2 April 2014
There was much glee around James Greening (there usually is). This time it was about his frequent gigs here recently in Canberra. It's too bad that Andrew Robson and the rest of the band haven't been here so often of late. This was an eclectic outing, intelligent and varied and unexpected. Several times Andrew's baritone sax gave a funky Mingus or New Orleans groove when he took that up. But then another time he played a trio with bari, bass and drums and this was smooth, sleek, melodious. He liked to vary the instrumentation, too. It wasn't at all surprising that the front liners played bari/alto, tenor/soprano and trom/pocket trumpet. But it was surprising that James or Sandy left the stage for various tunes, and even more surprising when bassist Steve left. That was on Flex, a Jackie Orszaczky funky-blues dedication, where the bari took the bassist's role. There were some other dedications, too, to musicians Andrew has played with. Two watch Bob was a dedication to fellow 10 Part Inventionist Bob Bertles from a quip by Miro Bukovsky. This was a slow, lumbering groove with a jauntily lyrical melody (played without Sandy). A march, Sound the trumpet ring the bells, was also introduced with a story of Jackie Orszaczky. I heard Jackie O too infrequently, but he's one of those musicians with immense admiration amongst his peers. John Pochée was recognised with the opening tune called The Alchemist. This one featured two solos, alto then tenor. Against the alto solo, the band dropped out to leave just drums in support before returning; against the tenor solo, the remaining support was bass. Andrew wrote something similar in the piece I found most impressive for the night, Texas Ranger, which was bluesy with some fast bop, and twisted and playful like Ornette. What little I've written has been most successful when I used an idea, even an arbitrary idea, as a formulation, so his palindrome doesn't surprise me. It's called Glenelg and it's a musical palindrome (spelt the same forward and backward). It's a busy 8-to-the-bar on bass with a slow melody over and solos that decay to free then to recover the melody with drums taps on 3,4. BTW, we learnt that Steve is a cryptic crossword filler and he'd recognised the palindrome immediately. Combover was a light take on early jazz with frequent changes. These tunes were from a new CD that this quintet has just released. Unlike his previous albums, this was unthemed; Andrew just wanted to record a group of favourite tunes, so the varied nature is no surprise. I reckon I'd heard a few before. It was a joyful band, too, led by Andrew's smiles and James humour and Sandy's good will. James has been a total pleasure to hear so often of late: wonderfully lyrical while playful and wearing dissonance so lightly. I enjoyed Steve's understated firm and restrained bass playing and Hamish's presence and sympathetic playing. Andrew's presence is light and friendly, but his playing is intelligent, as is Sandy's expressive sax; I especially enjoyed the soprano this evening. Andrew is a Cnaberra boy and we need to see more of him. This was a great outing with a varied repertoire of pleasurable performance and underlying intelligence.
Andrew Robson (alto, baritone) led a quintet with Sandy Evans (tenor, soprano), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet), Steve Elphick (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums).