31 May 2008

Black shoes, but who’s walking

Bah! Humbug! There’s a worrying trend for bands without bassists at present. Think Don Byron, but also John Black when he played a live broadcast for ArtSound last night. John played a boogie-woogie cum blues set with his trio called BlackSchu.

BlackSchu is a hip name, and easily misunderstood when heard, but it’s an obvious reference to the core pair in the band, pianist/vocalist John Black and drummer Ben Schumann. They met when playing in a busy local commercial outfit featuring two singers, Sweet Mischief, and still perform together for this bluesy gig. They like the music, it’s well received by everyone, and it can be “a real workout” as John said. So it must be for a pianist whose left hand takes the bass role, while his right hand is busy with melody, comping and soloing, relaxed only a little when he’s singing. It’s a big job for John, and he does it comfortably, with minimal fuss and considerable panache, and even a humourous patter between tunes. I was in the studio photographing and was lucky enough to catch a lovely solo on Angel Eyes. It cascaded over several octaves, but remained understated and constantly melodic. Obviously the work of a mature artist.

Their trio ring-in for this performance (and their recently recorded CD) is an old mate who’s now Sydney-based, tenor saxist Richard Booth. Richard is an ex-Canberran and a graduate of the Jazz School from the early 90s. Their CD is to be named “A touch of anarchy”. Apparently it’s Richard who brings that anarchy to the band, although listening to John’s chatter and witticisms, I think there’s just a little lurking elsewhere. Whatever, it’s a fine, satisfying, R&B outing that they present, with good humour and serious entertainment. The drums are sharp, busy at times, but not overwhelming. The sax is frequently melodic, often soloistic and touching on challenging for this style. But it can be supporting too, playing bass-like riffing roles at times.

So this bass-less gig was a nice, swinging affair from some very competent players with years of experience and playing a style that’s popular, danceable and even irresistible in the right environment. Shame about the bass, but maybe I needn’t be so concerned. After all, Ornette recently performed in Sydney with three bassists. Now that’s a band…

No comments: