21 October 2008

Taking it easy (Moruya 1)

It was a tamer Moruya for me this year. Just one band to play in, although 3 sets, including our debut at the Air Raid Tavern. Michel was being generous. I was also staying with the band and a few wives (for a greater level of civilisation) at a holiday house at Tomakin. In fact, I was slack enough to only attend on Sunday for our gig at the Monarch. As your jazz journo in Moruya, I have to apologise, but it was fun and relaxing.

Firstly, reporting my own band. We repeated tunes for sets 1 and 2, and each version went off well. The second time was a bit more prepared, but following the explosive and virtuosic Lethals was somewhat harrowing. But our compositions are presentable, and I’m proud of them. Daniel wrote about 5 tunes, and I wrote three. We’ve discovered the import of composition, and also that it’s not so difficult. Miro inspired me at last year’s Moruya when he told me how he prompts students to compose: they shouldn’t worry if their compositions are not perfect first time around; if it works, OK, if not, drop it and write another. After all, you have to learn composition like you learn performance. It’s a liberating thought, and frees the mind to write something down and drop the Real Book. I always try to provide something unique at Moruya. Last year it was Giant steps and a Horace Parlan album. This year, it was a fully original set (played twice, because we weren’t sufficiently prepared), and some free jazz. We described the free as an indulgence, but it worked much better than we had hoped for, and perhaps got the most claps of the weekend (I was stunned). Congrats to Daniel for being daring enough to suggest it! My band is Toucani, and the members are: Daniel Wild (piano), John Baczynski (tenor), Brenton Holmes (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

There’s also education at an event like this. I learnt something new about modal bass playing, which has been on my mind for years. The influences were chats with Daniel, our pianist, over recent weeks and listening to, and thinking about, bassists Chris Pound and Eric Ajaye and Hannah James, and also John Mackey’s restrained but emotive performance on the Saturday night. Thanks to my mates for the help they didn’t even realise they were giving. We must discuss it sometime. Anyway, I put it into practice in a moderately paced version of Impressions on Sunday, and it worked. It’s such a deceptively easy tune, but so central to the modal style. The learning was satisfying.

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