07 November 2014
When in Brooklyn, do as
Spoke were totally unexpected and a pleasure and my favourite for Wang 2014. Why? Not for virtuosity, although they had this but carried it lightly. More for the clear work that had gone into the compositions, the ethereal chordless sound, the obvious enjoyment of the band and the pleasure they gave, the irony and contemporary nature of it all, the choice of some great covers, perhaps also the Brooklyn vibe of bicycle spills and pleasant street life they exuded. Like Roger Manins and his Hip Flask, this is a jazz band that entertains beyond the cognoscenti. Megan might enjoy it, and this is good. None of this is to say they were not serious or experienced or skilled. There was some great, forward bass playing and the trombone solos especially grabbed me. The alto was no slouch, either; nor was our Aussie contributor, drummer Danny Fischer. This was his band during his stay in NYC. Good enough that I bought their CD and subsequently the previous two as downloads. Their tunes were of real, ordinary things: Adriana (someone's girlfriend, I think, or maybe a new baby?) and Over the bars (about a bike spill) and Shanghai salsa (about renovations in the Shanghai apartment above waking the late night muso) and Melting (more serious, this, about water). And the covers were lovely things, or maybe they just appealed to me: Beatles' Blackbird (everyone has done it; this was nicely understated and undeformed) and Chaka Khan's Tell me something good (great tune, this) and Mingus' Invisible lady (not one I remembered; listening now, I realise it's a take on Sophisticated lady). This was some great playing, expansive but never flashy despite New Orleans references and a touch of free, but it's more a matter of sum of parts. There was lots of obvious work here, arrangements almost big-bandish, playing tight but light. Open feeling and infectiously joyous. No need to talk of individual strengths. This is communal and skillful but primarily a sheer pleasure. Put this one down to the joy of discovery.
Spoke were Andy Hunter (trombone), Justin Wood (alto, flute), Dan Loomis (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums).