15 July 2009

Of families and tentacles

Canberra may be a small hub in the world of jazz, but Canberra jazz and its jazz school puts out tentacles: in Melbourne and Sydney, where there are influential groups of players, but also outside Australia, to Europe, Asia, the Americas. We occasionally get jazz tourists from NY and far afield, often with Australian or Canberra connections. Look at the Canberra Jazz group on Facebook, and you’ll find members throughout the world keeping in touch with their roots. I bought my double bass from an ex-Canberran who’s now in Shanghai. The world is massively smaller now than it was only 20 years ago. Money moves instantaneously with just a card; air travel is much cheaper in real terms; communications are trivially easy; we share so much with similarly wealthy people around the world. We also share jazz.

Last night at Trinity was just an example. Daniel Hunter is temporarily returned from Geneva. He led a quartet with some strong locals including Niels Rosendahl, who has also recently spent several years in London/Europe. The band played originals and a few standards including uber-standard All the things you are. Daniel’s originals were in a few different styles: guitar-styled and chordally rich arrangements, some funky blues rhythms, a clear post-bop walking number. I noticed Phill Jenkins here, with a joyous and heavily swinging walking bass. Phill strikes me as a very competent and reliable working player (high praise). He confirmed it this night with rock solid playing and a lovely sound that cut through clearly: strong on midrange but with no honk or harsh edge. Ed, of course, was his masterly, dynamic, expressive self that I’ve been writing about for just about every gig recently, given I’ve heard him so often. He’s fabulously controlled and impressively responsive; like when he stunned me by instantly morphing from loud and emphatic to the softest and most precise cymbal work. Niels struck me first with his strong and ringing tone up and down the range, then those pleading high notes that give the sax such emotional effect. He’d play simple and obvious lines (Niels understands the beauty in simplicity) but then unexpectedly fall into long, sustained lines of chromatic extravangance. One of these had me wondering if he would ever end it; so much startling contrast, but not a thought of it being out of place. Daniel’s approach was very different. He uses a clear, percussive, ringing jazz guitar tone that doesn’t lend itself to wallowing in seductive tonality. So he’s fast and busy, expressing harmony with showers of notes rather than counterpoint, sometimes with a big-city feel of enthusiasm and some little disjointedness despite some pretty cool original tunes. So, cool in composition and accompaniment, but more vivid in solos.

Canberra jazz is somewhat like a family. Pretty small, with cousins passing through town, kids off to test themselves in the big, wide world, always someone keeping the hearth warm. Octopi and families are contrasting metaphors, but they both fit to some degree. Daniel Hunter (guitar) led a quartet at Trinity with Niels Rosendahl (tenor, soprano sax), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums).

No comments: