9 October 2011

Jamming worldwide

I was not the only person who commented that these jams are great fun, even if not too frequent. This one was a repeat at the Hippo, with an introductory set and support by Luke Sweeting’s Front and Siders. This was a shockingly capable display of composition and musicianship and a challenge for the improvisers waiting to have a play, but a jam is a loose and extroverted thing and this is a friendly group so it all went well with some seriousness but also good will.

Firstly, the Front and Siders. They started with Sam River’s beautiful Beatrice, but then it was all original compositions, I think all by Luke. The tunes were complex, varied, often charted for unison lines of bass and piano left hand, or piano and guitar (this combination sounded quite fusion-ish, I thought), inventive piano over left hand pedals, nice rich ostinatos behind drums solos or mesmeric interludes and long crescendos. There was intensity and suspense. There were quiet, reflective times where the band sat playing minimally and held tension. I particularly noticed how effectively they could sit on a groove that was waiting to lift. But there were also explosions of energy, especially from Daniel on guitar, with fat, electric-flat tone and screaming high notes and hard-strummed chords and chromatic sequences and excitable rises and emotional denouements. James responded with solos that spoke more gently including one with German bow. Luke was masterful on complex harmonies and substitutions and the less common scales. Pianos can do this and Luke is doing it great justice with complexity but also with and easy acceptability despite the challenging tonalities and rhythms. Aidan was not intrusive, but free flowing and precise and so easy to listen to. It was a wonderfully impressive set and a great way to return to Canberra jazz after an NYC sojourn. This is sophisticated and satisfying music at a high level. The Front and Siders were Luke Sweeting (piano), Daniel Kim (guitar), James Luke (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

So that was the prequel for a night of jamming. It was fun. Luke was the one pianist so worked hard, but there were several horns, guitars, bassists, drummers, so they were shared around. I sat in for two tunes: a Bb blues and Alone together. Otherwise, it was bebop, All the things you are and the like: common jam tunes, but nicely played with seriousness but also joy. It was a smaller group in attendance, and perhaps more relaxed for it. Looking forward to more.

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