16 November 2006

Bones exposed at Hippo's

Exposed Bone’s performance at Hippo’s last night reminded me of why I love jazz. It was an energetic show, with humour and intelligence and great skill covering a range of modern, popular styles (rock, blues, groove, calypso, klezmer, etc) in various standard and odd times. It’s so much not just history (although, at times, there’s reverence to traditions) or a defined and endlessly repeated canon (despite continued exploration of the standards repertoire). Jazz today is a melange of influences explored by highly trained and skilled artists, with energy and joy to boot.

Exposed Bone is Jeremy Borthwick’s band. It plays original music in a world/groove vein. I missed their last performance at Hippo’s, when Jeremy played with the Hauptmann family (Zoe on bass, James on drums and Ben on guitar). This time, EB comprised Jeremy (trombone), James Muller (guitar), Brendan Clarke (electric bass) and James Hauptmann (drums). The fact that the band can change almost totally and still play these difficult arrangements (some even read by sight on the night) is just more proof of the skill levels in modern jazz.

Jeremy plays trombone with fast, post-bop and bluesy lines which seem so hard on this instrument. I’ve mentioned before the current interest in trombones in front lines and EB are a perfect example. It’s a smooth, lithe sound and I guess this matches the modern, sophisticated, lounge/groove audience. I wonder whether synths have brought about the resurgence of the trom, because they do have similar sounds … just a thought. But Jeremy is a master.

James Muller is now an Australian guitarist of world stature, given his recent sojourn in New York, and his recording with Bill Stewart, John Scofield’s drummer. He lifted the band (as guitarists are so capable of doing) every time he started a solo. What amazed me was how he displayed expertise in so many styles. There was rock guitar to die for, sleezy and down-home with wah, volume and other effects, but then he’d morph to fast, clean dissonant pentatonic jazz lines or the broad arpeggios and sweeps of fusion. And to end the night, he played a blues tune with the minor pentatonics and bends you expect in that form. He raised a great flourish of cheers after every solo. I was just a bit disappointed when each solo ended, so I would have liked them to be longer. But what displays of expertise they were!

And the rest of the rhythm section was right there with the front line. It was the first time I’d seen Brendan Clarke on electric bass. He had a fat, soft tone with a high-mid edge and it reminded me of his sound on double bass. But it was that syncopated right hand finger work that propelled the band so strongly. He was obviously having a good time, frequently smiling to James’ flash soloing. He also had a great knack with building tension – eighth notes on one note for one whole chorus at one time, and several other high tension segments with the whole band. And he was no slouch at solos.

James Hauptmann on drums was no slouch, either. He plays a soft rather than sharp sound, and a non-intrusive style. To me, this is a more traditional style, viz. his trading fours in an early tune. But again, he was exciting and energetic with plenty of busy solos and he pushed the band along with incessant rhythms in a style reminiscent of early Weather Report. Great stuff.

BTW, Brendan and James H are local boys made good: both are products of the local jazz school.

I had an interesting discovery. I found when I was tapping along with the beat, it was always on 1-3 rather than 2-4 as in swinging jazz, so I guess that’s a feature of these more popular or world styles. I’d welcome any comments on the theory behind this, and whether the musos out there agree. Just add comments under this post.

In summary, the players were superb, the audience had a great time, the tunes were presumably original, and the vibe was energetic and fun. So, another great display of Australian modern jazz-groove at Hippo Bar.

13 November 2006

Stange happenings with CJ feeds

It seems all posts on the CJ home page were redated to 11 Nov when I upgraded to the new Blogger software (betaBlogger). It's obviously some interface issue with Blogger/Feedigest, but it should be OK for any future posts. In the meantime, visit the CJNews page for recent News announcements.

11 November 2006

Vale Michael Foster

The Canberra Times reported this morning (Canberra Times, Sat 11 Nov 2006, p.4) that long-time jazz afficionado and jazz reporter for the Canberra Times died yesterday (10 Nov). Appropriately, he died in Wangaratta, shortly after the recent Festival. Michael was a strong supporter of the Jazz School, and has funded various awards and, with his wife Bronwyn, a visit by the the Big Band to the Monterey Jazz Festival. The attached pic is Michael at a recent session at White Eagle. Thanks, Michael, for your long-time support of jazz in Canberra.

07 November 2006

Jenna Cave recital, 17 Nov

Jenna Cave has advertised her Graduation recital at the Jazz School, so it seems we're welcome to attend. Jenna will present her compositions played by the ANU's Big Band and Recording Ensemble and also perform on alto. This may be the last time to see these bands in their present formation. Band Room, Peter Karmel Bldg, ANU School of Music, 2pm, Fri 17 Nov.

02 November 2006

Visitors from NY: Jacam Manricks

New York is a gathering place for jazz players from around the world. It has something like 10 major jazz clubs, and perhaps 100 venues for jazz. It’s still a mecca for advanced players, and the home of many famous jazz names. So jazz visitors from NY are something to look forward to.

Hippo’s NY visitors were Jacam Manricks (alto sax), Steve Newcomb (piano), Jasper Leak (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). Jacam is the leader and composer, originally out of Brisbane. He’s the son of professional orchestra-playing parents and has a impressive history of awards in Australia and OS. In NY, he’s currently working on his doctorate in composition, and earning as a jazz educator. So, he arrives with lofty expectations. But these are all Australians with NY connections. Danny and Jasper have been in NY for several years; Steve was in NY but has now returned to Brisbane.

So what is it about NY? I feel you see immense commitment and seriousness (that classic book of modern jazz, “As serious as your life”, comes to mind). Also, I hear original compositions with a hard, exploratory and energetic edge. I imagine that’s partly an expression of the individualist, live-or-die, competitive world of the US (which is presumably at a frenzied pitch in NY) and modern jazz itself. And obviously, high levels of musicianship and vigorous renditions of standard tunes.

JM’s band didn’t disappoint. JM’s original compositions were spikey inventions, with big intervals jumping up and down through sinuous melodies, often with syncopated, written rhythm section accompaniment. The piano solos were thoughtful and adventurous; the sax solos were initially non-legato, and developed into long, atonal flourishes; the drums solos were frequent, fast and disjunctive, with lots of rolls and rudiments finishing with frequent staccato slaps. I only remember one bass solo, but it was highly competent and interesting. I’d heard Jasper Leak’s album, and, as a fellow bassist, I was very happy to hear his name mentioned when the band started up. He was absolutely solid in underlying these hard charts, and an immensely interesting foundation. There were a few walks, one which appeared spontaneously in UMMG, and another lovely walk throughout Countdown. Otherwise, he played syncopated, rhythmically diverse lines throughout the night. I discovered something when I noticed how he would break up the rhythm, playing on -2-4, then perhaps 2-41-34-2-4, so the beat moved from the 2-4 to the 1-3 then back again, usually at unexpected times. It’s like a rhythmic version of playing substitute chords: not wrong but quite disconcerting. Great playing.

The non-originals were Sam River’s “Beatrice”, Stayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group” and Coltrane’s “Countdown”. Otherwise, the show was all original. As I remember, the played Numbers 7, 3, 2, a medley of 4/5, and 1. Trust me; the compositions were more creative than the titles. There was some complex reading and writing demanded of all the players: good and interesting stuff. Check out Jacam’s website for a generous collection of his original music.

JM is playing at Wangaratta in a few days. I hope the band gets a larger audience there than last night’s disappointingly small one. They deserve it.

  • http://www.jacammanricks.com/