20 March 2013

Paper art

Adam Simmons had CDs for sale in origami covers. How could you choose a standard cover? It’s so apt. The band is called Origami and it’s got Japanese simplicity in its chordless sax-trio format. I like this format lots. It’s open sounding, leaves space for counterpoint, it’s less defined, There’s plenty of opportunity for inventiveness and yet it has the rhythm section to groove. My feeling it that it must put lots of responsibility on the bassist, but Howard did it so comfortably. The other aspect that hints at Japanese asceticism is Adam’s choice of instruments. He plays all manner of instruments that you can blow. I remember a broadcast on ArtSound where he played an extensive range of reeds and flutes. In this band, he limits himself to alto sax and bass clarinet. Origami were playing to a small and committed audience at the Front. I noticed they (or I should say, “we”) weren’t young. That’s a worry. The Gen-Y locals were outside looking in and they got a treat. I saw no-one from the young jazz scene, but that’s going through busy times with changes at the ANU (best of luck to those who have the task of resuscitation). Coming to gigs like this could be part of it but days are young on that front.

Origami is an adventurous crew in terms of music as well as CD cover design. The first set was jazz takes of various Australian rock/pop tunes. Adam volunteered that he didn’t expect these to reach the songbook, but this is exactly how tunes get there. At least Prince and Stevie Wonder got into the books. It would be satisfying if more pop music was sophisticated enough to justify inclusion. Adam said he picked tunes that he grew up with, or just was attracted by, from melody or the groove; these days, the harmony is nothing special. So we got Gotye and Overkill and Michael Hutchens and The Reels. We also got a tune by Adam’s son’s music teacher. The band has recorded these on the CD Karaoke. I heard this as unpretentious, stepwise, cerebral alto playing from Adam, wonderfully full sounding and firm bass that lays an indelible foundation from Howard and colour and cymbals and movement from Hugh. Then Adam finished the set with an original called The Blues of joy, all Ornette-like alto bluesy melody and energy. This was from an earlier CD and suggests a very different side of this band. The second set was immensely different again. Adam took up bass clarinet and started with a lengthy section of circular breathing to start a suite called the Usefulness of art. He introduced it by talking of Rodin’s essays of the same name and of research showing increased empathy of kids raised with music. The Usefulnes of Art was a work of spirituality and intensity, with unison lines, features for each instrument and meditative repeating themes and long sustained passages of bass and clarinet and cymbals. I heard this as spirituality in the style of Coltrane’s Love supreme. So this was a concert of variation: pop, free blues and a spiritual suite … and a unique album cover. Origami were Adam Simmons (alto sax, bass clarinet), Howard Cairns (bass) and Hugh Harvey (drums).

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