20 May 2009

The power of the voice

It was a pensive evening of worldly awareness and sincere concern as Vince Jones introduced his band and made a varied way through a range of original and standard tunes. Vince and the band are all staff at the Jazz School, so the playing was mature and informed. Vince’s bands are always capable and considered. There were plenty of tunes from the VJ songbook: thoughtful, expressions of Vince’s concerns and politics, as were the introductions. Often Matt McMahon tinkling as Vince talked his way into a tune, took a drink, perhaps hummed a little of the melody, before coming in with a gruff voice, singing a melody of complexity and often unexpected intervals, against a rich chordal structure. Often triple times, 3/4s or 6/8s, often slow, always heartfelt. His singing against standards was similarly expressive, with melodies that were richly reworked from the Real Book lines. These were instrumental lines, improvised, searched for, with a gruffness that reminded of a mute. It’s fitting, as he also plays trumpet and flugelhorn (although pretty rarely on the night) and I seem to remember a Harmon mute on the trumpet. So, I heard vocals which were musical and exploratory like vocalese but written from the top as lyrics with purpose and meaning. This instrumental voice was enchanting and well deserved our listening for detail, as he pulled back from mic for effect. So, beautiful and expressive and intriguing singing. Similarly, his lyrics. I didn’t listen carefully enough to the stories as I concentrated on melody, but snippets of lines would impact, as would his introductions: The nature of power (“it’s the power of love, not the love of the power”) with its anthemic call of respect for Nelson Mandela; his boogaloo blast at “Banksters” with “I can’t afford to live, now I can’t afford to die”; his lyrics to Horace Silver’s beautiful tune, Peace; his touching remembrance of WW1 family victims in Rainbow Cake; his jaunty attack on Murdoch and media in Don’t jettison everything. Vince has purpose for his tunes, and the honesty is evident and worn proudly and openly.

It just shows the power of voice and purpose that I’ve only written about Vince till now. His band fitted with comfort to the restrained style of play. I particularly noted solos from Eric Ajaye and John Mackey, and I much enjoyed Stella which started the second set. But it was a night for voice and political purpose, and much enjoyed for that: enjoyed not just by me, but by a full house of musical (and perhaps political) fellow travellers.

Vince Jones (vocals, flugelhorn, trumpet) led a band of Canberra friends from the Jazz School faculty in various combinations: Matt McMahon (piano), Mike Price (guitar), John Mackey (tenor sax), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums).

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