27 August 2023

Taking me back 1

First up for a long session at Smiths was the Subterraneans.  They took me back to previous gigs and that Jaco-esque bass playing of Steve Hunter, of course, which no e-bassist could sit still for, but also for that era of jazz rock that I remember, all rapid (and from lesser bands often vapid) soloing.  But this was not that.  This was an exciting, toe-tapping, unrelenting outing of intriguing music.  Yes, it was up-tempo and loud, but the melodies played with varied long intervals over chords with rhythmic plays and the meters were odd and changing and the drums were solid and driving and the bass all fluid and intense and the solos to die for.  We had two wind players up front, James Ryan (ex-Canberra School of Music in its Manuka days) and visiting Netherlander Jeroen Pec with a range of flutes and an array of effects and another ex-SOM student Michael Coggins on guitar using very restrained effects (except for some outer spacey sounds on a JP tune) and quick clear tones on a lovely period-looking Maton.  And Steve Hunter on JB with rosewood neck and Jack Powell, long haired and almost metallic on  what else but a black Pearl drum kit.  I chucked, as did JR to hear a fast string of kick hits: presumably he had a double headed beater behind the kick although I didn't notice it again.  But the mix of sharp, undiluted power from those drums and the swirling mix of blister-speed finger picking and damped notes and convoluted sixteenth-note grooves just set a fabulous scene for complex melody and outlandish soloing.  OK, so it was a style for the super chopped kids but it's a blast of joy and humour and chuckles when you hear it like this.  Remember your first listen to Jaco or Stanley or Chick?  Like that.  And they were late in a NSW tour so tight.  Eye opening and seemingly impossible, but it was there on stage at Smiths and I was floored.  Loved this one!  And glad I kept the tissue in my ears.

The Subterraneans played Smiths early one Saturday evening.  The band comprised vistor from the Netherlands, Jeroen Pek (flutes) with James Ryan (saxophones, flute), Michael Coggins (guitar), Steve Hunter (bass) and Jack Powell (drums).  PS. the pic does them no justice.

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