23 June 2012

Baghdad, maybe Paris

I heard Dave Rodriguez’s quartet as American music with an air of desperation: open plains, dry mesas, straight roads. Think of the film Baghdad Café, or perhaps Paris Texas, ie, road movies.The music was open, sparse. I heard drum’n’bass grooves, all sorts of guitars: screaming rock or jazz and reams of effects - echo and synth and loops and swells and wah and more, sampled voices. Someone commented how broad is the jazz palette these days. These are not standards and I’m not sure I heard any swing, but this music is informed by mainstream jazz skills. I remember Bill saying once how great a training ground were the standards, but this was even eights and solid ostinato bass. Ed was replete with his detailed, wonderfully dynamic and bodily-involved drumming, touching with all the grooves and melodies. Both Bill and Ed played some hugely expressive solos, tempered and lyrical but also with releases into furious cadenzas or longer passages. Ed was telling me after of the complexity of the drum rudiments that can be inverted and otherwise contorted to make hundreds of different patterns. You could hear this technical fluency in both these players: there’s intense application here. Casey was not so much right hand solos and left hand chords as rippling harmonies and minimalist change. He played solos that were integral to the music rather than flying over it but they still built energy and excitement. The tunes had titles like Open snow expanse in Middle-Eastern Europe or Sick new one. Fantasdick raised a chuckle when introduced and featured some hip-hop beats which I thought was apt. I saw the charts later, and they were also sparse. Bars of whole and half notes with moving chords and occasional dots, some eighth notes, and one long passage of sixteenth notes played unison. Brian suggested subtlety and finesse as descriptors. Keith mentioned Charlie Haden and the reference seemed right to me with his concern with song and melody and this floating unhurried feel. This was music that moves far from the jazz mainstream and will talk to many audiences. I enjoyed it immensely and I wasn’t alone.

Dave Rodriguez (guitar) led a quartet with Casey Golden (piano), Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums) at the Canberra Grammar School Gallery. I lost my photos so the promotional banner will have to do.

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