7 May 2014
Studio to stage
Blow sounded more like a recording than a live band. The horns merged into notes like brothers and the whole was unhurried, unfrantic, even though there was plenty of energy and action. Peter's sax had a tone that was full and he'd sit long on notes then respond with a simple line or a flourish, but never, ever out of place. His phrasing was a lesson in modernity. Ian's flugelhorn could blow like bop and it did sometimes, but it could also drop into rubato and verge on free. The era suited this, modern cum post-bop, some fairly obvious changes, some ostinato-based tunes, some standards of the era, You don't know what love is, Naima. I immensely enjoyed a Jobim tune, known as Double rainbow or Childrens' games or Chovendo na Roseira (it appears under all these names on YouTube). Also a final tune that was floored me with understated beauty, a floating rubato feel with closely felt melody played by the front line. I've never called anything spiritual here (too new age for me), but this was pretty darn close. The first set was more solid, post-bopish, ostinato bass; the second more open and perhaps adventurous. Their You don't know what love is started as a tenor ballad with a bridge of Coltrane swells, then moved to flugelhorn playing fleeting staccato against drums and piano. Bass entered and the band moved through various feels - swing, cacophony, rubato, double time swing, some latin comping and more - finally into a final piano solo of octaves and another cacophony. All right on the night, I expect. All very comfortable but musically daring. Ian explained he had played with James for 25 years, sleeping on floors, playing daily for hours. Ted and Bob had played together longer. Our Canberra intern, Gareth, is the newbie but was neat and evenly solid toned and often unobtrusive and modally exploratory in solos. Ted's drums were deceptive; open your eyes and they seem unspectacular; close them and they sometimes writhe, otherwise sit with intent. Bob's piano was probably the most bubbling, irrepressible instrument on the stage, not so much with comping, which was wonderfully rich in colour and modal movement, but more in solos or some single note backings that were as much concurrent soloing played busy and mobile. I liked this band. It's an era I love and I could close my eyes and it sat with studio-like discipline but also artistic intrigue. It takes years to sound this comfy. These guys had it.
Blow are a Melbourne institution. Ted Vining (drums) leads with Bob Sedergreen (piano), Peter Harper (tenor), Ian Dixon (flugelhorn) and Gareth Hill (bass).