17 December 2010

What a difference a day makes

Or maybe a few days or maybe a venue. Last weekend Daniel Hunter and his band broadcast from ArtSound. Last night it was Dan’s band live, with perhaps another practice, in the much more relaxed environment of the Loft. At least to me, the ease and comfort showed. From the top, they were calm, alive, committed and wonderfully musical in their approach to the charts. Not that the broadcast was poor, but there’s a tension in a studio that I didn’t feel at this friendly gig. Here the grooves were harder and more muscular; the solos were more irrepressible, and a few smiles showed the enjoyment by the band. Aidan later told me it was his third gig for the day and he was worn out, but there’s musicality in this exhaustion: the Round Midnight effect that is cheered and sought after. I certainly didn’t notice, savouring delicious rolls that just oozed like jelly from Aidan’s sticks. I was thoroughly enjoying his drumming: steady, informed and rhythmically and intellectually satisfying when the fours rolled around. Dan was leading with his often complex compositions. It’s a challenge to count some of these. I counted five and three and four and seven in one. I wondered if I’d got it right: I had, they were all there. I noticed Phill and Niels intent on the charts for this one. Dan had them down – no charts – playing the heads with ease and joy, then laying into a jagged and busy and turbulent guitar style, leavened with chordal fills and occasional blues or rock lines. One solo ended on a distorted rock scream that seemed to even surprise Dan. I just laughed. Niels was quite a contrast. Steady and lyrical, building solos from the most correct of lyrical statements with lovely tone and carefully formed notes, laying down eighth notes patterns that cruised through the changes, down then up to nicely formed high notes, and descending into devilish dissonance and speed and a return to the lyrical. I spoke to Niels about microtonality on the sax. I didn’t know of an established set of fingering for an additional 12 micronotes, almost like another instrument, but with new awareness I could hear them: not frequent, but effectively ending phrases or embellishing notes, always with that strange, unworldly (or should I say un-Western) effect. And bassist Phill. I always hear him as eminently solid and reliable: high praise, doubly so in a bassist. Great tone (Phill is known locally for his exploration of gear), always present with reliable grooves in the rich-sounding low positions and a frequent smile that confirmed my impressions on the night.

They may be old mates, but after years out of town, this is now a pickup band for Daniel’s interesting original music. I don’t know to what degree the music is Geneva- or Paris-influenced, but it’s mature and effective: bluesy grooves, modern swings, revisited bops, seductive ballads. This was a very enjoyable and satisfying night at the Loft. Daniel Hunter (guitar) provided the music and led the band comprising Niels Rosendahl (tenor, soprano sax), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

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