2 September 2009

Exhilarations

It was just one set that I heard, but the quartet led by Niels Rosendahl last night at Trinity performed a masterly outing. Masterly is apt, given that two of the members are current masters students, but it wasn’t just this. This was a night of wonderful post-bop modern interpretations of a few common standards. Rhythmically, it reminded me of Joseph Taylor and his tributes to Miles’ Second Great Quintet (and it shared two players): some fabulously strong swings and delicious implied rhythms and easy and frequent changes to double or half times. But this band was more playing in free space. There was an open, undefined passage leading into Have you met Miss Jones that had me wondering what the tune was, until a snippet of melody defined it, before slipping away again, to be restated towards the end. There was underlying harmony, but none too obvious, with pedal bass, and sequences passing over and through the bar lines, and chromatics throughout. It was a game for the listener, to determine the tune that was little-defined and just lightly hinted at. The essence of what I call modern. When there was an underlying tune, it was veiled. They did play totally free at times. Invitation was introduced with an extended passage of free jazz; Niels called the tune on a whim and it was unexpected by the band. But the difference was not always marked. Certainly, it was nothing like the obviousness of mainstream jazzers when they play the changes.

The individual playing was impressive. Niels was clear and clinical in his solos, crisply dividing the beat and taking apart the harmony, clearly expressing the melody although taking considerable liberties when he felt it. Andy was exhilarating although more disjointed in style, often playing showers of notes in non-even times, like 9 or 13 against 4 beats and sustaining long outpourings, like auroral sheets of harmony. Bill was all driving walks and fluent fills and syncopated accompaniment, and he surprised me with a hammering, machine-gun intensity in solos that I don’t think I’ve heard before. Ed is always delicate and empathic and precise and gives such colour and gentle personality to the music. The other tunes I heard were Autumn leaves and a blues and a bebop (I think it was Anthropology). Eminently standard, but these were richly reformulated with chromaticism and intense rhythms and busy creativity. This was top playing; thoroughly enjoyed.

Niels Rosendahl (tenor) played with Andy Campbell (guitar), Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodriguez (drums) at Trinity.

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