14 August 2012

Night of extremes, pt.2

The other extreme was far less profound and far more sheer fun. Laurence Ku led an organ trio with Norwegian organist Steiner Nickelsen and renowned ex-Canberra drummer Nick McBride. Swinging organ trios have become popular of late and I’ve seen several in the last few years. This one is from Shanghai and was a blow out. This music is not meant to be a great cerebral experience. It’s hot and alive and seriously partying and this band did it justice. There were some tunes with out playing, but the essence of this music is tonality, swing, feel, dynamics. Laurence was playing pentatonics but they were seriously interesting. Great, alive, staccato lines spanning the fretboard, little stops to punctuate the solos, concentration released in smiles. The band obviously has a good time with music like this. It’s a game, too, although perfectly serious. I loved their openness. There were a few grimaces on the faces when they went for something that didn’t come off, but this is all part of the overt play. And I the band dynamics were astounding. It’s strange, because some of the individual dynamics were limited, especially the guitar, but overall, there were serious dynamics. Players dropping out, leaving a duo even a solo organ. The organ itself continually but subtly changing in volume and tone. But especially Nick’s drums that followed the flow, stating melody and responding to improvisation but never just mimicking. This was flowing, busy, diverse sounding drums and you could see every touch was individually formed and controlled. Maybe because there was no bass, but I sat in awe at nick’s flowing expressiveness. Again, I noted some grimaces, but any muso knows this happens on the edge, and any party muso knows that’s where you play. This was a tour de force to my ears. But that was just my focus for the night. Steiner’s organ was rip-roaring with nice bluesy lines formed and reformed and developing into blistering flourishes of that uniquely attacking but also sustained organ tone. I guessed he played with two keyboards on his Nord and he definitely a one octave footpedal under his left leg and a swell pedal under his right. It’s a busy job, and perhaps approaches drums for limb independence. They mostly played originals, a series of Pictures 1,2,3,4 by Laurence and several by Steiner. I heard lots of odd times and time changes. One count seemed to be 11/8 split as 6-5 then some triple feels then 11/8 as 5-6, but I’m never sure of these things. Suffice to say, it works musically but sits oddly until you get the count, but then it moves again. It can be flummoxing. They played a take on Poinciana and a considerably changed take on I’ll remember April which they called I can’t remember. But overall, this is music that doesn’t hide its honour or skills behind the bushel. It’s overt, excitable, youthful, dynamic and such great fun. We all left with wide open smiles. Great fun and very much the other extreme.

Laurence Ku (guitar) led an organ trio with Steiner Nickelsen (organ) and Nick McBride (drums).

Interestingly, I caught the trio again at the National Press CLub on Friday playing with Mike Price. Just one pic.

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