23 February 2014
Steve Barry and Alex Boneham arrived in white shirts and bowties. I felt underdressed. They had played at the opening event for a new suburb. A musician's life is a string of diverse experiences. They were there to play with Alex Raupach and Mark Sutton. At least they looked casual. Not that the music is casual. As expected, this is deadly serious, even if with a jazz nonchalance.
The dress sense gradually dissipated, but the music didn't lose a beat. They started with Ron Carter's Eighty one. It's just a blues, but with a luscious Milesian floating feel with a sudden flourish in the head. Then a few standards and a few originals from Alex R. There were walks in some standards, but also interpretation that grew out of but almost concealed the underlying tune. Alone together was introduced with a bass solo, presumably in the D min key but it was some time before I even recognised this old favourite. Also Just friends and Wayne Shorter's Fall from Miles' album Nefertiti. Steve took an early solo with a long-sustained right hand 8th note line that ran on and on through choruses and gradually grew in dissonance. I was wondering how he'd escape. Eventually he doubled time for a few choruses on 16th notes then dissolved into chords. Fabulous. He set a bit of a theme for the night. Alex B had played a perfectly melodic and richly phrased solo earlier, but then dropped into his own sustained 8th notes on bass, although for one a few choruses. Ales R had a go later, too. Otherwise, he felt more Miles ethereal or sometimes boppy. Mark just laid out lovely steady grooves with tasteful fills and embellishments, always precise and neat. This is just so nice to play with: driving and unpretentious. I only remember one drum solo, of swapped 8s or 16s, again sharp and precise and free of flash. This is professional stuff and I'm in awe. I looked around out the windows at Smiths a few times, expecting the passersby to be peeking in in awe. Some do look; some come in. But too many just pass by on their way to bars or moshpits. Sad, that, but thus is the state of our rich and varied and too often too commercialised civilisation.
Alex Raupach (trumpet) led a quartet with Sydney visitors Steve Barry (piano) and Alex Boneham (bass) and local Mark Sutton (drums) at Smiths.