1 September 2012

Jacam’s conversations

It was too short but very sweet. Jacam Manricks visited again from New York. I look forward to his visits. It’s a taste of jazz that I love. Not just in terms of sheer quality, although there’s plenty of that, but there’s a sincerity and commitment that shows in the skills and contorted but flowing sounds. This is intense and busy playing but the ideas flow succinctly and easily. I don’t feel here any clashes of conception, when someone can’t continue a scale to the top register or can’t carry on a sequence or can’t run the chords without a break and so drops into something that doesn’t quite fit. And there’s a strong sense of conversation between players. Maybe crossed but never of cross purposes: diverse, individual statements but easily stringing together. This is wonder to my ears.

Jacam led with his compositions of intricate melodies and unusual time signatures. He’s an intelligent and cerebral composer. Wandina was in 10/8 and based on a sax exercise in some extreme sax key that no-one ever plays. He mentioned Fb minor. Does it even exist? Enharmonic Emin expressed in flats? No matter. The next was Forbidden fruit which has unison bass/sax and a time signature I think I counted as 19/8 split 9-10. Then a Finnish tune which is a standard played at christenings, translated as Friend of children, but having a meaning more like a Higher being looking over a child. This was slower, Nordic, with bass space and mallets. Jacam had arranged and reharmonised it for his own child, as requested by his Finnish wife. Last was Cloud nine, all easy arpeggios, fluid responsiveness and moves in and out of seductive swing. I admired Jacam’s imbued skills, his ease with all registers, sustained patterns and easy chord transitions: all clear and modern, with awareness of tradition and with no careless atonality. The overall volume surprised me. The whole band played with intensity but with much restraint on the dial. Des’ bass was essentially conversational: that’s the word he used with me after the gig. Rhythmic throbbing in lower positions with occasional ventures to higher and neck positions. Even his solos were more concerned with feel and groove than scalar flair. Very nice and with musical depth. And Jochen was a master. He didn’t seem overly comfortable at this gig, but still this was subtle and vibrant and deceptively busy. I recorded it (with permission, of course) and listening back, I’m surprised by his busy accompaniment. It all looked so restrained on the night. One solo started with just snare and cymbal (and kick, I guess) and intrigued with just dissections of time; then plays with colour over the whole kit; then power and punch.

I don’t do it justice here, but this was subtle and skilled and conversational in the best modern jazz traditions. It was too short, of course, but for the full outing we’ll have to visit Manhattan or maybe 505. There was support, too. The band had run a workshop for Radford College music students before the gig and the Big Band performed as a lead in. The repertoire was Blue monk, Brick house, Moanin’, and What’s hip. Just one pic.

Jacam Manricks (alto sax) led a trio with Des White (bass) and Jochen Rueckert (drums). They were preceded by the Radford College Big Band.

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