16 April 2012


The ANU Faculty under Mike Price performed over the weekend for ABCFM’s Sunday Live series. They played Miles. Not all or only Miles, but some renowned tunes from the First and Second Great Quintets and some originals that were influenced by the music of Miles. The Canberra Sunday Live series is quite varied but jazz is out of the experience of some attendees. Before the concert, host John … asked the audience to check out where the exits were in case of fire. Was he expecting burning licks, I wondered. Then as I left, I found it amusing to overhear regulars commenting that “some have classical training” but they had enjoyed it well enough so good on them.

There’s some awe in performing live from Llewellyn to the nation, and I guess the world over the Net. First up, the band looked quite serious and played fairly restrained solos, but they soon relaxed and muted smiles started appearing. The first tune was hard-bopper Nardis, played at a very moderate pace and surprisingly effective like that. Then Contessa S, an original led by Mike, a meditative guitar trio tune coming out of a visit to Barcelona. I was realising the acoustics were not good. The horns were loud, sometimes huge; the drums and guitar were distant and the bass was only just present. I listened to the performance later from the website, and it sounded great: Eric’s bass was full toned and Mike’s guitar comping appeared and added immense colour to the accompaniment. Llewellyn is not generous to jazz or amplified music. Then two tracks from the Second Great Quartet, from 1965, the band with the “elastic definitions of tonality”. Wayne Shorter’s Iris was melancholy or perhaps wistful; Ron Carter’s Eighty One was a threatening rock groove presence with sudden, snapping resolutions. Miro has told me he was greatly influenced by Miles in his days, and I felt a real comfort in his solo on this tune. I thought Eric’s bass solo was strangely bluesy, but it worked against a march-like figure from Mark on drums. Then MDE, an original from Miro dedicated to Miles with dreamy first and third parts separated by a funky middle: both styles were nicely reminiscent of Miles from the jazz-rock era. Two nice throwbacks to pre-fusion Miles followed. Whoops is a melody by John over Coltrane’s Giant Steps changes. This was foot-tapping hard swing over those challenging, cycling chords. It was a vehicle for what I thought was John’s most unbridled solo on the day. John’s unbridled solos are always a pleasure. Then an up-tempo take on All Blues to end. A big concert hall is not how I most like to hear jazz: it really is an intimate form for clubs and late nights, but this was still a pleasure. It was more restrained but very professional and informed and a short touch on the importance of Miles.

Mike Price (guitar) led the ANU School of Music Faculty Ensemble with John Mackey (tenor sax), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Llewellyn Hall for ABCFM’s Sunday Live.

No comments: