10 May 2013

Out of South Africa

Mark Ginsburg imposes a gentle, respectful ambience and his music is the same. I asked Geoff his impressions and he mentioned melody. I’d been thinking the same thing. This was musicianship respectful of composition. The tunes determined the playing, not the other way around. Nothing seemed superfluous. Mark himself had a beautifully rounded tone of both tenor and soprano sax. You could luxuriate in tone alone, but there was also just lovely melody and solos that spelt out more melody. This is lyricism. His band felt the same: quiet, purposeful. That’s not to say there were no burners. I could hear Coltrane in Outside in, which Mark wrote after a McCoy Tyner concert. Later in the night, he offered the choice of introspection or a burner and seemed to want to play the quieter tune. In the end, he played both and they both were luscious. His background is South African and Jewish. They are obvious influences. He spoke of growing up in Cape Town, of apartheid, of blacks playing in the wings with white musicians because it was illegal for them to play on the same stage together. He played South African standards and Abdullah Ibrahim / Dollar Brand. And his masters thesis was on influences of Jewish cantorial singing on jazz improvisation. So I heard the influences in melody, not harmony or rhythm (despite African drums) or colour. The others sat nicely with this. Greg Coffin comped with chords and filled niches with lively right hand fills. I heard e-piano sound and a melodic sense from the Corea songbook. His soloing was post-bop left hand chording, right hand sax-like lines, with that nice turn of melody but also with a readiness to dissolve the bars and lose the one. He was partnered in this by Andrew Gander who pushed the excitement level with busy snapping snare and chunky little rolls. I noticed both of them, at one time or other, leading away from the beat. Not lost, though. It’s exciting as long as you hold your nerve and your mind in check to sit back to the groove. They did, several times. The bass is important here. It’s like an inversion, so when others loosen up, the bass holds true and straight. When it’s happening, it feels like the quote “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”, but Karl Dunnicliff’s centre held. He was consistently strong and implicit, stating the tunes, holding a line. This is not to say uninteresting; it’s necessary and strong. When all was more together, with more time and space and less bewilderment, he took some relatively undemonstrative but expressive solos, especially as they warmed to the second half.

There aren’t too many venues for interesting modern jazz bands, and there are lots of bands, so this outfit doesn’t play often. It was obvious how they settled to be sharper and more together in the second half. It’s something only frequency of playing together can achieve. The result is happy musicians and audience after a gig and this was one. Such a respectful presence with lyrical music and avid playing. Great stuff.

Mark Ginsburg (tenor, soprano saxes) led a quartet at the Gods with Greg Coffin (piano), Karl Dunnicliff (bass) and Andrew Gander (drums).

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