19 April 2009

Right for the night

New Dad Ben (girl, 10 days) was out for his first gig and his Hammond left hand was defining the coolest blues-infested groove in town. The James Le Fevre Trio was playing at Minque, and the place was jumping. The sound of the Hammond organ with left hand bass is unique and a defining sound in jazz. It’s not all that common, but I’ve heard it a few times recently, and I wonder if it’s having a comeback. It’s quintessentially cool and lounge-like, so fits the bar scene that’s so common today. Certainly it seemed that way from the audience. The first audience responses were ironic, but by the end the joint was jumping and the guys (yes, guys) were up dancing together, presumably their moonwalks were to impress the girls who couldn’t dance because of those very high heels. But it was all a relaxed and well-entertained scene, and I could see why a bar would book it.

But back to the music. Ben was Hammond man, with that simple but driving left hand that sat with Evan’s richly embroidered and unwavering groove. The two formed a band in themselves, even without solos or melodies above. You noticed it when James ended a solo, and Ben let it sit back and settle before his solo, when it sat so tense and infectious, waiting for another lead. James’ tenor was clear and wailing above this groove, quoting liberally and playing increasingly open and substitutionally as the day moved to evening. I’d thought of James as a bluesy hard-bop mentality with occasional screaming outbursts, but this was a more thought-out and substitutional James and I liked it. Ben was the essence of cool, not just in left hand, but in visage and presence and solo. Perhaps it was that wave of new father’s tiredness setting in during the horn solos, but he just sat with closed eyes in concentration, and played a growing storm in every solo, while Evan just grooved with a lanky presence with the smoothest of accompaniments, rich in colour and style, and let out these so sweetly enunciated solos that just fell from his sticks.

I didn’t stay for the whole session, but I felt it growing in complexity and strength as the two first sets wore on. The first set was blues and Corea’s 500 miles high and Milestones and Corcovado and hard-bop standard Cold duck time. The intensity was growing by the break, with that so-solid left hand of Cold Duck time (what is Cold Duck time, anyway?). The second set was against a busy and darkening Manuka main street and it just kept lifting. A Bb blues and Jobim and a medley leading into All Blues, and then I was taken by a trio of favourites: Love for sale, Desafinado and Caravan. By this time, the guys were up dancing, and there was a real buzz. Everyone well set for a night out. The band had done just as the band should do: Hammond-smooth and lounge-lizard-like and readying everyone for a night on the town. Scene set for the night and the thousand eyes.

James Le Fevre (tenor) played with Ben Foster (Nord keyboard as Hammond) and Evan Dorrian (drums) at the Minque Bar in Manuka.

1 comment:

purrsikat said...

Great blog, thanks for putting the time in to all this.. it's appreciated by those of us who lurk & attend without being otherwise involved with the Canberra jazz scene :)

& just quietly, hooray & congrats to Ben & his partner on their wonderful little girl. xx