20 February 2013
Where’s Satin Doll
I bought a CD download for the Marc Hannaford trio after their Loft gig and discovered an introduction by Jason Moran. This is good company. There were not too many people at the Loft for Marc’s gig and the start time was skewhiff due to travel and availability of gear on loan and the rest, but the gig was a great pleasure of abstruse compositions and instrumental vivacity and intimate presence. Marc mentioned that the second set felt like playing in the lounge-room and this was true, but the intensity and complexity were not something for relaxation: this was more for intellectual and emotional stimulation. I’m intrigued and dumbfounded by just how they do this. To my ears, these are the sounds of ﬁne music of early C20 classical, the dissonance and intervals and intensity. I heard bassist Sam playing piano before the gig. His piano also sounded of that era and I asked him what was behind that music. He played a few basic chords underlying his improvisation, just three note chords perhaps based on fourths, and talked of how he interpreted it rather than of scales or harmonies. I talked of it with Paul dal Broi in a break and we decided the notes are clipped (not always true) and the lines tend to staccato, there are sequences and long intervals, and I always think of the symmetrical scales (diminished and whole tones), but perhaps the attack or note formation is one key. It’s not non-harmonic music, but it is dissonant. It’s also composed. The ﬁrst set was a medley lasting about and hour and when it ﬁnished, Marc listed ﬁve tunes that they’d played. Similarly, the second set was two tunes over about 30 minutes. The solos merge with the heads in this music. It was only at the end that I became aware of a recurring head, when bass and piano left hand came into alignment, but even then I wondered if this was just particularly responsive improv. Earlier, I’d noticed Sam stop to ﬁnd charts so that was obviously the start of a tune. It’s easy to just fall into the immensity of concept and energy of performance. I found most value when I did just this: close my eyes and open my mind. The written melody that I caught was quite similar to Marc’s solo lines, but distilled and clariﬁed; but picking these heads is nothing like identifying Satin Doll. Jason Moran was positive but undescriptive when writing of Marc’s music. It’s got reams of inﬂuences and references but it’s also complex and challenging and something quite personal in conception. Best to just close eyes and go with the ﬂow. There’s a hurricane blowing outside but it can be calm and revealing at the eye if you go with it. Marc Hannaford (piano) performed with Sam Pankhurst (bass) and James McLean (drums) at the Loft. And just for interest and further astonishment, all three of them were playing on borrowed instruments.
Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart