21 July 2008

More folks at Folkus

The latest of the monthly Jazz@Folkus sessions was held last Saturday, and it was a cracker. There was a solid attendance by a range of listeners and members of the Canberra Jazz Club. And it was well deserved, with interesting original music from Dan McLean and his cohort and a visit by some bluesicians. There was more, but I had to leave early.

Jazz@Folkus seems to be developing as a meeting place for all manner of musically-interested people. There were at least 3 attempts to record the session: James Luke with a laptop taking a feed off the PA, another guy with a stereo pair of ribbon mics into a Zoom H4, and me with my new Rode NT4 into my own trusty H4. There was also a Jazz Club raffle (which I was lucky enough to win!). Folkus founder Bill has pronounced a dictat that everyone should introduce themselves to someone new. It gives an excuse to chat widely, so there’s chance of developing a real community. Good luck to it.

Dan McLean appeared with his new quartet, featuring Greg Stott, James Luke and Chris Thwaite. The music was all original, mostly (perhaps all?) by Dan. Dan seems to me to play with a broad range of styles which encompass the history of jazz trumpet: older style growls and strained notes and traditional arpeggios through to audacious boppy scalar and pentatonic runs. His tunes were similarly varied including several odd times. Unexpected was a version of Summertime with alternating acid 4/4 and swing 3/4 and with some way out timing ending the head (half-time 6/4?). Looking forward was mostly 11/4 (6-5) in straight 8s then swing, but with a bridge of repeated 5-5-6-5 (I think!). There was latin, blues swing, ballads, funky Herbie Hancock riffs, postbop and a Monkish tune to finish the set. James set some solid riffs down and busily swapped between double bass and his fretless electric. His solos are relaxed in presentation but melodically strong and technically varied, and the sound of the fretless Fender is like a bouncing ball. Greg can be a rocket: furious and fast, and conceptually complex. He plays gentle and intervallically interesting lines, but can drop into double or even quadruple speed runs with precision at call. His sound sits way back in the mix with what seems like wet reverb. Chris is a great listener - you can feel his concentration - so his playing was clear and accurate, and he takes tasty solos too. It was a first outing for this band: there were some rough edges and some chuckles within the band when they encountered the odd times, but it bodes well.

The second band was a bit incongruous, but capable in their blues style. They were a trio from the Chris Harland Blues Band, presumably led by Chris himself on guitar and vocals. They played the harmonically simple but emotionally charged style that is Chicago (guitar-based) blues: a solid rhythm section supporting a feature guitarist/vocalist. There were sustained, distorted guitar solos on blues scales and lyrics like “pray, lord have mercy” and paens for lost lovers. Standard stuff, nicely played; great for a night out, a chat and a few beers. If you want to hear more, there’s a strong blues scene in Canberra. See URLs below.

I had to leave early, but as I was walking out I heard the first bars of a band featuring four trumpets up front. It had the sound of composed harmonies and was sounding great, so I dreaded having to leave. Presumably, there would have been a short jam at the end, too. Feel free to add comments below, especially if you were there to the end.

The previous J@F had a very poor showing, but this month’s was eminently successful. Support these sessions with your attendance, and congrats especially to Cam and Dan for a great afternoon.

  • Canberra Blues Society website
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