10 April 2013

For the sake of melody

RAAN was one to close my eyes for. I heard them at the Front. It’s small and intimate. There are never many in the audience and the seats are comfy. RAAN mention that they are influenced by a range of jazz styles as well as Indian classical and European music. I know Nitya from way back and I expected no less. There is jazz here, but the chords are basic and long repeated. But harmonies are European; melody is Asian and Indian. Certainly, I could hear jazz in Nitya’s various saxes and flutes, but also a clear Indian influence. I closed my eyes and was taken away. One Alan provided a steady and mostly uncluttered bass from an interesting fretless acoustic bass. Other Allan’s drums sometimes locked the rhythm and gave it ongoing movement. I liked this, even if it’s a sign of a Western orientation. Othertimes, he played more freely, with colour more than solidity. Either, way, it worked. But perhaps the thing I most enjoyed was the interplay of horn and piano. Pianist Raph is an elegant and clear player. I enjoyed how he echoed melodies from Nitya with melodic accuracy and a sharp rhythmic sense. So, with my eyes closed, I heard a more expansive music than I noticed with eyes opened. With eyes opened, the hords were simple and the rhythms repetitive. With eyes closed, the minimal world-music feel became exploratory and coloured and vibrant. There were substitutions and the like, but this was more a modal, melodic exploration. I have, just in recent days, looked again at the simplest of the Patitucci bass etudes to explore the scale degrees that his etudes are based on. In a major, he avoids the tonic as a passing note. In place, he highlights 7ths, 9ths, runs arpeggios outside 1-3-5, all with fingering apt to the double bass. It’s enlightening and the melodies it makes are different. This music had something of the same melodic feel within the scale. Just one scale, perhaps, but more than just obvious chordal notes to explore it. RAAN may sound more world than jazz to me, but it’s all so mixed up these days that these distinctions are of little purpose other than to orientate. RAAN paints a minimal picture, but it’s nicely expansive with eyes closed and ears open. RAAN are Nitya Bernard Parker (saxes, clarinet, flutes), Raph Wong (piano), Alan Lee (bass) and Allan Penicook (drums)

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