6 February 2014

Doyens


Jonathan Zwartz used the word to describe his band, that they were doyens of the Australian jazz scene. No doubt! This was a display of such excellence and skills. I was flabbergasted. There were time I sat back in wonder. The music was composed and structured, although not so complex. The harmonies from the front line horns may move with tiny steps, minimally. what that did at times.
Or they could site with whale calls or breathing but never forced of uncomfortable. There were solos and they glowed, but what I noticed was that they never jarred. Every line was just right, whether blaring with notes or just laying out a substitute melody. These guys all played together frequently, I guess, in different incarnations, but this was more: intonation, intent, interplay always just so right. And this band could just sit. It's actually hard to just sit with purposes. It can seem uninteresting or unresponsive but this glowed because it just sat when it should, never jarring although maybe playing madly with tension. Some drum fills just went on forever and welled with tension and its release. Then the piano would drop chords of unwavering precision. But then all this was just that: unwavering precision with taste to embellish. There were solos but this was more the compositions than the solos to my ears. The sustained perfection, the lengthy crescendoes and endless last fade were like a recording although with the immediacy of live music. It may come from the goodwill: Jonathan was smiling lots and the others too. Or from the seriousness of the compositions: all had a story behind them, of family or feelings. There were varied influences: everyone mentioned Bitches Brew for one tune where the horns explored seemingly free and there was a Donny Hathaway soul tribute with a blistering guitar solo that moved through free and screams. There were some ballads that had trumpet speaking with delicacy and another with a delicious combination of trombone and bass clarinet. And another that was free over a sustained but malleable bowed bass ostinato. This is about as good as it gets, Australian or otherwise. Music that's wise and emotionally informed played by doyens of the art. Spectacular. Gasps are in order.

Jonathan Zwartz (bass) led a sextet with Phil Slater (trumpet), Richard Maegraith (tenor, bass clarinet), James Greening (trombone), Matt McMahon (Rhodes piano), Carl Dewhurst (guitar) and Tim Firth (drums).

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