16 August 2008

A project with strings attached

The studio was too full with seven players, so I ended up listening to the Sally Greenaway Project from home when SG and her crew played for ArtSound’s last Friday Night Live. The signal’s good at my place, and I listen with some classic studio monitors, but it’s not quite the same as being there. In fact, this loss of immediacy, despite the professional-level gear, is an eye-opener. Just proof of the magic of live music (and theatre … and life, really).

Sally is fresh from her composing/arranging win at the National Big Band Composition Competition, where she wrote for the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, and led the orchestra in performance on ABCFM. So I expected a night of fresh compositions. What surprised me was the depth of writing talent in the room. The tunes were originals except ones by Stefon Harris (Sally is a fan of SH), somewhat unexpectedly, by Grieg and Tom Waits, and another I didn't catch. Niels, Raf and Marie each provided two tunes, very interesting and capable ones at that, and presumably Sally penned the others. Niels’ were moody and passionate; I remember one of Raf’s as pretty free and challenging at the start, then blues influenced but still plenty discordant. Marie’s were a twisted love song written for a local film noir movie, and one that used voice as an instrument, singing lines rather than words; not strictly scat, but not spoken.

I loved Niels’ mature tenor sax. He’s recently back after several years working in London and Europe. It shows. Just listen to the sweetness of his sax tone; the authority and aptness of his soloing; the emotional honesty of his ballad lines; the clarity of his solo statements. Really very satisfying and a treat to hear. Sally played some lovely solo lines of her own, in a restrained rather than virtuosic style, and again with appropriateness. She also seemed to enjoy chordal soloing, and this style appeared regularly. Raf surprised me double bass. I’d only heard him on Warwick electric in the past, but now it’s Steinberger and the busy bassist’s switch to acoustic. Nice one. Marie sang a few songs, and they had nice twisted meanings, esp her film noir tune, but mostly she was reading instrumental lines of some complexity: impressive. Hugh made his reappearance in the ArtSound studio, not so much with solos this time, but sweetly apt and often understated accompaniment. Again, nice one. Unusually, we had cello and violin out of the classical school (Tim on violin; Liam on cello) and they added a written accompaniment to tunes in the first set which gave an orchestral bowed richness that is rare in jazz.

So it was a very nice outing with plenty of interesting and capable original music, and some impressive solo statements. Much enjoyed.

The Sally Greenaway Project was Sally Greenaway (piano), Hugh Deacon (drums), Raf Jerjen (double and electric bass), Marie Le Brun (vocals) with special guests Neils Rosendahl (tenor sax), Tim Wickham (violin) and Liam Morrissey (cello).

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