8 April 2010

Dolphin dancing

Carl Morgan came back from Sydney last night with a hot band for a well-attended gig at the Trinity. Carl was a finalist in the guitar National Jazz Awards at Wangaratta and each of his offsiders had also appeared for their respective instruments, so we awaited a hot night of playing. Carl seems to me to have settled to a personal style now: long sustained eighth-note runs with unexpected breaks; range extending to the guitar stratosphere; a crisp unsustained sound; mobile over the fretboard with well formed phrasings. I only stayed for the first set, which comprised five tunes. Two were originals by Carl. They were fusion style outings with regular bass, some unison lines and chordal segments between solos, some with odd bar lengths that were devilish to count, but basically platforms for solos. The soloing was great, as were the complex lines and rhythmic patterns of the bridges, but it always seems to me that fusion is strangely lacking in dynamics and oddly uninvolving for both performers and listeners. Greats like Corea manage interesting fusion, but even they don’t all the time. Anyway, that’s my opinion, but I liked the performers. Carl is wonderfully expressive with his phrasing and melodies and extended range, and clear as a bell. Hugh Barrett played similarly on Rhodes: long, contorted lines of considerable melodic invention. I enjoyed Alex Boneham’s bass which was always clearly present with a nice upper-mid edge, both in interesting solos and accompaniment, and James Waples who busied up the rhythms with clarity and ease. They also played a few standards, including Darn that dream as a moderately up swing. The favourite of my short night was the last of the set, Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin dance, with its infectious melody and swing. Here they played with tempos, going double time for guitar solos and variously finding a changing mood as the tune developed. I still have it mulling around in my head as I write this. Lovely.

Carl Morgan (guitar) led a quartet with Hugh Barrett (Rhodes), Alex Boneham (bass) and James Waples (drums).

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