3 May 2008

Live to air, weekly, #1

Friday Night Live started its season from ArtSound last night with a quartet of talented and capable students from the Jazz School appearing as the Reluctant Deacons. Reluctant Deacons? The band didn’t have a name before the broadcast started, but we heard it with mirth when the introductions came in the first set. Amusing, given that Chris Deacon was in the engineer’s seat, and Hugh Deacon was in the drum seat. But more seriously, it was a most impressive start for this series of Friday Night live concerts from the Manuka studio of ArtSound.

In keeping with the last minute band name, the tunes were a last minute mix of common standards, but the playing was wonderfully capable. It was consistently changing, but always unified and flowing. The melodies were syncopated and anticipated and delayed and otherwise loose but convincing; the solos were passed obviously enough, but were flexible and supple and subtly interactive between the performers. The playing was fast at times, but mostly exploratory, searching. This is the result of years of study and capable tuition: a sense of awareness, purpose and lightness and mobility. It’s a pleasure. Certainly it was a pleasure for listeners who phoned during the broadcast to express their pleasure and surprise that these were students playing live. Friday Night Live offers a new opportunity for capable local jazz and potential listeners to form new relationships.

But back to the Reluctants. The band was James LeFevre on tenor sax, Austin Benjamin on piano, Chris Pound on bass and Hugh Deacon on drums. The tunes were obvious, but retained their freshness with such valid interpretations: Solar, Invitation, Blue Bossa, Have you met Miss Jones, Caravan, Footprints, Sandu, Blue in green and All the things you are. Nothing new there, except perhaps Austin’s arrangement of Caravan with several bars of 5/4 in the middle somewhere. The band had a good time. The broadcast was played by experienced ear, and went off exactly to the second despite some nervousness around the studio. Austin and James were interviewed live to air by Lauren, and Chris (Pound) even managed a lightning fast run to Manuka for a hamburger in the break. By the end of the second set, the scene was more relaxed and the last five seconds leading up to 10pm were followed by smiles of success.

A live broadcast does not allow for carelessness, but this was professional all round. The players did their parts well, Chris and Lauren Black performed their radio roles capably, and now we can look forward to a string of live Friday evening broadcasts.

Friday Night Live will feature live concerts from a number of sources: live to air concerts from the ArtSound studio; live concerts recorded by ArtSound at Canberra venues over the last 20 years; and featured concerts from major European jazz festivals. ArtSound is partnered with the European Broadcast Network, and this gives us their concerts to broadcast, but also give us outlets in Europe from our musicians.

Listen to Friday Night Live on ArtSound at 8-10pm each Friday. Look for a link to the program page soon on CJ.

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