20 April 2008

Jam jar

I got to the second Jazz at the Folkus jam session on Saturday. It was not quite what I had expected. The music was fairly mainstream, rather than out-there modern, but jazz has a history, and it’s made up of a rich tapestry of historical styles. These were some that I love, but don’t always indulge in.

The host band for the event was the In Full Swing big band. It’s a community band based in Belconnen. It’s made up of about 20 players and is led by Nathan Sciberras. This is swing, the popular music of the 40s or thereabouts: think Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and the crooners, but with some popular modern classics. I love this stuff, and it’s become very popular again with the emergence of Sinatra-stylists like Michael Buble. The repertoire ranged from Cry me a river and Fever, through Lady is a tramp, Georgia, Night and day and Take 5, to Song of the Volga Boatman. All good stuff and the playing was satisfying. There was a very reliable beat from a capable rhythm section, and some good swing and interplay from the horns. The intonation was a bit sus at times, but the charts were professional, the dynamics were strong and the enjoyment was obvious. I took note of Samantha Seckold on bass and several solos, Lauren Black on vocals and Nathan himself as leader. It was a nice one all round and much enjoyed. Congrats to the band. I’ve grown to admire such community activities in recent years. Oh brave new town that has such things in it!

Next came my band, Toucani. We were Trio Toucan, but we recently added a sax so the small name change. We chose to do an originals set, but did sneak in our theme-tune standard, the lovely and slightly kitsch Out of nowhere. Most of our originals are penned by Daniel, who writes harmonically rich tunes as only pianists can. I wrote two others, and these are typical bassist tunes: latin and rhythm-based but with reasonably complex call and response melodies. I like to think we introduced a harder post-Coltrane edge to the proceedings, and hopefully our mistakes just appeared as early-60s explorations. Toucani are Daniel Wild (piano), John Baczynski (tenor), Brenton Homes (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

Kooky Fandango followed with a very different set. KF seem to me a bridge to more popular and bluesy styles, which makes them a sellable proposition, only enforced with the female vocals up front. The players are good, the style is clean and precise, the levels are restrained. This is quite a professional outfit and was popular with the audience. Peter is a well-known local player on his 6-string Alembic bass. I especially noticed one massively fast, flamenco style solo. Cameron is classically trained so his intonation is always good and Nathan Sciberras (leader of In Full Swing) reappeared on baritone sax giving some interesting counterpoint. Courtney has a strong and deep female voice, which suited the blues-influenced style. Kooky Fandango are Courtney Stark (vocals), Cameron Smith (trumpet), Nathan Sciberras (baritone sax), Peter Barta (bass), George Cora (drums).

A jam session ended the day with players from the In Full Swing small jazz ensemble. The tunes were obvious ones of the period: Summertime (hate it!), Caravan (love it!), Don’t bug me, hug me (more 12 bar jump blues than jazz), and Don’t get around much anymore. It was a bit too subdued for me, but I warmed to the head of Caravan, which seems to be impossible to play without passion.

I hope to see a wider mix of players at future jams, including a smattering from the Jazz School. James LeFevre might bring a few along when he provides the host band in a few months time. The venue is roomy; the beers are club prices; the entry is free for musos; there’s a very impressive PA and a big car park just out the door.

Jazz at Folkus jams are held the third Saturday every month, 2-5pm. Entry free for players; otherwise $12/$10. Folkus Room, Serbian Club, Mawson. Queries contact Cameron Smith 0422 842 605

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