21 May 2012

Bringing the world together

There were many representatives of the Australian world jazz community at the Loft when the Vampires came to play. Normal Vamp bassist, Alex Boneham, was not available so the catholics were represented by Lloyd Swanton and Wanderlust by Fabian Hevia (who happened to be in town). So we could expect reggae and Latin American pulses. I hadn’t expected Stanwell Park. I love the eclectic crosses of styles that we call world jazz - this blend of jazz sensibility with rhythms and grooves and melodies from beyond the Euro traditions. The visitors did a great job. I was floored by Lloyd, lightly played and fed by profound reading and easy playing chops. These were not easy charts to sit in on. Fabian mentioned 13 and 7 and perhaps 9 and I heard some very complex and unexpected syncopations and contorted ostinatos. Lloyd pulled them off with relaxed glances at the charts; stunning. Drummer Alex is all eyes, watching with a blank face and spelling out understated but nicely contorted rhythmic responses to the front line. Fabian was restrained. He’s never too overstated, and a few passages on cajon were richly defining of the tunes and enhancing of the grooves, but he seemed pretty unobtrusive this night.

The Vampires front line comprises the two composing horn players. Jeremy, on alto, had written most tunes; Nick, on trumpet, several others. They played 12 tunes in two sets. The tunes were short and purposeful but also richly embroidered and worldly attractive. Life in the fast lane could have been written by Ornette, and thinking back, Ornette’s influence was clear elsewhere, in rabid free, unison calls and a bluesy perception. The first tunes were warm-ups: few chords, easy changes, lovely simple and attractive melodies. I’d been surprised by the first tune starting with solo bass, given Lloyd was sitting in, but he is a master. The third tune was all Dave Holland to my ears: slower, less bouncy, thoughtful and opening up with rich solos and a counterpoint melody. Chellowdene was a bouncy uptempo 2-feel. Chellowdene is a street in Stanwell Park. I don’t know the reference but the patter suggested it’s shared, at least by Fabian. Euro schmarp was a take on adopting Norwegian fashion. Heston was rich with collective improvisation in the front line over a call-response bass line. On through the second set to the Ornette references. Jeremy’s alto was embroidered, frequently running solos with chords that moved chromatically, sidestepping the harmony, so plenty of dissonance. Nick was less dissonant but fast, clearly spoken and passionate. Trumpet and sax each lend themselves to their own statements and melodic inventions.

The Vampires were on tour for their third CD. I’m on tour as I write this, the day after the gig and on the XPT to Melbourne. The Vampires seem a long way away, but the world is all around us and the melodies and sympathy of this music, and the sheer skills and musicianship are still in my ears. This was wonderfully attractive music, wonderfully played, but also with skills to dream of, to luxuriate in the grooves and dream with the melodies. How deceptively easy it all is.

On this occasion, at the Loft and on this tour date, the Vampires comprised Jeremy Rose (alto), Nick Garbett (trumpet), Alex Masso (drums) with Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Fabian Hevia (percussion).

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