26 August 2009

Big city urgency

The pace of the big city showed through last night when New Yorkian Andrew Swift was playing with Brendan Clarke and Mike Price. This is no sleepy playing. It’s intense, determined, disciplined. There’s a commitment that says American culture and competition; failure everpresent as threat and incentive. This is individualism writ large. Most survive; some win the big purse, sometimes deservedly; a significant few fail and fall, despairing, misunderstanding their failure as totally, individually their responsibility. It’s a hard culture, but it’s also invigorating and excelling. It’s harder than here, although we’ve always had a foot in that camp as an Anglo-American economy and we’ve been moving increasingly in that direction over recent decades. I remember the issue arising years ago when singer/pianist Ben Sidran visited Adelaide. I attended a workshop and then a bar gig. The gig was drab and unfulfilling. Ben complained about his local support players who were uninvolved, lacking energy, purposeless. He was right; they were dull. Ben couldn’t understand why they even bothered to play. It was not a pleasant scene. Last night wasn’t like that: this gig was good, very good.

I didn’t pay attention to the tunes they played, although they were obviously standards with cycles and a sense of swing. There was Invitation alternating between a 12/8 latin and a swing, a lovely gentle In a sentimental mood and hard swinging Misty. Many of the other tunes were more disguised; not too easily recognisable. I’d say this jazz was smooth, but nothing like the saccharine radio-style called “smooth jazz”. It wasn’t chordally challenging but it was richly improvised, responsive and deeply cool. Brendan settled the beat with his low, full tone, steady and richly expressive both in accompaniment and long, fluent solos. Andrew was busy, aware, responsive, cutting the groove and pushing the complexity and excitement. The pair were comfortable together, revisiting old times when they studied together at the local Jazz School. It was an effective base for Mike’s unadulterated jazz guitar tone with sustained double time lines exploring harmony with diatonics, diverse intervals, atonal sequences and symmetrical scales. It was an intriguing and intellectually satisfying guitar trio set. I heard it as smooth and mainstream, so swinging, but a mainstream that was richly embellished with the sounds of modern harmonic and melodic indeterminacy. Very much enjoyed.

A flock of Swifts: Sherine, Andrew, Trish, John

Andrew Swift (drums) played with Mike Price (guitar) and Brendan Clarke (bass) at Trinity.


BC said...

Hi Eric, Thanks for a great writeup once again. Thought you might like to know that a lot of the tunes that we played the other night were actually Swifty's originals they are so good they sound like standards!


Eric Pozza said...

Well, it seems they weren't "obviously standards". But nice tunes of the type, anyway. Eric