02 February 2013

Original Lofty

It’s good to see Luke Sweeting’s band opening the season at the Loft. He’s a kingpin in the existence of the space after he found it and its grand piano to do his daily practice. Luke’s on tour with a very impressive band playing tunes that we’ve heard before, but that seem to be more mature, more richly embellished. This really is good writing: diverse, colourful with horn harmonies and interplays, with sections that sit satisfyingly although with some tension, and neat little written interludes to join one section to the other. And with plenty of space for solos for all players.

And what good players! Luke himself is strong as soloist and composer, but also as a comping support and otherwise as aware leader. The rhythm section is always mobile and encouraging. James held some ostinatos with long intervals and movements over the fingerboard with good intonation and reliable feel and read dots with considerable fluency, notably some satisfying unison lines with piano (what a nice sound!) while Finn busily coloured the whole, playing over the kit and over the groove. It’s a modern sound, tapping on the 1-3 rather than swing’s 2-4, the bass stating the chordal movements, settling ostinatos or syncopating chord tones, and the drums busily working over the whole, implying rather than stating the beat. Both were comfortable in solos, too. I particularly enjoyed an early bass solo (I think he took two) that was broad in pitch after an initial simple statement of intent. I was recording and I thought several times that I’m glad I’ve got this gig. So it was with the horns, too. This was a front line of alto, trumpet and trombone, all very strong, as a well intoned section or as improvising counterpoint players or as soloists. Different, though. The order of first solos was Matt, Ken and James and I kept thinking they can’t get any better. Of course, they were just different rather than better, and all were so satisfying. Matt was fast, building from thematic to screeds of notes, contorted and playing with dissonance, as saxists do. Then Ken came in, surprisingly quiet and sweet for a trumpeter, stating tonalities and running chords with ease and control then playing with octaves and intervals and phrasings. Then James, experienced and wily, deeper, initially more obtuse and playful and all over the tonalities and modes, then more orthodox, sliding notes or more clearly stating the changes. Then later, from all three, airy counterpoint and microtonality, all whale tones and distance and airiness. It’s another sound that I recognise as contemporary. But that was another composition, after the break. I noticed the second half was more inquisitive and undemonstrative than the first, although the gig ended with Fatty, one of Luke’s most lively and popular compositions. He’s got several like that, with snippets of melody that sit nicely and feel right for humming to yourself as you drive home after the gig or next morning in the shower. It’s a great skill to have, to write a catchy melody.

Suffice to say I enjoyed Luke back at the Loft. The band’s off on tour and it will only get sharper (there were a few little slips, but so what?) and those horn parts will just get sweeter. This is truly a local product with a long way to go. A relaxed and easy gig with gilded compositions. Luke Sweeting (piano, compositions) led his sextet comprising Matt Handel (alto), Ken Allars (trumpet), James Greening (trombone), James Heazlewood-Dale (bass) and Finn Ryan (drums).

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