10 July 2015
It's exciting to watch a musician develop, through training and subsequent experience. I've watched Hannah James but it's some time since I've heard her play. She has family here in Canberra, but she hasn't played too often in recent years, at least not at gigs I could get to. In fact, it's 2 CDs since I've heard her play live, especially with her HJ Trio. It was a wonderfully mature performance. Jamie Cameron was drumming for this gig with just 2 practices under his belt and he did a nicely capable and committed job. The compositions were mostly Hannah's, just one from Casey and another cover from No Doubt / Gwen Stafani (that's something I didn't know: a common favourite for Hannah and me) and one favourite standard. The writing was pensive at times, often so on intros; there were some twisty melodies and Hannah, on bass, didn't excuse herself the unison line; there were stories to tell. Annie's revenge spoke of Blackbeard's pirate ship called the Queen Anne with a oddly delayed 5/4 groove. For Geoff was a dedication and commission for Geoff Page that could be swung or syncopated. They mostly swung it here. Number one had a Dave Holland Conference of the birds chordal feel. Richie Beirach's Elm was the standard but it was no obvious cycling Cole-Porter-esque piece. The other one didn't make it to either of the CDs but I liked the Corea-cum-Stanley Clarke feels. Effigy made it to both CDs in significantly different interpretations. Casey is a masterful pianist who I always enjoy. Listen to the recent HJT CD recorded for SIMA and be converted. Jamie was playing after just two rehearsals but was convincing. Obviously checking the charts and concentrating, but unleashing some highly delayed and unexpected solo syncopations on two snares. And Hannah was playing her best: intriguing, exploratory thumb position solos, steady accompaniment, mobile accompanying grooves with open and responsive sycopations. I love this style, less centred and precarious than swing but open and exploratory. It's what jazzers do now, now that swing is the stuff of, at most, tune for the night. It's exhilarating. Hannah and her trio are doing it with searching honesty and gentle panache.
Hannah James (Bass) led a trio with Casey Golden (piano) and Jamie Cameron (drums) at the Gods.