15 December 2023

Fly in, fly out

It was like being whisked away.  First I thought of NYC obviously, as that's a common site, but perhaps New Orleans was more apt.  The music was madly swinging with bass way on top of the beat and wildly, ecstatically driving and busy, but still that essential blues character.  This was swing and done hard.  We were at Smiths and the band was concocted from visiting players from Harry Connick's band that was playing the next night at the Canberra Theatre, but this was a club and we could hear these guys and see them close up and have a chat between sets.  My joke was to bassist Neal 'Sugar' Caine that I wouldn't shake his hand because it must be so strong.  He'd been playing with huge strokes and effort for loud notes and I guess it's from a history of playing jazz bass with no amp (unamplified jazz bass is hard work) but maybe form mainly playing gut.  And there was his partner Jerry Weldon, all slouched over his tenor, explosive and inventive but also dynamic with quiet phrases ... occasionally.  These were the leaders and they introduced the members and tunes.  The tunes were all standards and the style was swing, often very hard,  and the energy was 110% although there was a ballad.  Jerry would largely manage the solos and swapped fours for local Andrew Dickeson and to some degree for local resident Americans John Harkins and JC Styles and he'd lead a few more fills from a few more horns from Connick's band later in the night when they sat in for a few final tunes.  A jam session expanding with fellow internationals!  Not a common Canberra experience.   All that with that explosive energy that's the USA.  I see it as an element of desperation and love to hear it, although I'm wary of the winner society that's partly its source.  But it makes for commitment and that energy is a feature.  John Harkins was a bit more restrained although could be quick and could be chromatic.  JC Styles was crispy sharp and lithe with clipped notes.  The later visitors were Deon Tucker and Geoff Burke, respectively trom and alto, comfy and busy in the end of night loss of restraint.  We were all smiles at this stage, amused and amazed by the energy that can be unrestrained swing.  Lucky and worthy local Flynn Marcus got a very decent chorus in too.  So this was the night.  There was a good degree of milling around past midnight as the night ended and we exited Smiths.  Oh, not West 4th or Frenchmen St but not far off this night.

Jerry Weldon (tenor) and Neal 'Sugar' Caine (bass) led a quintet with JC Stylles (guitar), John Harkins (piano) and Andrew Dickeson (drums) and two sit-ins Deon Tucker (trombone) and Geoff Burke (alto) from their Harry Connick Jnr band and local Flynn Marcus (tenor).

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