17 December 2011

Fine and spacious

When Lucian McGuiness brought his quartet to the Loft, he had given it a name: Impermanent Quartet. I like that. It speaks of change and this band is aware of change. Where there’s change, there’s no end of history, and I felt an awareness of history in this sound.

The band is trombone, alto, bass and drums so it’s chordless. This lineup lends the sound an indistinct, open feeling and leaves lots of space. I heard the guys filling with delicious harmonies and counterpoint, a quite surprising empathy from the two horns and an easy, unforced, but inquisitive take on melody. This was not the jazzer as individualist heroic soloist. This was soloist as a searcher for purposeful lines and as a bouncing musical collaborator. There’s a reason for the responsiveness of the horns to each other. Lucian and Dan had played together from schooldays, through music school and into professional life. There were a few points where I felt the found harmonies and the unison lines were so close as to be telepathic. I hadn’t picked it up, but Alex mentioned a similar relationship between trom and bass. The high bass notes reach into tenor territory shared with trombone, and Alex spoke of enjoying this interplay. Even the drums came in on this, when spaces opened for tiny two or four bar solos. I heard history in the simple melodic concepts, but the present in some unexpected intervals and structures and a certain ironic humour in the take on melody. There was history, too, in the collective soloing, although the twisting and weaving through rich syncopations and polyrhythms was modern. I wasn’t surprised to hear a Dave Holland tune, because there’s a similar web of sound woven by that band, or to hear tunes by trombonists Nils Wogram or Bob Brookmeyer. But most tunes were by Lucian. I guessed it was a standing joke that the tunes had human names: James, Angel, Ray, Paul, Charlie and Victoria. Victoria was a lovely slow unison melody. I heard hints of Zoe Hauptman’s Buttercups and wondered if this might be a Sydney style, but the Hauptmans were also in Lucian’s school band/music school milieu and they still play together, so maybe it’s just this Canberra/Sydney coterie. What other impressions? Strongly syncopated pedals on bass and some wonderful bass solos there were common when the two horns dropped out; plenty of changes of time – fours and sixes and a five; easy swings and pre-bop sensibility on the Brookmeyer tune; volume at a subdued human level; careful articulation that confirmed for me their concern with melody.

This was open, informed, approachable music with a deceptive simplicity and I loved it. The Impermanent Quartet was led by Lucian McGuiness (trombone) with Dan Junor (alto sax), Alex Boneham (bass) and Jamie Cameron (drums).

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