21 June 2014
How could you ... walk on by
I had expected standards but these were different. John plays a favourite set of jazz tunes that I’ve heard numerous times. I expect it’s his approach, to develop some key tunes through extensive practice and performance. But this take was different. In a sentimental mood was played at the end and it was a thing of beauty as a straight and gloriously lyrical jazz ballad. But Invitation and So what were approached differently, as deep grooves with floating modal colours and a wonderful conversation between guitar chords and sax, laid back despite musical tension, sitting over driving percussion and insistent Fender bass. I was tapping my foot and some dancers got up in the second set. John thanked them and noted that he seldom plays for dancers (jazz can be so cerebral). I noticed the volume rose with the dancers and the auditory clarity suffered, but I thought the performance was more collegiate and more distilled. Mostly this was jazz rock in the late-60s Miles style and Mahavishnu played at least once in the break. I loved the excitement of guitar sweeps from Greg. Also some effects and echo and pedalled sweet guitar notes. Mark drove this all as always, spelling out a changing rhythmic structure and Lachlan was just insistent, unrelenting on bass. John wasn’t feeling the best but he still blows most anyone away. I think the dancers were new to this scene and gradually just settled, looking on in wonder and admiration at the evident skills. This is tireless music. I found I was tapping on the 1-3 or 1-2-3-4 other than for Freedom jazz dance that had me return to the offbeats. I often look out the windows at Smiths, when the music is particularly compelling, expecting a huddle at the door and wondering how passers-by can pass by. But they do. Some old favourites played with groove-laden beats and chops and adventure and familiarity. Great outing.
John Mackey (tenor) led a quartet with Greg Stott (guitar), Lachlan Coventry (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Smiths Alternative.