20 April 2011

Carl's back

Carl Morgan and his band returned to Canberra and the Loft last night for a reiteration of their gig of last November. I’ve just reread that writeup and it’s mostly relevant to this gig with its very complex, rhythmically varied pieces. Like the sweeping melodies of five note runs that mutated in minimalist style as they crossed triplets in 15/8 bars. All that with written bass lines that were richly syncopated, sometimes sounded in unison by a piano left hand that was otherwise playing charted voicings. This is not easy music to write or to perform and it’s no surprise that the repertoire was much the same as the last visit. There’s a lot of detail here and presumably development over time. I certainly overheard Mike saying he needed to do more work on one, and it was already pretty well scripted.

But the feel of the band was hotter this time. Partly because they were on tour. Partly because they are readying for a recording over Easter. But I think mostly because they were playing with master drummer Ben Vanderwal. Ben is a fabulously strong player in many styles. In this case, he was nuclear-powered (what a coincidence: Carl’s Jazz school nickname was Nuke), reading charts but also energising them with hard and fast playing that was nonetheless subtle. I’d heard some of those drum effects on record, but this was an eye-opener. I particularly noticed rolling fills across the set that were so smooth and must have taken much practice to perfect. This was easy technique with purpose and endless power.

The others are no slouches, of course. I heard more of pianist Steve Barry this time. He did plenty of rhythmic accompaniment but that tended to get lost a little amongst drums and amplifiers. But his solos were clearer: lovely exploratory and angular outings in a bop style of right hand solo and left hand chords with a modern sensibility of disjunction and freedom across barlines. Carl was the same. I thought his guitar could have screamed more in the first set (old rock habits die hard), but the second set was louder and the tone was fuller and more sustained. I caught a few glitches but I love the way he plays with melodies that say hectic big-city. Mike was more boppy to my ears, running chords in more scalar style, but again easy and fluent. Alex was fabulous, bent over his bass, syncopating like hell and sitting nice octave fills into a line to hold the band together. He was chatting with audience after the gig and said how he gets simpler when things go out and how he sees his main tasks as to play the tonic and elucidate rhythms with drums and piano.

This was a great night of sophisticated jazz well on the road to virtuosity. A stunner. Carl Morgan (guitar) played challenging original compositions with Mike Rivett (tenor sax), Steve Barry (piano), Alex Boneham (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). Keep an eye on Carl’s site for the CD.

No comments: