11 November 2010

Something happy

So said the bass player: “Please can you write something happy”. And Peta Gammie wrote a lovely jazz-influenced ballad that swung lightly and with pathos rather than joy. But this was the only tune I heard that I recognised as jazz. Not that that’s a problem. She’s a good composer of soul or rock or funk songs on very personal issues of love and its consequences (if with a twist, like morning and non-morning partners living together). And Peta can carry the style off, with a strong mid-range voice that she uses capably and with evident and satisfying jazz-trained precision in pitch and note values. It was a friendly and sometimes amusing concert, if just a little nervous. The high heels that found the hole in the floor were an unexpected surprise. The relief felt by travellers returning home was evident in comments on the Aussie pronunciation of water (d for t)and the audience’s understanding of her patter between songs. Peta’s been in Geneva for the last 6 or 7 years, but comes from around Kiama and studied at the Jazz School here in Canberra, so this concert was somewhat a gathering of friends. The band was fitting, too. Mark beating such apt, flailing grooves and fills. Jason laying down busy, finger-funk bass lines with that middy, woody Warwick tone into a man-sized bass rig. Greg mostly strumming light, funk styles on strat but letting go for some devastating guitar solos culminating in sequences and sweeps. Ya have to love it! John leading on melody and soloing with some bluesy lines, but then insinuating sophisticated dissonances into busy grooves. And Luke on edgy Nord piano tones sweeping over the keyboard, and just one time at the end, introducing organ (I wished I’d heard more of this).

But it was more than just a concert. CIT is a training ground for video and audio engineers, as well as musicians and the music business. So we had a mega production, with big PA, big lights, big screens. I loved the sound of the PA, running well below its capacity and totally unstressed. I didn’t always like the mixing. I found it sometimes too edgy and cluttered and unbalanced for my ears, but I’m the backseat driver here. Mixing is harder than it looks. I enjoyed the video. It gave a different view of some things, and I found myself watching it several times, even with the live act only metres away. But one thing was disconcerting: there was a slight but noticeable delay between the PA sounds and the projected video. I know they delay sound for speakers at different distances from stage at big stadium gigs. That wouldn’t have been feasible here, where we were seeing the life performer just metres away, but it was strange to observe.

Peta’s songs were all originals, other than one Elvis Costello tune, I want you. Annabelle Jones sat in with acoustic guitar and nice harmonies for one tune. Utopia Collective played the first set, with their highly capable fusion, finishing with a tune John had introduced to the band only 5 minutes before. As I remember, it had a rock groove, a busy but constant bassline, one or few chords, a devilish melody that John must have known, and otherwise five very capable musos who pulled it off with ease (if a few nerves).

I enjoyed the night, enjoyed the sound and the experience, and especially enjoyed Peta’s soulful music and personal lyrics with such a capable backing band. Peta Gammie (vocals) sang with the Utopia Collective. The Utopia Collective is Greg Stott (guitar), John Mackey (tenor), Luke Sweeting (keyboard), Jason Varlet (bass), Mark Sutton (drums).

1 comment:

Greg Stott said...

Hi Eric, thanks for coming to the gig. Your support of all things jazz (and jazz-related) in Canberra is much appreciated.