4 August 2012

Colour against the dark, part 1

It was a double bill at the Loft: Rohan Moore’s Songbird Project followed by the Alex Raupach Dectet. By the end, I was stunned by the invention, creativity and sheer hard work to get together such a complex program. I find every jazz session in Canberra at the moment is tinged with emotion – dread or sadness at loss or even anger. It’s all related to the Music School changes, of course. So it wasn’t surprising that I left feeling it’s downhill from here. Someone mentioned there will be no teachers, at least no specialist teachers of instrumental studies (an hour a week with someone outside the school just doesn’t count in this context) and the joke in witty reply was that this is the perfect teacher/student ratio: infinite, ie, no students, no teachers. Black humour abounds. But black sets off colour, so how was the concert? Intelligent, mostly original, varied and skilled. What we love in jazz. But these were two very different bands.

Songbird Project is a quartet in standard guise: tenor, piano, bass, drums. Rohan Moore leads from drums and composed all but the first tune, Nunu by Avishai Cohen. Given that Rohan’s a drummer, I wasn’t surprised by rhythmic games and oddly timed hits and polyrhythms and varying time signatures but I also found some decently satisfying melody that repeated neatly and arrangements that fit well with the band. This was not head/solo/solo/head. Piano and sax got a number of solos with the band, but pianist Tate also played alone in the middle or to start a tune, playing wide ranging stylistic variations, dropping into stride or diminished substitutions. I am generally taken by piano, but Tate is clearly a name to watch, huddled and beanie-clad and stylistically catholic. Max took a supportive role in this outing, but his one solo was delightfully softly-toned and playing nicely with rising and falling lines. I still think of Miles in terms of his stay in NYC (because of FB updates and some subsequent chats). I enjoyed what I thought were ‘70s influences in his playing: deliberate melody, varying intervals over extended ranges, long flourishes, occasional cut tone. Rohan was outspoken in solos and harsh in one tune dedicated to the ANU (a metal tune called Fury). This is emotionally tender ground. But there was also lyricism in a ballad dedicated to lost love (If we ever meet again), lively rollicking attractiveness (Misconception) and feathery lightness contrasting with syncopated hits (Marion’s rooftop). This was some skilful playing, but what I most took from it was maturity in composition and arrangement in a contemporary style. The band’s name sounds more like girl folk duos to my ears, but this was serious and skilled contemporary jazz. The Songbird Project was led by Rohan Moore (drums) with Tate Sheridan (piano), Miles O’Connell (tenor) and Max Alduca (bass).

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