24 April 2012

Riding the boundaries

Published 3 years late after being forgotten in draft

Riding boundaries can be relaxing, out on the endless plains, surveying territory, but the unexpected can happen and it takes wisdom and some good will to respond effectively.

It’s a long shot but I thought of boundaries as Julian Banks and the Hauptmanns were playing one of their later tunes last night at the Gods. I’d heard finger picking guitar and stylish hints at the banjo that Ben sometimes plays, and bass playing cut time on 1-3. It was mostly a rockabilly style with clear jazz training and sensibilities that I heard, with an undercurrent of bouncy humour. Like the version of Caravan earlier in the night. But there had also been a tango from Julian, called Take 2. And a Happy Birthday in jazz style for Geoff Page. Then an amusing title Cumquat may, and later a cut time take on You don’t know what love is: very different, but still laid back and satisfying. But I think it was during a tune called Daggerburton (?) when I thought of boundaries. Daggerburton started with heavy blues licks on guitar, from the era of Hendrix and Cream, then dropped into a reggae. I’m wondering: “stylistically, just what is this?”. I heard it as a postmodern, ironic awareness, and the rockabilly said boundaries. So it was.

It was satisfying and deceptively corny at times, but with humour and taste. Ben often enough exploded into fast and complex guitar solos, but they were clean and unlike his effected extravaganzas that I’ve heard at other times. Julian was superbly tasteful. I heard some modern out playing at the very start of the night, but he settled to big rich tone and sweet intervals and crystalline melody. Deceptively simple; beautifully tasteful or tastefully beautiful. Zoe was steady, although she told me after that she’d been playing a borrowed bass with a different neck and setup and so she was very uncomfortable. I’d noticed her few solos were short and tuneful, but I thought reluctant. It fitted when I heard her borrowed bass was so different. (Acoustic basses variously have necks that meet the body at D or Eb on the G-string. This was a D instrument and she normally plays an Eb, so she must have been fighting for good intonation all night). James is always solid and steady in a full, swinging drum style. He took a few short solos later in the night which were flowing and moderately busy but they left me wishing for more. So this was a night of laid back and mostly on the beat grooves, attractive tunes and clear melodies, but also irony in its catholicity of styles. Out on the plains; riding the boundaries of improvised music; taking influence from wherever: in summary, intelligent, current and entertaining.

Julian Banks (tenor) played a reunion concert with jazz school mates, the Hauptmann family: Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Zoe Hauptmann (bass) and James Hauptmann (drums).

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