24 January 2008

Lethal outing

Perhaps summer is the time for blues/funky styles, out-and-out blowing, pentatonics, danceable grooves and the like. It sounds just the thing for warm nights. If so, then last night’s set by The Lethals at Hippo’s was on the money.

The Lethals is Leigh Miller’s band. Leigh has impressed me over recent years with hot, funky electric bass playing in the ANUSM Commercial band and at Moruya over recent years. I was surprised to learn that he has only just entered the Jazz School, and that he was previously a classical bass student. Quite a change. Leigh’s a powerful and funky player for someone out of the classical tradition. But then classical is a good source of chops, and he displays them. He also displays a penchant for effects, and a readiness to experiment. I only caught one set, but that included an extended solo bass piece with a bass drum sounding on the beat accompanied by heavily echoed bass playing chords, harmonics, string bends, wah and more. The other tunes were more simple blows and pentatonic melodies. Scofield’s A go go and Jaco’s Teentown (admittedly a pretty raunchy melody, and a punchy groove) and two originals, one by Leigh and another by Leigh with Damien Slingsby (a capable pianist and one-time Jazz School student).

The solos were satisfying all round. Carl and Ben blew us all away as they always do with good solo development, interesting ideas and occasional meanderings outside, and the balance was good so we could hear all the ideas. Sam slogged away with solid and heavy drumming which matched the style, and played a nice solo where he held the heavy beat but interpersed it with some rhythmically contorted fills. The bass had that soft and toppy modern sound which suits slap. It seemed to get lost in unison lines with the guitar, but it worked a treat on solos. It was interesting comparing this sound to Steve Hunter’s very punchy, hard, middy sound when he played Teentown with Carl only a week or so before. I also enjoyed the overall band sound on the night. It was not too loud for the venue (Hippo’s is not an easy acoustic space), and clear and well balanced. The audience was not large, but at least that meant less background noise, so it had a benefit. I only caught the first set but much enjoyed.

The Lethals were Leigh Miller (bass), Carl Morgan (guitar), Ben Foster (keyboards) and Sam Young (drums).

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