25 February 2009

A calmer Carl?

So I was wondering as Carl Morgan started into the first set with a lively version of Night & day, accompanied by collaborators James Luke and Ed Rodrigues. There was a good-sized crew at Trinity to hear shredder Carl who’s recently returned from a Melbourne sojourn. It seemed to me a more mature and refined, but still not restrained, Carl. Maybe a little calmer, but still massively rich and quick and energetic. For this was an energetic outing, with all three players producing joules at kilo-bop levels.

Carl remains extravagant, but not as extreme as I remember him. This was a performance that seemed nicely in tune with the underlying tunes. Not quite so extreme, but still speedy. Carl still plays with sweeps and sustained 16th note runs, lovely bop-influenced tritones and intervals that made you sit up and take note, and that characteristic bop mix of 8th notes runs with interspersed triplets. It was a good mix, both technically and conceptually. There were times when they dropped into a rapid swing, James with speedy and expansive bass lines, Ed with that colour and blush of cymbals, perhaps a spasmic stop followed by a exclamatory crash, and Carl routing with a clear tonality, extended arpeggiated runs and both tonal and substituted harmonies. Then a pass to James. Bass solos are spare and exposed, lacking that go-ahead feel of a front-line instrument on heat with a grooving underlying rhythm section. There are jokes about bass solos for that reason. Bass must make this for itself, and it’s doubly challenging given the low pitch. So James’ solos were of another tack from Carl’s: more bluesy, often more simply melodic, sometimes with a Mingus stylishness. And then he’d throw in a diminished sequence, or double stops and chordal richness, more reminiscent of an electric bass sensibility, or a series of double bass drops. James was strong throughout, and especially as the night wore on. I talked of Ed above, with washes and colours and snaps. His solos were expressive and busy and never forced, but I most enjoyed his driving, involved, responsive intimacy. Ed is commitment personified. It shows, visually and audibly: always a pleasure. So I think you get the feel of the night: energy and commitment, but controlled and expressive.

So what was played? Carl mentioned one original which I remember counting variously as 6 or 5. It was only at the end of the tune that I was wondering if the time signature changed, or whether there was some polyrhythm lurking. Otherwise, Night & day, Wayne Shorter’s Ana Maria, Inner urge, Darn that dream, Coltrane, Body & soul, and ending on All the things you are. Note some ballads there, too, which were treated with a sensibility that belied my talk above of energy. I took note of Carl’s take on Darn that dream and then his beauteous rendition of Body & soul. Guitars are percussive instruments and never quite fit like reeds for such delicate melodies, but Carl’s rendering of the ballads was fitting and sensitive. Then a finish with All the things you are, played with exhilaration and joy, and ending with a gloriously collapsed rhythm and a final, plangent guitar melody. Lovely.

So perhaps not a calmer Carl, but one who’s telling of his art and instrument, and always energetic. I much enjoyed the night, Carl with mates James and Ed. An outing of strength and energy, but not lacking in purpose.

Carl Morgan (guitar) led a trio with James Luke (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums).

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