12 May 2012

An autumn serenade

I was late, but it was a buzzing crowd at the CGS Gallery when I arrived during Liam Budge’s set break: confident, friendly and chatty. Somewhat like Liam himself.

Singers do have a way, they have a presence, and Liam has it strongly. He emotes every word, bending knees, moving about the stage with the rhythms, leading strongly as a front man and percussing in support with nonsense vocal sounds. There’s a lot of his mentor, Vince Jones, in his presentation, the overt emotion and the hands crossed behind his back. Not so much the politics. At least at this stage, his presence is more simply musical and, when he writes, more personally emotional. So he performed Bye bye blackbird, but richly rearranged by Luke Sweeting in 7/4, and Autumn serenade, again re-imagined. One original was of lost love, forever a topic of music and also of youth. But his covers weren’t just the old standards. There was a Tom Waits and also a funky George Michael in the mix. This was rich variety, of performers and styles and grooves and sounds. His basic support was a piano trio, Luke, Jordan, Henry, but he augmented that for various tunes with Joe on alto and/or Tom on trumpet. I melted with some of Luke’s solos, but that’s to be expected these days. He is immensely strong, varied in improv, easily consonant or otherwise, and the piano gives him the most orchestral of instruments to play with. Henry introduced one tune with an attractive solo of percussive gentility where I noticed the thuddy tones of a floor tom damped with jacket over skin that contrasted nicely with a mildly played but sharply tuned snare. Jordan took the opportunity of the Tom Waits tune to let go with a fluent bass solo, and we consoled each other later about the clumsiness of the lovely-sounding double bass against the fluency of the middly-toned but easily-spoken electric. Bass doublers have it tough. On another tune, I noticed some lovely unexpected harmonies from Tom on trumpet against Liam’s vocal lines, and lifting fills with Joe on alto. But the voice is closest to human expression in music, and Liam is an overt, emotional, attractive character on-stage and off. Male singers aren’t too common on the ground and Liam, with his presence and depth, has convinced me they have a place. This was a very nicely presented and emotionally rich performance form Liam and his capable offsiders.

I must also mention the venue. The Canberra Grammar School Gallery may be short on lighting but it’s a wonderfully comfortable and even indulgent space, with grand piano, nice wines on tap and art to peruse in the breaks. Currently on display is the Mortimore Prize touring exhibition of realist art works. It’s not a large exhibition, but there are some decent painting skills (and impressive prices) on display.

Liam Budge (vocals) led a band at the CGS Gallery with Luke Sweeting (piano), Jordan Tarento (bass) and Henry Rasmussen (drums) and Tom Sly (trumpet) and Joe McEvilly (alto) sitting in on various tunes.

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