10 November 2012

Revisiting the ninth movement

It’s not right that bands should be so mature at 22. Movement 9 played jazz, not pop or rock. This is a complex art form, so how can Joe McEvilly compose and arrange and lead a 9-piece band of such quality in just his second year of tertiary studies? It just goes to show he’s talented and committed and he’s had quality training. And I’m not the only one who thinks it. They were heard playing one of their first gigs at Canberra’s Floriade and were invited to perform at the Wangaratta Festival, Australian’s premiere modern jazz outing. It was in these auspicious circumstances that Movement 9 performed for the final student concert at the Jazz School.

What a blast it was: a melange of styles, mostly original compositions but also clever arrangements played by a great band of the most capable students. You may wonder when you listen to their skills, but they are students. This night they invited several mentors, Eric Ajaye on bass, Miroslav Bukovsky on trumpet and John Mackey on tenor. All experienced and renowned players and all at ease with a band like this. Coltrane’s Giant steps is a favourite tune of John Mackey and Joe’s arrangement was a tour de force. He hadn’t just written harmonies for horns, but he’d reconstructed the feel and time sense to twist memories and still present a joyous playtime for the duelling pair of altoist Matt and tenor John. This was both a blow and a blowout, but also an ingenious rethinking of this challenging standard. That was the end of the night. Before this there were a string of different feels and times and styles: attractive, theatrical, commercial. This was clever writing and the performers played up to the opportunity. Strings of solos, trombone, trumpet, piano, bass, several drum explorations, the best I’ve heard from Henry on drums. These were big, bold sounds and indulgent grooves and they were an inspiration. Tate was studied and expansive as always, even if undemonstrative in stage presence. The trumpet pairing of Ax and Tom were in friendly but serious competition. Matt is just a master, always lyrically clear and never a faked note despite exuberant flourishes. Raf was all smiles and groove and chops as the bass doubler. I only remember one solo from Oshein, fat and bluesy. Patrick’s trombone got quite a workout. Joe himself, led from the bottom, on baritonesax, but he’s equally comfortable on alto. I think of Mingus with his heavy baritone parts and his compositions and think this fits nicely.

Other tunes? They open with a tight rollicking latin with Lola quotes and Cuban trumpets. Then a chart that could have come from variety TV, swinging lightly with a quizzical melody and cool solos. Then a blues-influenced medium tempo hard bop called Green dreaming. Then Wings with a Steely Dan influence that Joe admittedly that he garnered from his parents. Then Winter hymn, a touching secular melody. Then a blow on Supercollider, a favourite big band piece at the Jazz School, featuring the chops of much loved teacher Eric Ajaye. There’s another for composition teacher Miro, slow and with space for Miro’s trumpet and another drum feature. Then Cool change, a laid back cocktail bar latin. Then Pinoaks and that rebuild of Giant steps and a 7/4 groove and a final encore. This is clever and surprisingly mature and varied music. A fat and tight band sound and capable solos and some great writing. The band has done the dying jazz school proud. Eric Ajaye spoke to an assembled audience that students should live their dreams, despite the demise of our jazz school here in Canberra. These guys may be products of a dying institution, but they are proof that it was a success. This was a seriously mature and capable and involving band and I loved it.

Movement 9 is led by Joe McEvilly (baritone sax) with Ax Long (trumpet), Tom Sly (trumpet, flugelhorn), Matt Handel (alto), Oisin Smith-Coburn (tenor), Patrick Langdon (trombone), Tate Sheridan (piano), Raf Jerjen (bass) and Henry Rasmussen (drums). Eric Ajaye (bass), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet) and John Mackey (tenor) sat in for one tune each.

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