide Conservatorium and to compare notes on names from the past (Schmoe, Ted Nettlebeck, Ralph Franke, Hal Hall [all still around] and Dave Dallwitz and the Creole Room [sadly departed] were mentioned). There was also talk of a big band run by Mike Stewart, a teacher at the Con and the local Jazz Coordinator. They play monthly at one of the pubs around town, and sound like a local gem.
  • JazzAdelaide
  • AdelaideJazz
  • Elder Conservatorium
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