9 June 2011

Knowing smile

Smile is a delightfully touching song. Charlie Chaplin must have been a polymath genius to have written such a tune as an aside to the rest of his oeuvre. It was a great way to start Sally Greenaway’s concert at the Gods. Sally was playing with Eric Ajaye and Gary France, so we have a cross section of styles and that’s how I heard the night. A travel through a wide repertoire of styles and sources performed in a pure and correct style, perhaps a classical-jazz fusion. This was more the jazz of MJQ - classic, correct, distilled - than the abandon of individualism and bebop and soloists. Sally’s solos betrayed her compositional bent. They were often chordal, with chromatic movements or substitutions that spoke of compositional options, although I did catch quite a few bluesy, growling lines betraying an earthy jazz sensibility. Eric was his classic lyrical self, with solo statements that conversed their way through pieces with deep, slurring lines and passing flourishes. I hadn’t heard much of Gary France. He’s of the classical percussion school, so the skills were prodigious and his sense of time was less swung. [I have since played with Gary and I can confirm he swings perfectly nicely. See my post of 25 Jan 2015 / Eric] He swapped between vibes and drum kit. I particularly enjoyed his vibes playing and his great ease of four-mallet melody.

This was formal tune-smithing. I particularly noticed the detailed dynamics that would swell or fade at the bar level and the quiet volume of the performance. Chamber music of the jazz repertoire and with a wide expanse of tunes: Chaplin to Tod Gustavsen and Keith Jarrett to Piazzolla and Pat Metheny and Maria Schneider to Bag’s groove and My romance. Sally presented this as trip through jazz geography and history. She’s a capable composer so I’d expected more originals, but it was not to be. This was more a gentle, composed, chamber view of favourite jazz tunes. It’s no surprise that I left Sally’s gig with a knowing smile rather than a lively step. The music was like that: distilled.

Sally Greenaway (piano) led a trio with Eric Ajaye (bass) and Gary France (vibraphone, drums) at the Gods.

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
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