26 May 2011

On the count … 1,2,7

Quinsin Nachoff played some very demanding and difficult music at the Gods for its first international concert. I found it hard work until I closed my eyes and went with it. So did the players, who were new to it and obviously counting and reading dots and difficult structures. The band was touring before leading up to an appearance at the Melbourne Jazz Festival which seems a great idea given the complexity of the music. Brenton spoke afterwards of Schoenberg and of narrow and discordant harmonies that need care and readiness to carry off. Geoff heard hints of Albert Ayler in Quinsin’s upper register. Certainly the players were up to it. Peter Knight was a revelation on trumpet, reading the most difficult intervals and times and soloing with lovely tone (even old-style at one stage with a plunger mute) and easy style. Marc Hannaford also did a great job, including covering the bass on left hand. I thought the band would have benefitted from a true bass player: the sound would have been more full and the rhythms more articulated and developed. But poor Marc had a big job with bass and soloing given this difficult music and he did it wonderfully well, concentrating hard on charts and playing lines that sat sweetly and with little dissonance. I was amused to see Raj Jayaweera mouthing the count at times; the music was like that. He had a lovely touch that drew a very solid tone from his borrowed Gretch kit while playing fairly understated but effective accompaniment and solos. I heard Quinsin’s soloing as varied. Sometimes intellectual and technical, with long lines that passed in sequences up and down the tenor’s range, and other times more melodic but with longer, more challenging intervals. His compositions were detailed: changing times, big intervals, odd syncopations, some lovely and quite unusual ballads. I was interested in some classical allusions, especially Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus rolled a rock up and down a hill, and the music did the same, doubling time several times from slow to frantic and back again then doing this again and again: an interesting exercise and a worthy tune. The night was like that. Difficult, demanding music for both performers and audience: cerebral but satisfying when you took it in. Not easy, but listening back to my recording as I write this, a very satisfying modern outing with some impressive playing.

Quinsin Nachoff (tenor, composer) led the Australian Forward Motion quartet with Peter Knight (trumpet), Marc Hannaford (piano) and Rajiv Jayaweera (drums).

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