29 June 2012


Here’s one I didn’t want to miss. Niels is going overseas soon and Michael and Anna Azzopardi were in town so this gig. It’s enough to say there was some explosive playing and it was absolutely expected. This was Hippo, the music was mostly fusion/funk or thereabouts and the playing was exciting and awe-inspiring. Anna and Michael each provided some tunes and they were very good. Michael’s tunes had his busy, bubbly musical personality. Anna’s were a bit more restrained and generally with a richer harmonic underlay. They were all seriously presentable tunes and they lacked for little against Brecker Brothers and even Corea’s Spain. Anna’s violin was luscious. It’s an uncommon tone in jazz, but hearing Anna this night and one of her influences, Jean Luc Ponty, a year or so ago, I reckon that’s disappointing. It’s attractive, mobile, subtly synth-like (or perhaps it’s truer to say that synths are often like strings), sustained tone, and quite unlike anything else on the jazz podium and it sat well with Niels on tenor, in unison or in response or counterpoint. Niels swapped to flute for the head to Spain, but otherwise this was amplified tenor, sometimes effected. He also maintains a real melodic core, but lets go often enough with dazzling flourishes. This as mostly fusion, so there are furious heads and frequent odd syncopations and some devilish little finishes. It surprised me when they carried them off with limited practice (and good humour when it didn’t quite work) but they were good. This is also a boys’ world of solos. Michael was the essential explosive on stage. What to say to such joyful commitment and sheer virtuosity? I felt the solos could just ramble (or sprint) on indefinitely with new ideas, and these ideas all placed and released with ease and seriousness and bubbling excitement. Hands flailing; substitutions galore; organ or piano or synth or wah; whatever. And always just so apt. I recorded the gig and listened after with amazement at the correctness of the lines and, in Spain, the clear references to Chick’s own takes. But moving on to James, he too was a star. He was playing a Roland effected bass (apparently not midi) that was fuzzed or synthed or just plain clean, and he played massive, fast, easily over the whole neck and into the highest frets with a strangely thumb-free technique that hints at double bass. What a performance! Solid or funky grooves, rich ornamentation and speed and excitement. And loud. Great fun. Not least was Evan sitting at the kit, busy, sharp, clear, taking an occasional solo, picking up on band ostinatos, rhythmically mirroring the elation of the band around him. If I sound stunned, yeah I am. It was not totally unexpected, because I knew this would be a hot gig, but just realising how good this was. Listening back to the recording was an eye-opener, hearing lines that were more mushy in a noisy bar environment. There was some truly hot playing here that would grace most any venue. What a hot gig … and a large part was thrown together the night before. I’m impressed!

Niels Rosendahl (tenor, flute), Anna Azzopardi (violin) and Michael Azzopardi (keyboard) reprised their old band with James Luke (bass) and Evan Dorrian (drums) at Hippo Bar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great write up!
For all you gear heads who'd like to donate to my collection check out more info on my bass http://www.joness.com/gr300/GR-33B.htm
I've got the G88 with the GR33B, but would love a G77 with a GR77B!