27 April 2014

What shape is that?

A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat, as seen on the Nile and Red Sea, distinguishable by its triangular lateen sail. Felucca (proper noun) is also the name of a contemporary jazz trio and I heard them the other night at Smiths. Not sure if I can see the connection but I enjoyed the music. The jazz Felucca was a sax trio with tenor sax and a distinctive aluminium strummed bass, sparse syncopated feels and long and intense crescendos. There's very little swing here, but this is the nature of current jazz. Abel's strummed bass was the identifiably different element, processed, metallic and ringing, strummed chords and pick. It was only very seldom that he played single notes and these were 4-to-the-floor rock feels that soon returned to syncopated strums. Drums were mostly acoustic and one tune started with a driving solo, but they, too, went digital when Paul processed through a drum machine, for deep echoes and stretched pitches. I liked this. New sounds, rock presence. Against this, a single tenor sax seemed simply toned, played without effects into a mic, but this was contemporary playing so nothing too obviously diatonic. The changes were rock-like, perhaps 4-bar phrases with a change each bar, but there was readiness to dissolve to free, or hold to a heavy psychedelia. It was mostly strong, driving playing, even if spacious, but there was gentleness, too, with some floating tunes of plectrum scrapes and heavily echoing bass and African rattles and pensive sax and cymbals. This is Sydney music, one band of many out of the JazzGroove stable, always interesting and probably performing too seldom. Contemporary jazz is a demanding form and not heavily attended, despite its obvious authenticity. A few aspects make this band new to my ears, especially the role of the bass, and so it is. There's a world of adventure in these combinations that visit us from Sydney. That's the nature of a developed jazz scene and Felucca is a comfortably inventive part of it.

Felucca are James Loughnan (tenor sax), Abel Cross (bass) and Paul Derricott (drums) and this is worthy invention with contemporary awareness and touched with some electronic freedom. Trangular, like the sails? Yeah, maybe, but the rhythms are square rigged.

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