Wednesday was a fabulous night when Miroslav Bukovsky’s band played at Hippo’s: powerful, loud and rhythmic. Three sets of hard-rocking jazz – I guess you’d call it acid jazz or jazz rock or perhaps electric free jazz. The band was considerably bigger than the quartet first advertised. It consisted of Miroslav (trumpet), John Mackey (tenor sax), Arne Hanna and Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Zoe Hauptmann (electric bass) and Mark Sutton (drums). Niels Rosendahl (tenor sax) sat in for the middle set. It was hard, pumping music throughout, ending with a slightly incongruous but enjoyable reggae piece. No mainstream standards here: mostly originals by various members of the band, although there was one by Don Cherry, and maybe one or two other free jazz standards but nothing I recognised.
They were all stars. As a bassist, my attention first went to Zoe Hauptmann. The Hauptmann family has a great reputation as successful students of the Canberra School of Music Jazz School. Zoe played a driving groove at all times, using a fat and dirty sound at high volume. No solos; just complex, funky, finger-style, syncopated 16th note patterns driving the beat at all times. It was a object lesson in this style of bass playing. Mark Sutton was a worthy companion. I’ve mostly seen him with brushes (he’s a master of the brushes) but his stick work was infectious: polyrhythms crossing over Zoe’s bass lines, complex segmentation of the beat, and lots of work on the bass drum pedal. But the rest of the rhythm section were no slouches either! Ben Hauptmann played a telecaster with some great solos, developing from simple to blisteringly fast and complex. He was using strong effects (something like voice box or autowah) which sometimes made it hard to follow the solo lines (at least for me), but it fitted the sound of the band. Arne Hanna was a new name to me, but apparently he’s well known for his playing with Jackie Orszaczky. He played a strat through an Apple computer for sound effects (interesting and again appropriate), but I was most entranced by his gentle fingering, rich chordal work and deceptively simple but richly melodic solos. I was so taken by the rhythm section that I didn’t pay enough attention to the soloists, but as always John Mackey and Miroslav Bukovsky played interesting and well-intoned melody lines together, and challenging solos. Miroslav Bukovsky’s something of a Miles around town: he always puts together great bands. And it was nice to see Neils sit in, following his recent visit to Asia, and before he leaves for study and performance in UK/Europe.
Overall, a night of the highest performance standards. It’s not often you see dancers at Hippos on jazz nights, but the groove was so infectious, they were up too. Excellent performance by all.