15 April 2009

Fine and lithe and spider-leg-like

Right from the start, I noticed a lovely, lithe rhythmic form in Zoe Frater’s bass in accompaniment: implying rather than stating the beat; playing over it with shorter, bouncy notes; a natural control of note formation and duration. Then a solo which remained within the underlying harmonies, but which was wonderfully melodic, with lines of extensions, openly moving through the scale, but delightfully intervallic rather than scalar or arpeggiated. And a good right hand forming the notes, so they sounded solid and thumpy, and doubly so when she dropped into short passages of thumb picking. Zoe’s fine fingers and lithe movements were spider-leg-like as they stretched and retracted over the fretboard, not hard set in a defined shape, but mobile like her lines. Such lovely lines of varied intervals, unexpected jigs and patterns, but always true to melody.

Zoe was accompanied by John Milton, a Canberra friend who organised the gig, and Andy Campbell, who got thanks for learning all the tunes. And they were an interesting mix of the modern and melodic. Several from each of the players, and several from Steve Swallow, an obvious influence and subject of Zoe’s Melbourne band called Swallowing. Steve Swallow is one of the few famed electric bass players in jazz, with a similar concern for, and love of, melody and song forms that reminds me of Charlie Haden. But Zoe also admitted of other influences, presenting tunes named for Bill Frisell and the Police.

John was playing with tonal simplicity on a small kit, but with reactivity and closeness to the statements of the others and sometimes with some outspoken polyrhythms. I noticed a steady gaze that watched the others while their heads were down in concentration, like I’d seen in John Pochee a few days before although not so constant. Andy was strong and fast, somewhat of a different style from Zoe but perfectly fitting. His was more scalar and quicker playing, not so much considered and exploratory as enthusiastic and ecstatic in solos. All round, they were playing tunes new to them, some with long and extensive charts, so the playing impressed me as capable and well-read and nicely settled.

The volume of the whole was restrained, being in a very small, intimate room, with just a few listeners clustered around some coffee tables and surrounded by rows of original orange and blue Penguins: an intimate and intellectual environment for soft jazz statements. It was a lovely little concert in an unusual venue at an odd time (5-7pm on a Tuesday evening) but very much enjoyed by those who attended. Doubly so by me and a few e-bass fellow travellers watching a very capable and expressive colleague.

Zoe Frater (electric bass) played with Andy Campbell (guitar) and John Milton (drums) at the beyond Q Bookshop in Curtin Shops.

No comments: