As I had to catch the last and “relatively late” bus at 11:25pm I was unable to catch the third set of this gig – the time when a band usually breaks loose and you may even see a few loose dancers rise from the audience.
The first two sets had a mixture of west coast and bebop styles, mostly originals. It is refreshing to hear a trombone as it can really bolster the depth of a small group and hint at a big band sound. Rob Lee’s trombone was restrained and inventive, adding another layer to the heads of tunes and a mellow contrast to Le Fevre’s more cerebral solos. Lee seemed fully in control and created good space and rhythmic freedom while exploring the trombone’s murky registers.
James Le Fevre built up his solos nicely, both in an individual sense, and as the evening progressed. By the second set he was emitting some adventurous squeaks, squeals, anguished wails and grunts reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie. Evan Dorrian did a good job backing Le Fevre’s syncopated melodies on drums. Most of the first two sets had driving straight-eights beats and Dorrian didn’t get distracted by Le Fevre’s intrepidity, managing some well timed flourishes. His drum solos had taste and tonal interest, with varying attacks and good use of the high-hat and side drums. He might have overused the drum-roll and could think about taking the beat further out during his solos.
The bass was fine with Kane Watters swapping between an electric bass and what appeared to be a five string acoustic bass, although my eyes may have deceived me. The fusion nature of the music wasn’t suited to bass soloing so there weren’t many of these. Also, perhaps the electric bass was a touch too loud – it had a good clear percussive attack though.
Ben Foster was cool and refined on keys, using mostly Hammond organ effects. I wouldn’t have minded an occasional use of piano but that could have destroyed the continuity of the electric ambience. My only wish to hear piano stems from being a bit of a jazz piano purist and wanting to see someone with Ben Foster’s skills show off his chops.
The first piece had a decidedly Herbie Hancock feel with a funky bass and laid back organ flavourings. Later Foster made use of “wah-wah” synth effects, and, as the second set slowed pace, watery electric piano accompanied LeFevre’s musings. The second piece had interesting harmonic content as eastern scales were explored and blended with a jazz sensibility. The Coltrane influence is here: Le Fevre likes to achieve the dry sound, jagged scalar patterns and eastern influences of Coltrane’s later years.
Apart from Hancock, that other doyen of electric jazz, Sun Ra, was also in evidence. One piece began with spacey, pulsating synth effects and the interplay between trombone and sax was well balanced during looser improvisations while maintaining tension.
The audience enjoyed the evening. People of all ages jostled for sitting room while Canberra jazz school students such as drummer Mark Body and trombonist Sophie were in attendance. John Mackey arrived during the second set and watched appreciatively from the bar. James leads his band well – his quintet contains a promising group of growing local musicians.
Pics coming soon