03 December 2012


Liam Budge launched his CD last night. We were at the Abbey, with its earthy timber and imposing organ and arrayed PA and an impressive audience for a Sunday night. But still this was intimate.
Liam’s voice is plaintive and neatly controlled and often improvisational and here it was wonderfully close and present. The balance suited; voice and emotions and words matter here. The tense rhythm section under Liam was melodically restrained, but vehement like a compressed spring. This was powerful and emotive stuff, and it’s just the thing for a jazz vocalist. There’s been a reflowering of jazz vocalists in recent years, including several who are huge commercial successes. Most are female, but there are males too. The difficulty must be to retain authenticity in the commercial scene. Liam is certainly doing that. This is entertaining and intimate and thus sellable, but it’s more. There’s meaning is his words and originality in his arrangements and improvisations. He sang scat and it worked and not just as a period piece. This was effective, dissolving into echo and other effects – particularly impressive at a live concert. This was tradition and jazz chops but it was moulded with a Gen-Y ear. The tunes were a mix of originals and covers. The feels just sat ready to explode. I’m listening to his Bye bye blackbird on CD now. It’s a great song but not usually one for modern ears, but I’d heard it before at the Loft and it’s a killer. It sits, aroused but with a restrained surface, Chris’ bass holding things, Tim’s drums full of energy and sharps taps and rolls, Luke’s piano bouncy in chords and lithe in solos. This was the feel of the band. Not loud; controlled and careful but tense under the skin. This is black and white, film noir, suspense and longing. There will never be another you was similarly rearranged by Liam and Luke. Here’s it’s all medium-up swing and smooth trumpet but head and tailed with an accented, interrupted melody that retells the original then drops into a canny, hip vamp. These are common standards but manicured for an audience of lounge or tea room or grand stage. Liam’s intro to Stop this Trane was amusing. It’s his response to a John Mackey class in Giant steps and it’s well clear of Coltrane changes. Farewell was a slow ballad, bass solo, unison voice and flugelhorn; “we will begin, for you, to turn to”. San Diego serenade was a Tom Waits cover and an unexpected touch of light Californian rock with a pleasing jazz structure. Bettina was for his girlfriend, a ballad of touch and candlelight, intimate and quiet, accompanied by just bass and flugelhorn. They didn’t play This could be the start of something big, although it’s a jazz standard, but this concert may have been. Luke’s got amiability and feel and jazz chops and for singer’s it’s a world of opportunity. I’ll be watching and I’ve got a signed copy of his first CD. Break a leg, Liam. Liam Budge (vocals) led a band with Luke Sweeting (Rhodes, piano, organ), Ken Allars (trumpet), Chris Pound (bass) and Tim Firth (drums). Tom Sly (flugelhorn, trumpet) sat in for two songs.

We only caught two final songs from the opening act, Jess Pollard and Steve Barry. This is a Sydney pair, singer and keys, with some witty lyrics, curt phrasing and a delicious tremolo that wheedles its way into the high notes. Not enough to report on but I wish we’d heard more. Jess Pollard (vocals) paired with Steve Barry (Rhodes).

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