22 October 2008

Not too big (Moruya 3)

Moruya’s not a big festival, but it’s intimate and relaxed and a lovely weekend at the coast for the performers and aficionados. It’s a holiday atmosphere: cheap, friendly, easy-going, shorts on stage, and the weather’s generous so mornings are on the beach rather than in the bars. But the music’s good, too. There’s a range of bands from the students at the Jazz School, sometimes formed for one performance at Moruya. The names usually give those away. But there’s also the teachers and their slick and virtuosic performances, a range of amateur or semi-professional players, and a spattering of the popular (less demanding, but better paid and more entertaining) feature artists. I mostly miss those feature bands, but they always draw the big crowds. I love the large ensembles, and the Jazz School always provides the Commercial Band, the Big Band and the Recording Ensemble. All different, and all big and exciting and rich sounding. For me, it was the Recording Ensemble that blew me away this year. They were having a great time (Sebastian McIntosh was in fine and dry form as MC), blowing hard, and playing original charts. Miro leads this band and he asks for, and gets, original charts, and creative input from the students. Congrats due here.

I didn’t catch the whole festival this year, given my relaxed demeanour, the languid temperatures and the pleasant housemates, but here’s my report.

Drummers seemed to be in abundance. Fantastic Woollen Fishing Rod (named for the occasion, I expect) was a quartet of trumpet, alto and two drummers. It was an odd mix, but a nice experiment. Andrew Fedorovitch (alto) played with Shane Spellman (trumpet) and John Wilton and Jono Lake (2 x drums). The Recording Ensemble was also doubling up on drummers (and more) but more on that later.

The Melds appeared after a great outing on ArtSound in recent weeks. They featured 3 drummers, and finished with a drum feature with synth guitar accompaniment. The band seems pretty fluid, as the membership was different from the ArtSound outing. Shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s largely free, sustained, layered improvisations on fairly simple themes, but very compelling. I was amused to overhear at one stage this snippet from the stage: “Don’t stop now. See what happens”. And, of course, it did develop and it was compelling. It was a nice bit of adventurism. The Melds were led by Matt Sykes (drums), with Matt Lustri (synth guitar), Chris Pound (bass), Andy Campbell (guitar), Jo Lloyd (alto), Reuben Lewis (trumpet), Hugh Deacon (drums), John Wildon (drums) and Valdis Thomann (trombone).

Dub Dub Goose is equally capable, but very different, being a dub/reggae outfit led by Nick Combe. Nick’s impressed me over recent years with compositions for the Recording Ensemble. Apparently he has a penchant for reggae, and the opportunity to perform it with capable players. This was another big outfit that probably expanded on the day. Reggae (or dub?) is an attractive style, and indulgently stupefying. I enjoyed the start with tunes by Ernest Raglan, but I found it a stretch by the end of the set. They mercifully finished with something different which I liked and found refreshing, a 7/4 with lush orchestration. But it was well done, and my response says more about my preferences than the music. Nick Combe (tenor) led Reuben Lewis (trumpet), Sophie Chapman (trombone), Matt Sykes (drums), Matt Lustri (guitar), Chris Pound (bass), Austin Benjamin/Bucket (piano), James LeFevre (tenor), Alistair Clarke (trombone), Valdis Thomann (trombone) and Alex Raupach (trumpet).

The Lethals are a hot, funky, loud outfit led by hot, funky Leigh “Lethal” Miller (bass) with Neils Rosendahl (tenor), Aron Lyon (guitar) and Sam Young (drums). They were a big hit. I heard them twice. Obviously the darker evening hours suited the flamboyant performance, but he morning gig was good, too. These guys are supremely professional. No-one overplayed. There were lots of notes, but they fitted without being forced. There was Weather Report and Jaco (Teen town) and Soulive, and some originals, so the heads were challenging, but the essence of the band was tight, hard blowing, and they did it with panache. Niels always impresses, and Aron was fluidity and fast, smooth runs and loops and echo and the rest. Great fun, loud, engaging and popular. A blowout and terrible to follow!

Sally Greenaway toned things down with a lovely, arranged set and a capable band. Sally is renowned as a prize-winning composer, so we can expect new and original compositions when she plays. But these are not blowing tunes; they are emotionally satisfying numbers with apt and developed stylistic approaches. Tunes included an arrangement of Smile in 5/4, a funky Stefon Harris tune, a Vince Jones ballad, and several originals. Her band’s good too. The Sally Greenaway Project included Sally (piano), Raf Jurgen (bass), Ed Rodrigues (drums), Niels Rosendahl (tenor), Valdis Thomann (trombone) and Marie LeBrun (vocals).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just some corrections and additions:

John Wilton, not John Wolton, on drums with Fantastic Woolen Fishing Rod.

The unrecognised trumpet player with Dub Dub Goose was Alex Raupach.

Otherwise, I always enjoy reading along!

Eric said...

Thanks. Fixed now. And thanks to anyone who takes the time to give comments or corrections. Eric