18 September 2009

Venetian tribute

It was to be stormy and very, very wet in Venice the next day, and we walked through some light rain getting to the Venice Jazz Club. The club itself is indicated by a red light on an otherwise quiet little canal across the Ponte dell’Academia. We entered through several sound limiting doors to find a cellar with round tables and a small crowd. It was towards the end of the night (they can only legally play to 11pm), we ordered some drinks, and listened to a Miles & Trane tribute.

We heard Seven steps to Heaven, Footprints and Someday my prince will come, and an encore of Days of wine and roses. The small crowd was attentive, and the band was serious and concentrated. Despite the Miles & Coltrane reference, the band was led by a pianist with guitar, bass and drums. No horns, but the leader explained later they felt Trane (and presumably Miles) in their performance. The music was well played, although fairly mild and chamber-cool. The guitar sounded of Scofield, but the lines were more melodic and tonal, less bluesy and slippery. The piano was similarly tonal, with excitement coming from rhythmic rather than harmonic explorations. The bass was wonderfully solid and comfortable and nicely expressive. Sometimes with a German bow or a solid and fluid walk at prompt speeds. I thought I judged a classical background, and he confirmed that to me later. The drums were similarly solid rather than flightly and cymbal-ic, and he took several solos that followed the song structure clearly. The improvisation was there, but not so much as individual efforts. I felt the best effect was when the band moved feel as a composite whole, perhaps a changed bass line that would lead to a different band feel, or a bowed bass, or a different drum groove. Nice for the ensemble feel and less the individual expression. I didn’t particularly feel the Miles and Trane references, but the playing was entertaining nonetheless.

I don’t think Venice is a jazz centre, but it’s nice to see you can find jazz here regularly, although at the steep Euro prices that I’ve come to expect over here. These are small, intimate venues where people listen rather than drink so you need a decent income from the door to cover the band. It seems the way over here. Thanks to management who let me in for the last few tunes, just charging for the drinks.

Just a few final items of interest. The bassist’s name was Alvise. It was not a name I knew: he told me it’s Venetian. And sure enough, the next day I saw a portrait of a doge with the name Alvise. The other story is a Canberra connection. Jimmy Weinstein, the drummer, came over to chat when he heard of my Canberra connection. He was originally from Chicago, but had known Canberra flautist Cecilia Kemezys very well about twenty years back in Boston. Small world.

Federico Nalesso (piano), Nicola Cristante (guitar), Alvise Seggi (bass) and Jimmy Weinstein (drums) played at the Venice Jazz Club.

  • http://www.venicejazzclub.com/
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