22 October 2008

Big enough (Moruya 4)

Eric Ajaye brought his trio Vertical. Eric made reference to his last trio, Straight up, by saying that his direction remains the same, but this is a different sounding outfit. I’ve hugely enjoyed them both. Vertical has Paul DalBroi (piano) and Chris Thwaite (drums) playing with Eric (bass). It’s a more cerebral, considered, controlled outfit, with some sweet and thoughtful playing on both originals and covers. Paul provides arrangements of some unexpected popular songs, from West Side Story or Cyndi Lauper, and even that 60s pop hit, Raindrops keep falling on my head. It’s an unlikely choice, but a jazz sensibility can convert the most obvious to the most profound. This just proves it. Eric played his visceral, glissando style on 5-string acoustic; Paul was quiet and considered, with well chosen melodies, occasional flourishes and exemplary control of dissonance. I was sitting near Chris and hugely enjoyed his receptive, dynamic, even symbiotic performance. This is a band to savour: for their inventiveness and skill, but mostly for their emotional honesty and connectiveness. A lovely set.

Eric stayed around for a very different set in the Mike Price trio. This band is honed after 10 years of weekly performances at the Kurrajong pub, which have sadly ended in recent weeks. It’s the end of an era, but hopefully they’ll find another venue. This is mainstream, swing, ballads and standards with exemplary skills. Mike (guitar) plays a woody, unaffected sound with the most competent swing-sensibility . Think Wes Montgomery and the like. In fact he played Roadsong by Wes, along with Kenny Wheeler and standards like I should care, Please send someone to love and Crazy she calls me. Eric Ajaye (bass) melds with his stylish, swinging grooves and rapid, gliss-full and sure solos, and Col Hoorweg (drums) provides rhythm from the most basic of kits (his “Kurrajong kit”) comprising snare, a few cymbals and various sticks, mallets and other percussive tools. This is sound experimentation applied to standards … and a very easy drum lug at a gig. Their set ended with a complex samba, and left an audience joyfully swinging. Very nice, very capable; entertainment with intelligence.

Another wing of the ANUSM faculty when John Mackey appeared with Miroslav Bukovsky as a Saxession. I missed the first Saxession, but the Saturday night one featured John and Miro with star students, Austin Benjamin (piano), Chris Pound (bass) and Evan Dorrian (drums). John introduced a set of stock standard tunes from the era of Coltrane and Miles and Shorter. Stock standard, surprisingly restrained, and superbly expressive. It was unusually laid back in style and tempo, but John can’t remain laid back in emotion. His sinuous and virtuosic tenor is a thing of wonder. You could hear him listening, as his long pauses made space for Austin’s comping. Every student has played these four tunes (Impressions, All the things you are, Footprints and Oleo) but this was the result of years of hours of study and it showed in fluency and melodic integrity. Miro brought the hard and ravaged edge of brass and the melliflousness of occasional harmonies on the heads. Austin, Chris and Evan are a capable trio in their own right, with an excellent recent album of original style. But they performed the post-bop and cool swing with integrity and oneness. I particularly liked Footprints played in its original, quiet style. Atypically temperate, informed and wonderfully expressive.

No comments: