22 June 2008

Wayne’s world

Wayne Kelly took control of the studio at ArtSound for this week’s Friday Night Live. It was pretty much the last opportunity to hear Wayne before he departs for a stint at the Venetian Macao, a 5-star resort/casino. I checked out the website. The Venetian is one of those mock-casino affairs, with its own Ponte Rialto and Campanile. But then, given that the original Campanile di San Marco collapsed in 1902 and the current replacement was completed in 1912, perhaps we can think of Macao’s version as almost as authentic. The entertainment is similarly impressive, with Cirque du Soleil bookings now open. We’re losing our local master pianist to the commercial glitz, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job in good company. Wayne will be playing with local Jazz School graduates drummer Nick McBride and bassist Scott Dodd and a US sax player.

Back to the studio. Wayne played two sets of original tunes that he had penned, and he’d gathered an excellent quartet to perform them: Eric Ajaye, Con Campbell and Sam Young. Eric arrived with minutes to spare after his regular gig at the Kurrajong. He was in top form with his smooth, glissando-rich, driving style and melodic solos. Con Campbell is a Jazz School graduate from the time when the school was at Manuka, in the very buildings currently used by ArtSound. He’s now based in Sydney and the experience shows. There were some expressive melodies and he let go for some blaring and harmonically adventurous solos on the up pieces. Sam was tight and swinging and kept a watching eye on the others throughout. He took a few solos too, passing around choruses on swing or taking charge against repeated motifs in a more modern style.

If you know Wayne’s CD, you’d recognise several of the tunes. There was hot swing (Dr Kirkland blues, So what’s the number), afro-latin grooves in a modern jazz setting (For the time being), arabic scales (King of kings), ballads (Mt Conder, Alone, In my quiet hour). There were also several stylish dedications to pianists: one was a quirky Monkish piece named for the time it was composed (1st of Feb 2004, 3.35 A.M.); others were obvious from the titles, hard swung Dr Kirkland Blues and sweetly melodic Mr Hank Jones. This was a strong set of satisfying compositions that Wayne has built up over the years.

Wayne introduced the sets with tongue-in-cheek humour in the jazz style. There was restrained laughter in the studio at times, and good and satisfied thanks all around at the end of the session. This was a good natured crew, and the comfortable but challenging playing just brought out the good will.

Best of luck to Wayne for this adventure, and thanks for the excellent broadcast. And remember to check out ArtSound if you’re free on a Friday evening. Eric Ajaye has a broadcast coming up in August, and many of the best student bands are playing over the coming months, as well as local live recordings from the ArtSound collections and some European concerts.

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