23 August 2008

Vertical, but laid back

Eric Ajaye returned to ArtSound last night with his new trio, Vertical.

I wondered if the name was a hint at Eric’s previous trio, Straight Up. But it’s really quite a different style from his last trio, despite featuring two common players: Eric and Chris Thwaite. Being a piano trio, the pianist will hugely influence the sound and approach of the band, and so it was. Paul dalBroi is the pianist and his style is deliberate and cerebral and investigative and exact, with sharp playing developing to long lines of crystal clear intention and very satisfying dissonance. He also provided several reharmonisations of more or less recent popular tunes, and this seemed fitting. Bernstein’s West Side Story classic, One hand one heart, was not unexpected, or even Singing in the rain. But Cyndi Lauper’s True colours and Raindrops keep falling on my head suggested an ability to hear possibilities. Like Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau and Bad Plus and others who have trawled the recent pop repertoire. (Has anyone done silverchair or Natalie Imbruglia at Moruya? We did Teen spirit two years ago.) And his reharmonisations turned obvious melodies and chords into interesting exercises.

Eric and Chris were impressive, too. Eric’s our greatly respected local bassist with the international pedigree. He plays with a very gentle and subtle tone that occasionally hints at a midrange edge, slides and chords frequently, intones with wonderful precision, and there’s an authority and majesty in his playing. I was taken aback by some scale fragments played as continuous slides that just seemed so perfect in time and intonation, and yet so hard to do. He played several solo passages to introduce tunes, and these were lovely low-down statements. His walks are mellifluous, and his solos strong and clear. Chris always seems to me the perfect rhythm accompanist. Always aware, always responsive, always appropriate, never intrusive. He took a few solos, but it was his brush work that seemed his most natural expression, and so fitting in this context.

I’ve mentioned various popular tunes above, but the band also plays originals. One tune each were claimed for Eric and Paul, but there were several others for which no provenance was mentioned.

This was the first performance of this band, and it bodes well. They will be performing at the Moruya Jazz Festival and a local conservatorium this year, and are presumably targeting the festival circuit for next year. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to watching another excellent trio develop.

Vertical are Paul dalBroi (piano), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums)

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