14 June 2014

Java has history

Java Quartet have a history. Twenty years and seven albums and counting. They appeared at Smiths last week for the launch of their latest album, Together. Interestingly, last time I heard them was for the launch of their sixth album. The gig was the album, plus an encore or two, played in order. Starting gently as a quartet with The Hill song, a gentle groove with intense solos. That was the way with the outing. It's laid back, meditative; the grooves are unhurried. Solos grow organically from a limpid presence of relaxed bass and minimal, repeating melodic phrases. But there's development and power that appears with inevitability in solos. Greg's piano blisters with lengthy but tightly built scalar phrases that move through various dissonances. Matt is more open and his lines have bigger intervals, but there's a similar expansive modernity about it. I was trying to place bother these two and it's somewhere in the sixties. Mike's solos are more restrained, unfussy. The percussionists each take their features, and the blend of drums and tabla gives a rich undercurrent of rhythmic movement and colour. Tablas sing with absurdly quick tika and it was a pleasure to see up close how this is done. Bobby's not a core member of the quartet but features on this album and is a frequent collaborator. His hands blur as he lays down some of the quicker passages, of fingers flash to tap the different tones. It's a different sense of rhythm, expressed in vocalisations, too, and it was such pleasure with Mike's sympathetic drumming. I liked his solos, too. Morganics came on in the second set for a few DJ raps. They were pleasantly political, too; one about asylum seekers; one about Aboriginal land; another just about Canberra. It was claimed as freestyle but it seemed just too clever for an improv. I am a novice in such poetry, though, so I guess it was. If so, I am impressed. It turns out that Morganics has a Canberra connection too, so he may have been reasonably acquainted with his topic. Certainly, it was local. So, this was laid back in presentation but intense in release; nicely modern in jazz and ethnic in percussive colour and contemporary in vocal lyricism. Something old; something borrowed; something new.

Java Quartet are Michael Galeazzi (bass), Matthew Ottignon (tenor), Greg Coffin (piano) and Mike Quigley (drums). One their new album, Together, and at this gig, they added guests Bobby Singh (tabla) and MC Morganics (vocals)

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