09 October 2008

Moody giraffe

Text by John Baczynski, pics by John & Neal Gowan

In direct contrast to the frosty weather outside, the James Annesley Quartet from Melbourne delivered a warm and thoroughly entertaining performance to the delight of a very appreciative audience. The physical layout of the Gods Café also encouraged a fabulous intimacy, often lost in larger venues, making the night even more enjoyable.

Opening with a Bob Dylan cover, "Girl from the North Country", Annesley (tenor and soprano sax) calmly and confidently played evocative floating solos. The rest of the night consisted mostly of originals, with a couple of standards thrown in (Tutu and You Don't know what Love is) all played in an expressive modern jazz style. A stand out was the original "Idle hands do the Devils Work" which not only showcased many of Annesley's abilities on the saxophone, including circular breathing to extend a trill, but also gave Hugh Stuckey the chance to demonstrate his great talent on guitar. Stuckey clearly enjoys his playing and is a delight to listen to as he constructs clean, precise, and fast expressions throughout his solos. Rhythmically, Hugh Harvey (drums) provided a solid foundation to all of the pieces. Hugh created a particularly trance-like mood during his solo for "Giraffe" in which he effortlessly produced an array of fascinating sounds from his cymbals and then shifted back to a organic feel by playing his kit bare-handed. Tom Lee on Bass was flawless throughout the night and his playing was given prominence during the sax and bass duo "Claustrophobia".

As a whole, the quartet displayed an intimate understanding of each others musical vocabulary and technical ability which resulted in a lush, layered and varied sound that was interesting, considered and precisely executed. It was also great to see a group clearly enjoying what they do. Well worth seeing next time they come back to Canberra (hopefully soon).

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