05 December 2007

Meeting of the generations

Geoff Page’s 2007 jazz series ended with a meeting of young and old. Ross Clarke and Terry Wynn are jazz names with considerable history in Canberra. They played together at The Pendulum, an early modern jazz venue in a basement in Garema Place in the 60s and 70s, and have been local names ever since. The newer generations were represented by James Luke and Mark Sutton.

The event got me musing on issues of changes in jazz. Most obviously, the experience of living through such years of jazz change, say from the mainstream of Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown, to the modern of McCoy Tyner and the post bop of Benny Golson. All these composers featured in the concert, and they are so different although all members of a family. Also, the changes in education, from old school listening to new school academic training. And memories of old jazz clubs and touring solo artists and local house bands in clubs just like the Pendulum must have been. Individual international players don’t seem to tour that way these days. And specifically for me, memories of 70s Adelaide and the Creole Room, and local names including Geoff Kluke, Schmo and Ted Nettlebeck.

It was an interesting concert with some great playing. Terry played a range of horns. He started on clarinet. It’s a workhorse from the past, but now relegated. Geoff Page mentioned it was the first time clarinet had appeared in 5 or so years of his jazz concerts, and this just confirmed the fact. Terry also played a range of saxes at various times: soprano, alto and tenor. Interestingly, I felt his tone on sax was reminiscent of the clarinet sounds that he started the night with. Ross played all styles, but I could feel the formative influences of the mainstream in his more modern playing. James excelled himself on the night, with simply structured but lyrical and expressive solos, good solid swing in backing, and a great, growling tone. This was very mature playing from the baby of the pack. Mark was responsive and aware and swinging, but came into new focus with the McCoy Tyner tunes. It was clear there was a real comfort with the Elvin Jones style.

There were a range of styles. From a St Louis blues clone with a bass-played melody, through McCoy Tyner tunes, Contemplation and Changes, the standard Softly as a morning sunrise, Spyrogyra’s Shaker song, Benny Golson’s Killer Joe, Gershwin’s Soon and There’s a boat that’s leaving soon for NY, Oscar Peterson’s Smudge and Ray Brown’s Bam bam bam, and an encore of that beautiful ballad, The very thought of you. There were originals, too, presumably from Ross’s pen. He talked of influences leading to several compositions and it hinted to me again of the aural nature of the craft at the time. For instance, how he’d composed Flyaway after hearing snippets of a Dusty Springfield tune. I heard it as harmonically reminiscent of There will never be another you (not sure if Ross agrees).

The band was Ross Clarke (piano), Terry Wynn (clarinet, saxes), James Luke (bass), Mark Sutton (drums). It was a good night for recollections, history and generational interaction and a suitable way to end another season of Geoff Page’s Jazz at the Gods. Listen to ArtSound for snippets from the recording of the night, and look out for Geoff's 2008 jazz series when it starts next year.

  • Brian Stewart's Photo gallery of this concert
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