12 June 2013

Finally Merimbula 3

I caught one of two sets of the ANU Big Band under John Mackey. Big it is: 30 performers including eight singers. As you’d expect, it was lively and well turned out. I felt comfy from the first vibrant chords of a Bill Liston chart, and it was a roller coaster ride from there. Woody Herman played on bass clarinet and clarinet; a vocal choir performing Easy to love; a Bach cello suite performed on 6-string e-bass by Jack Schwenke. The Music School now joins students from jazz and classical backgrounds, so we get an idiosyncratic performance. Strange, yes, but also interesting.

Mark VI included several players I was to perform with in my own band, so I had to catch them. They are led by trumpeter Mark Durieu, performing hardbop and the like: David Sanborn, Scotch & soda, Sugar. It’s entertaining music and hardly profound, but I’m sure it doesn’t claim to be. These are good musos: good readers, good soloists, correct and capable. You can see the Army Band connections in the reading and accuracy and occasionally in the haircuts. I particularly enjoyed Noddy’s drive, Baba’s fluent solos and Barney’s easy reading. Barney had to do the set on double after he’d left his guitar strap in the car, but I didn’t notice anything lacking. Mark VI were Mark Durieu (trumpet), Rouslan (Baba) Babajanov (sax), Douglas Hill (piano), Richard Manning (guitar), Scott Temby (guitar – not sure he was playing this set), Barney (Benjamin) Briggs (bass) and Derrick (Noddy) Brassington (drums).

Don’t tell Megan, but I went to a jazz service. Well, actually an ecumenical gospel service, as I was informed by someone leaving a local Anglican church. It was in the Catholic church, an unfortunate ‘60s A-frame construction with a priest who mentioned Parsifal and his preferences for other than jazz. He railed against ideology and at one point even questioned Papal modernism. I can respect tradition, but I felt a chill breeze of Pellucid conservatism about this man. The readings were Psalms 158-160, all praise to the Lord. Some lines from the “responsive prayer” sounded like piffle to my ears: “Let us raise to the limits of time / And behold Your eternity / Let us run to the edges of space / And gaze into Your immensity”. I prefer words like “Blessed are the peacemakers”. I often hear music in churches these days; they can be some of the best spaces for music. This was jazz and gospel singing. Rhythm Syndicate was choir; Pippa Wilson was singer with a decent, mature, traddie band. The songs were Swing down chariot (what is it about chariots in gospel music?), Amazing Grace, God bless the child (lovely!); I believe (credulous pap to my ears); Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (deeply uncertain and earthy and a paen for our times); He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother (unfortunate); Put your hand in the hand (lively) and When the Saints go marching in (inevitable). I enjoyed this. I sang along and searched for harmonies, no doubt annoying the couple in front of me, but it was fun and it loosened the vocal chords.

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