19 June 2011

The family according to James (DHJF-6)

No jazz scene around Australia is so large that you don’t see common faces. Perhaps the most common face on the Sydney jazz scene is James Greening, although that may just be my Canberra-centric view (he visits Canberra to teach at ANUSM). Phil Slater, Jonathon Zwartz, Matt McMahon and others popped up several times during the DHJF. It’s like a family round here.

Ten Part Invention was the very first band I caught over the weekend. They’ve been around for decades and I’d only heard them in their first years. They are a largish ensemble committed to playing Australian music. Their repertoire on the day was mostly by Sandy Evans and Miroslav Bukovsky, both members of the band. I was particularly enamoured by a chart from Roger Frampton called Three mothers which was a richly orchestrated blend of early bop and heavy syncopated hits. John Pochée and a few others of this era always mention Roger Frampton; he’s obviously held in considerable awe. I always love a jazz orchestra and this one is inventive and mature. Great playing and much enjoyed. Ten Part Invention are John Pochée (drums), Steve Arie (bass), Paul McNamara (piano), Paul Cutlan (baritone sax), Andrew Robson (alto sax), Matthew Ottignon (tenor sax), Sandy Evans (tenor sax, flute), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet), Warwick Alder (trumpet).

The catholics are always a joy to hear with engrossing grooves and rich percussion and comfortable solos. This time they had to laugh off a suddenly disappearing audience that ran for cover when the rain set in and left them playing to a Darling Harbour wall of cafes and eateries well in the distance (the Floating stage was not my favourite – too distant). I was interested to hear a Barney McAll tune and also a 9/8 from Sandy Evans called Floating on an emerald green sea, and Doin’ the Darwin walk with an infectious, dancy, trancy bass groove and a solo of soprano sax and pocket trumpet. Always a pleasure. The catholics were Sandy Evans (saxes), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet), John Peace (guitar), Gary Daley (accordion), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Toby Hall (drums), Fabian Hevia (percussion).

Wanderlust are another favourite world-jazz fusion ensemble with those incredibly popular and infectious grooves and simple but satisfying melodies. I don’t see how anyone can sit inert to tunes like Samba nova, and there’s humour around too, as in the title Year of the pig that Miro was jokingly apologetic for. Wanderlust are Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), James Greening (trombone), Alister Spence (piano), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Zoe Hauptman (bass) and Fabian Hevia (drums).

Jonathon Zwartz presented his ensemble early on Sunday, and such a pleasure it was, starting with mystical, watery tones of his CD the Sea, and progressing through a funky Curtis Mayfield tribute with sweet harmonies reminiscent of New Orleans. Jonathon’s writing is spare in melody with bass-aware grooves. This was quite a highlight, and the rain held off for a decent and appreciative audience. The Jonathan Zwartz Ensemble comprises JZ (bass), Matt McMahon (piano), Hamish Stewart (drums), Fabian Hevia (percussion), Phil Slater (trumpet), Richard Maegraith (tenor), James Greening (trombone) and Jonathan’s daughter, Martha Zwartz (vocals), premiered with pretty pop tune.

Vince Jones didn’t use James but I think of him in the same circles, so I’ll report him here. Vince is touching and always purposeful. His passions are on his shoulder and I admire him for it, although I dare say some might not. This is touching, careful, understated music with lyrics that mean something and are anything but post-modern irony. He described them as grafitti for the soul and I can only concur. Songs about the cost of housing (Can’t afford to live, can’t afford to die) or family tragedies out of WW1 (Rainbow cake). This is touching and empathetic in more than just a musical sense. Beautiful songs with a reason. Vince Jones (vocals, trumpet) played with Matt McMahon (piano), Aaron Flower (guitar), Ben Waples (bass) and Simon Barker (drums).

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