17 March 2014

When Simon met wonder

I'm listening to Reina De La Pileta a as I write this. It's the album launched the other night at the Street Theatre by Simon Milman with Wanderlust. Simon composed the music. it's strongly influenced by his latin background and interests, and it's very good. I've admired Simon's compositions and performances for some time. Whether Ornette-influenced or Latin or whatever, his work has purpose. The launch was in the Street Theatre 2, an intimate performance space, with a few wide rows of seating and a good PA and an upright piano. Fabian was unavoidably absent and ably replaced by Steve Marin. Otherwise, this was the Wanderlust we know and love. James and Miro up front, forming perfect harmonies and Miro in some of the best form I've heard with clarity and perfectly formed notes and inevitably correct phrasing and sweeping scalar responses. James seems to be playing more trumpet these days, so he was on trumpet, pocket trumpet and trom and a few beats on cajon. Again, always impeccably phrased and intoned lines. Alister withheld his playing with some immensely simple but well placed small chords that fit latin and one reggae feel, but then laid out some solos that floored me and that we mates talked about after the performance, delving into syncopations and sequences and then into a delicious free jazz of colour and magnificent in conception and performance. This was not a gig of solos, although everyone had at least one - the horns had plenty - but from the relaxed grooves, these solos just emerged with intent and energy and they all were lessons in melody and structure. Then Jeremy, who mostly played supportive parts and also laid out at times, but took a few driven Scofield monster-solos and I think one on nylon strung acoustic, but his playing that floored me was some richly dissonant chording in one of the tunes that said Bitches Brew to my ears. Very prominent and just fabulous. Simon, too, was mostly supportive (he could have been louder in the mix) rather than flashy, but his solo was a lovely melodic statement with real connection and no phony flash or flourish, more than just a bop overlay over the changes. Drummer Steve was sitting in, apparently at short notice, and he did the job admirably, laying rhythms and nicely snapping the snare, and his solo was a cracker that not just Miro and ever-supportive James were admiring. Wanderlust is a band of long standing with mature musicians and an engaging repertoire. Simon's compositions did them justice and vice-versa. The first set comprised tracks from the album and the second had more album tunes and some Wanderlust classics and Simon's take on Cold Chisel's Khe Sahn. After the intro, I guessed this would be Khe Sahn (I knew Simon had arranged this tune) but even then I only caught one phrase in a 10-minute rendition. James' comment at the end was "Where did that come from?" It wasn't at all obvious, but it was another goody. Congrats to both Simon and Wanderlust for an enticing evening of exceptional playing. Truly impressive.

Simon Milman (compositions) launched the album Reina De La Pileta / Wanderlust meets Simon Milman. The performers were Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), James Greening (trumpet, pocket trumpet, trombone), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Alister Spence (piano), Simon Milman (bass) and Steve Marin (drums).

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