28 May 2009


Muscular was the word that came to me while thinking of Cameron Undy’s bass playing at Trinity the other night. He played both double and electric, and it was always with strength and verve and energy, and an indelible sense of syncopation. He started on double with one of his own tunes. This was energy from the top, more gung-ho than pensive, just confirming these impressions. His sound was always strong and present, although I didn’t find it particularly unique. But his playing was essential and strong as he moved freely across the whole of the fingerboard, well into thumb positions and down to the lowest tones, rapidly moving body and arm so the full range was one, the chords richly expressed from the lowest to the highest notes. Fast but not purposeless, this was hugely effective and impressive playing. The next tune was Andy’s, then Reuben’s, then continuing for another round. Cameron continued to form and portray the tunes of others with the panache he showed with his own tunes. He likes busy-ness, and he likes dramatic moves from high to low pitches (like those wonderfully quick and long dropping scalar runs from high G-string to low E-string), and he likes to break up the rhythms with his muscular syncopation. And I found amusing that mid-way through one of the later tunes in the first set, he stopped playing, put down the double bass, swapped to electric, and continued with a similarly syncopated style and a parallel tonality, but with the speed ratcheted up a notch. A wonderfully impressive display. The CV of players he’s performed with is well deserved. I’ve written highly of Cameron’s playing before on CJ, and this night was just confirmation.

The band was good too. Evan Dorrian subtly interpreted the rhythms with his characteristic intimacy and flow. He really did sit comfortably with Cameron, with a freedom to play over and through the beats for great subtlety and a modern rhythmic conception. Andy Campbell played several of his intriguing but too modest solos. He’s got a good sense of melodic adventure and extravagance, but is still determinedly restrained. And Reuben Lewis has an impressive sense of statement. I enjoyed hearing a recording of Reuben’s band at Jazz Uncovered. The trumpet is a regal instrument, powerful and governing, and it can express itself with simple narratives. I felt that with Reuben: purpose with few notes. There were some moments of imprecision, but there’s interest there.

Cameron Undy (double and electric bass) led a quartet at Trinity Bar with Reuben Lewis (trumpet), Andy Campbell (guitar) and Evan Dorrian (drums).

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