18 September 2008

Post-Bakelite mainstream

The cool sound of the Hammond B-3 and that strange and very pre-digital Leslie speaker took the Hippo audience back to that hard-swinging era of go-ahead, mainstream jazz somewhere around the 50s/60s. The line-up of organist (playing the bass line with his left hand), guitar and drums just confirmed the reference to Jimmy Smith, who introduced this sound in the mid-50s, playing with Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and the like. The sound is post-Bakelite, mainstream, pre-modern. In it, I hear influences of swing bands and bop, and no recognition of the tumults of cool and free that were exploding at the time. No problems there. It’s pleasant and entertaining, and none too deep: suitable for those post-war 50s couples, so recently released from the harsh demands of wartime, to settle into a materially comfortable era (and also forget the Bomb). When well played, it’s joyous, carefree, tuneful, even coquettish, and a great pleasure.

This local incarnation was billed the Mike Price Trio with Stu Hunter. Mike is the head of the jazz school, and a guitarist well suited to this style. His Gibson tone is woody; his playing is mostly tonal, although occasionally chromatic, and always fast and flowing, and with some chordal playing, not just in accompaniment. I also noticed the way he implied the melody in his solos: that’s nice to hear in a front line soloist. Col on drums is another of the Jazz School faculty. This pair has played together for many years in a residency at the Kurrajong Hotel (a local and free gem) with Eric Ajaye and their relationship shows with responsiveness from Col and easy passing of solos to and from drums. Col frequently arrives with basic kits. This time, he brought just snare, hi-hats and two cymbals. Early in the night, he played with brushes and hands and with the snare off. Only later, did the sticks (and mallets) appear and the snare was switched in. It’s idiosyncratic, but he wrings some nice, changing rhythmic expressions from this minimal kit. It’s amazing just how many tonalities are available just by hitting a few things, and the limited palette probably forces Col to work on this aspect of his playing. Stu was the younger colt, dressed in big city jazz style, and armed with an array of equipment. He mainly played Nord keyboard with the right hand and bass lines on a Virus synthesiser with his left, as well as several effects units, amps and that Leslie cabinet I mentioned above. This is all a modern recreation of the classic Hammond/Leslie. (This gear is heavy! If you’d seen players struggling to lift the authentic combination onto a stage, you’d readily accept the digital substitute). Not that I noticed a loss of sound quality. He explained the software emulation of the lower Leslie cabinet, and the basses on the Virus synth. All interesting, and perfectly authentic sounding, at least in performance. His performance was also authentic. Nice, understated basslines, with a surprisingly true acoustic sound, deep and soft with a little edge; post-bop right hand solo lines with those distinct changing tonalities of the Hammond or effected piano sounds. All around, the swing was tight and the effect was jumpy and joyous.

There were several standards on show. My favourite was Benny Golson’s masterpiece, Whisper not, but I also seem to remember You don’t know what love is, Have you met Miss Jones, In a sentimental mood and Just friends. There was a shuffle and a few others I didn’t recognise. It was all very thrown together on the night, but authentic and effective none the less. Decent jazz players can do that, of course.

This was a lovely re-creation of an era, swinging playing and quite joyful. Nice one from Mike Price (guitar), Stu Hunter (keyboards, esp. organ and keyboard bass) and Col Hoorweg (drums).

1 comment:

Lyle Robinson said...

Just wanted to say thanks for a great review of what sounds like a memorable show. I'm gonna have to find out more about Mike Price. Thanks again and take care.