19 April 2009

Chamber jazz

It was like Chamber Jazz with capitals when Mike Price played with the Trio at Llewellyn Hall for a live broadcast to ABCFM. It’s a calm environment, quiet and respectful (nothing like a bar) with timber everywhere and a listening audience whose applause is nicely delayed so as not to mix in with the tune. I guess this is more a classical audience, because most of the FM live broadcasts are classics.

Also “chamber” because Mike’s trio reminds me of the clarity and precision of the MJQ and that era. Mike’s guitar, clear and woody and unadorned, playing neat and controlled patterns and sequences and scalar runs with the skills that his students so admire in him. And accompanied by equally admired fellow faculty from the Jazz School. Col with reliable grooves and surprisingly varied tones coming from his minimal kit of bass drum, snare, hi-hat and a few cymbals, using brushes and palms and some orange plasticy-looking sticks for a thin but effective percussion. Eric with his silky skills and wonderfully expressive solos on his Star-Trecked double bass (a joke from Mike on the night) fed into a PA speaker. They seem to have done work on the Llewellyn, and it was better than previous jazz outings. The upper registers were clear, if overly strong and reverberant, but the bottom end remains wet and mushy and Eric’s wonderful playing fell into it. [PS. Am I being unfair here? I definitely couldn't hear Eric too well except in solos, but maybe his amp was turned down given that it was so close to his and Col's ears.] I’m told that the broadcast was beautifully produced, even album quality, but the live sound was disappointing despite the work that’s obviously been done.

The trio mostly played tunes by Mike himself. The opener, The Plot, was in triple time. Trip to Peekskill was in memory of lessons with John Abercrombie, a long time influence. The Gong was dedicated to his home town, Wollongong, and bounced with a country/train feel and was well received. Off break started in a two feel then dropped into hard swing. There were also a few non-originals: Just in tune by Abercrombie, Kind folk by Kenny Wheeler, and Brubeck’s In your own sweet way.

And nice to hear national broadcaster, Julian Day, commenting on the current richness of the Canberra jazz scene, given the small size of our town. He’s right, you know. Lots of work for players and plenty of interest around the bar scene. We’re going great guns down here, thanks especially to Mike, Col, Eric and their faculty colleagues (and a few other committed people round town).

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