But what matters is the playing, and this was hot stuff, big chops. I have few opportunities for jazz on this whirlwind tour, and a performance by a Jaco-influenced six-string bassist with Ken Smith sponsorship sounded like a hoot, despite my preference for something more profound than fusion. I was glad I went. He actually played 5-string, but it was a Ken Smith, and he had a wonderfully clear and punchy tone, and used effects and tone subtly for colour. Good so far, but it was Hadrien’s hell fire chops that convinced me. His accompaniment was comfortable, he was ready to play simply when the times demanded it, but even there he’s lash out with rapid-fire descending multi-octave arpeggios and double time unison notes that fitted perfectly and floored with rapidity. Ah, the dreams of bassists up front! It was this ease and fitting response that first caught me, because what he played fitted like the proverbial glove, despite the flashiness. Then of course his solos. They were blindingly fast, especially when using thumb and fingers in finger-style playing reminiscent of folk or blues guitar. It was a trick he used often but it floored me every time. And extended lines across the fingerboard, beautifully phrased and spot on tack timewise. This was easy and educated, not strained or flustered. Beautiful playing of the highest order.
Fitting with the garage band theme, this was a guitar band. Two guitars and drums were the other members. They were all hot and sweaty and speedy and ecstatic. A drummer with a toying, boyish excitement, hard rocking rhythms, and I thought a Keith Moon urgency and presence. He sang too, which perhaps shouldn’t surprise me. Not words, but scatty-type sounds which strangely fitted the tune they were then playing: an obviously unrehearsed presentation with a melody that was only guessed, of Michael Jackson’s Beat it (I did say garage). I understand there’s a strong jamming scene around Paris, and this fitted. They played another pop tune, too. The melody was famous (Allman Brother or perhaps Doobies) and just like you’d hear from an Australian pub band, but the playing was otherwise. The two guitars were an interesting pair, and quite contrasting. Not sure that I have the names right, but I heard Hervé Samb as more blues-scalish and consonant, although he played a good deal of chromatics, and interesting on accompaniment. Manu Codjia was more melodic, building solos more clearly, controlling delays and sounds and running degrees of dissonance through contrasting scalar choices. I preferred this approach (it’s more the jazz I like) but both led interesting solos and every member of the band ably developed solos from cooler (but not cool; there was no cool) to ravaging.
So, I loved the hammering bass playing, and the boyish exhuberance of the band. A great night, even if not a profound one. Hadrien Féraud (Ken Smith 5-string bass) led a quartet with Hervé Samb (guitar), Manu Codjia (guitar) and Francis Lassus (drums).
PS, I’ve just checked out his website, and apparently Hadrien won Bass Player mag’s 2009 Readers’ Choice award for “Most exciting new player” and Downbeat’s 2009 Critics poll for “Rising star of the electric bass” . Mmmm… congratulations are in order. Check out the stunning bass solo in the YouTube video embedded on Hadrien’s MySpace site.
Interestingly, I sat with guitarist/singer Cesar Bolly. His Afro-jazz band, Gowa Project, recently shared the stage with Jan Garbarek and he was talking of visiting Sydney with a jazz-funk outfit few years back. He now lives in Norway, but was in Paris to promote his new album, Éwamé, which features Hadrien Ferraud on bass. As I write this, I have not even checked his website, but I’ve given a few MySpace sites below to follow up. He’s open for offers of touring Australia, so get in touch if you are planning promotions.