17 December 2008

Nearer, my God, to thee

Excuse a little blasphemous humour, but Miles is a god for many of us. Last night, I had a blissful evening basking in a recreation of Miles’ Second Great Quintet (the ESP Quintet) of the mid-1960s. Joseph Taylor led a surprisingly mature, lively and authentic set of players through the intense, sustained but malleable, modal style of this quintet. From the top, it was unbroken music interspersed with recognisable melodies, mutating through varying meters and deep dynamics, sometimes sitting on a lone piano or bass then launching into a rapid walk with explosive drumming or dropping at the end of ecstatic solos to periods of calming recovery. Congratulations to the whole band for the satisfying and authentic interpretation of an era we only hear on CD. I much enjoyed Corey’s characteristic sparsely melodic style of Milesian trumpet. Joseph played the Wayne Shorter role, the more restrained but harmonically inventive follower of another god in Miles’ sax seat, Coltrane. This is a less dramatic and less authoritative role than Miles’, and he played it with considerable harmonic sophistication. And even if you only listened with your eyes, Corey and Joe formed a characteristically cool and nonchalant front line. Very well done! Luke’s piano was endlessly responsive and supportive, with nice fourths tonalities and especially with lovely, falling modal chordal movements. Ed was heavier and more fiery in this context, responding to Luke’s rhythmic suggestions, and always pushing change and exploring meters and rhythms, and blasting out strongly accented fills. There were times the rhythm section seemed telepathic. I was stunned when they dropped into unison whole note triplets with seemingly no hint it was coming. Just that tap of the hi-hat, I guess. Bill was at his best: long, fast bass walks high on the neck; slightly buzzy tone that was so solid and of clear tonality; and some solo lines that had me grinning with his alacrity. Overall, the sound was a bit unbalanced, but it’s an odd little corner they play in. The tunes are well-enough known: Round midnight, Milestones, Footprints and the like. But the interpretations moved far from base, as it had done with the original quintet. This was no sauntering about or unguided search. This felt like solid exploration, intelligent, passionate and powerful, with an occasional return to the base which is the melody.

I’ve missed a few good shows recently after perhaps too much of a good thing. But this return to the source was just the medicine. Thanks to Joe and mates for a refreshing visit to one of the lifebloods of modern jazz. It was a blowout. And thanks also to Candy Amble and mates who organise the Trinity jazz sessions on Tuesday evenings. It’s a comfy venue, the music cycles weekly through various interesting bands associated with the jazz school and it’s free entry. This was the final Tuesday Trinity for this year; watch the CJCalendar for a startup in the new year. It’s an excellent development and highly recommended.

Joseph Taylor (tenor sax) played with Corey Booth (trumpet), Luke Sweeting (piano), Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums) on a tribute to Mile Davis’ second great quintet of the mid-1960s.

  • Tuesdays @ Trinity (Facebook group)
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