22 April 2018
Who needs NYC
Yeah, it's a big call and somewhat in jest, but there's great music in any decently sized city that I've visited and I saw some truly great music the other night at Smiths. It was Warwick Alder, Sydneysider, with our local cream, Brendan Clarke, John Mackey and Mark Sutton. Suffice to say, this was stunningly good and presentable on any stage anywhere. The style was somewhere around hard-bop-cum-post-bop with a touch of free from John. The skills were exemplary. The clarity of vision and inherent humour and good nature along with the awareness of history and a deep personal history of all players were evident. These guys just play like gods and I could just sit and smile. There was a certain bluster, not least as Warwick joked with the audience, but clear was the immense knowledge and long experience of all the players. Just stunning solos all round. Fabulously easy harmonies thrown out by the front line. Strong shared eights and fours from Mark. Blissful solos at all time from Brendan. Clarity of intent from Warwick and yearning sheaves of colour from John. Warwick was the melodic one, but trumpeters always are. There's something about trumpet that makes for melody. On the other hand, sax is all flourishes and screeds and colour and John does that with consonant or easily dissonant chops at will. Brendan just plays the most easy but adventurous embellishments and the most deceptively simple solos. And Mark who lays busyness and washes over settled grooves and then takes eights and fours with ease and variety. And this is over the most standard of American standards: I'll be seeing you, Darn that dream, Quasimodo. Interestingly, starting the first set with a trumpet trio (trumpet, bass, drums playing I'll be seeing you) and the second set with a duo (trumpet and bass playing Falling in love with love). Plus a fast blues (an Ellington gig requirement) by Warwick and a funkier, distinctly '70s jazz tune called Message song by a influence of Warwick's (Dave van Kriedt, mate of Brubeck and Paul Desmond, who had visited Australia to lecture at Wollongong when jazz studies started up here) and Brownsville, by Warwick's long-term bandleader and national jazz elder, Bernie McGann. What to say other than that this was a world-worthy night in our intimate venue. We were blessed.
Warwick Alder (trumpet) led a quartet with John Mackey (tenor), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Smiths.