18 February 2008

Tonight, live from ArtSound

Chris Deacon invited me down to the Manuka studio for the first recording for ArtSound’s new live in the studio sessions. These sessions will include live studio recordings and selected concerts from the large collection of live recordings that ArtSound have been making over many years. The new studios are much improved on the old facilities at Curtin. They offer a great opportunity for local musicians to perform for their public and to make professional-quality recordings.

I was lucky enough to catch Niels Rosendahl (tenor sax) playing with Jazz School mates, Ed Rodriques (drums) and Bill Williams (bass). Chris Deacon was engineering. Niels Rosendahl has been based in London or the last few years. He’s a sad loss to Canberra, but certainly a great ambassador. His playing matures each time he makes a visit back home, so it’s a pleasure to catch up with him. He was talking of touring in Europe with the Rat Pack Show (Rat Pack as in Sinatra & co, I assume) and with the Glen Miller Memorial Orchestra, playing Glen Miller tunes and other big band swing. Interestingly, he reported that Craig Schneider (cabaret pianist, musical director and fellow Canberran and Jazz School alumnus) is with the Scandinavian branch of the Rat Pack Show.

The recording was a session of standards. I caught the second set: Beautiful love, John Carisi’s Israel, Round midnight morphing into Have you met Miss Jones, Stella by starlight, Tenor madness and Someday my prince will come. Obvious tunes, but played with an impressive modernistic vision. Niels sounded wonderfully relaxed, with long sustained lines, modal patterns, and gloriously reshaped melodies. This was not generally out playing, but melodies were anticipated and twisted and changed in emotionally satisfying ways and solos were considered investigations of the underlying harmonies. This was a long way post bop; lovely playing. And Ed and Bill were there with him. Bill’s walks were lessons in interest. The underlying harmony is there, but the four-note patterns which define the bass walk were ever changing, seldom obvious or hackneyed. Bill has told me of his efforts to make his walks interesting. He’s doing a good job. Ed is always responsive to fellow players: smiling, watching, interpreting. The studio is a less alive environment, especially for a drummer sandwiched behind glass and gobbos, but he’s still communicative and subtle in his stick and brush work. They were all wrung out by the intensity of a studio session, and complaining about their playing. If you know musos, complaints are plenty common. But I’ll beg to differ. This was a level above the much of the everyday local scene, with authentic modernistic interpretations of these otherwise common tunes.

Keep your ears open for more from ArtSound. Going hand in hand with live studio recordings, I hear that AS is joining a European network which will provide Euro jazz for performance in Canberra, but also take our best recordings for broadcast in Europe. For this, read new audiences for our best local players. AS is a great force for good for jazz in Canberra. Congrats and thanks.

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