6 June 2011

Unsparing energy

Energetic commitment is a feeling I often get when big city visits Canberra, especially big jazz city New York. NYC was again visiting in the guise of the Jacam Manricks Quartet. I got the energy in spades with Eric Mcpherson’s solos, which started with intensity and exhilaration and ramped up from there, but Linda Oh showed it equally although not as evidently as a drummer can. Jacam Manricks was leader. He’s also infused in the Manhattan vibe, but he’s calmer, more crisp and intellectual, although not without a certain extravagance, and Australian Jackson Harrison also took to the excitement, although not with Eric’s take-no-prisoners commitment. Jacam’s music is like his playing: richly informed and of the mind. It launches with long solos and intense crescendos, but it’s not a music of abandon. Jacam is a teacher and holds a high level academic degree in music and you hear it in his care and consideration. I heard it once in an introduction to a tune which was formed from two standards that he’d accidentally merged on a gig. The outcome was a new tune that was a reharmonisation with new melody and which combined the essence of the two original standards. This is not Mingus and the blues; this is more a music of considered options like Shoenberg and his tonal system. There is much logic in music and I hear it here.

And what playing! Eric Mcpherson just exploded on drums. He was sharp and snare-staccato on accompaniment, but was unstoppable in solos. And those strange plastic spatulas for sticks: handles with a flat inverted-V shape for the stick end that he’d swap to change tone, something like stick to brush. Similarly Linda Oh was concentration and commitment, showing her NY-residency of 5 years. A mate asked jokingly how many fingers she had. Certainly, she was busy. I noticed lots of open strings and large intervals: her solo style is efficient and the sound was busier than the fingers needed to be. This was clever playing with a sweeping tonality. Jacam was the sharp, tutored altoist. Absolutely correct; changes spot on the barline; clear thought and the most precise tone; lines dropping around the listener with beguiling ease. This was clinical playing and a lesson in precision: cool and with dignified, even austere emotions. I also enjoyed Jackson Harrison’s staccato but continually responsive accompaniment as it moved bar by bar with Jacam’s alto solos. So, a challenging and energetic night as NYC came in from the (Canberra) cold. It’s always a pleasure when Jacam and his NYC offsiders visit. Jacam Manricks (alto, compositions) led a quartet with Jackson Harrison (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Eric Mcpherson (drums) at the University of Canberra.

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
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