28 June 2007

Capable dlivr-y

It was a different Hippo gig that was dlivr-ed last night. This was a fairly gentle pop-funk night from a young Sydney outfit called “dlivr”. It was not unexpected, of course, given their promo as “urban groove fusion”, and a “synthesis of styles including funk, contemporary groove, afro-cuban and jazz”. And it wasn’t out of place, either. In some ways, I felt it suited Hippo’s cocktail-sipping crowd very well.

Dlivr started with a leisurely opening and shades of a favourite of mine, Meshell N’degeocello. Then during the night, they sequed into tunes by the likes of Jamiroquai and Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity, along with originals in related styles. So this was bluesy melodies, lots of repeated 4-bar passages for solos, rock drums and funky bass. Certainly not the place for swing, although solos were somewhat jazz influenced and there was some limited dissonance. The band’s obvious feature was a front line of two very capable female singers. I enjoyed listening variously to harmonies and unison lines, and especially to interesting, bluesy counterpoint. And the voices seemed to meld really well. I liked the wailing, sliding vocals, although I sometimes tired of frequent and deep vibrato. The rest of the band was capable, and, from their MySpace site, appear to be surprisingly experienced, having performed the gamut from local stars (eg, the famed Guy Sebastian) and TV commercials, to performing with some major internationals (even Mariah Carey!) I could only stay for the first set. They started fairly tamely, but by the time I left, they were playing much hotter and more smoothly; generally more confidently. I went out satisfied after a feature piece where the keyboardist switched to djembe, an African drum. He actually played it with considerable fluency, and it pleasantly raised the general level of rhythmic complexity.

I would have liked to have heard the band with a decent PA mix, to improve balance but especially to provide breathing space for the vocals. The midrange was a very busy place with lots of parts competing for prominence, and the vocals got a little lost. But it was a capable performance for this style of modern, club music, and it was well received by the audience. But the hats? They seemed too young for them, but Thelonious did it (so it can’t all be bad) and your CJ editor is no fashionplate (so he can’t talk).

Dlivr are normally Yvette Siladyi (vocals), Rosie Henshaw (vocals), Byron Mark (keys/percussion), David Reaston (guitar), Byron Luiters (gass), Nick Mark (trumpet/percussion), Shane Barrett (drums). Nick Mark didn't make it to Hippo's on the night.
  • Dlivr's MySpace site
  • 21 June 2007

    Ben's boys back

    Ben Winkelman returned to Hippo last night with new sidemen, a new CD and new tunes, many with a new Spanish twist. The energetic piano trio style was still there. So were some devilishly difficult rhythms. I compared notes with someone from the jazz school in the break. We were trying to count the time signature and identify the bar breaks, but he was having as much difficulty as me. The counts were unusual, continually changing, and there were unexpected hits by various band members at odd times. The range of styles was also there, with stride and marches and tangos and Euro film music and swing and more merging throughout the night. I wasn’t surprised to hear Michel Camilo, Chick Corea, even Jelly Roll Morton in the music, but I was taken aback by Arthur Lyman and Tchaikovsky. The soloing variously matched the tune, or provided modern rewrites for the mainstream or traditional styles. There was a restrained explosiveness at times, and solos which held, searchingly, behind the beat. There was a new Spanish element – not a surprise given the new CD is called Spanish tinge. So it was Corea I was hearing in there, but a more dissonant version and not so exorbitantly fluent. That’s not to say this wasn’t fluent - it sure was! Ben seems to drop into styles at a whim. Big chordal solos, playing out, trad arpeggios, orchestral complexity, warped timing, it was all there. Given that I also heard that Tchaikovsky at the end of one tune, I assume there’s classical training in there too.

    But this was a team, and the rhythm players also excelled. They shared solos on pretty much every tune, held challenging rhythms and often enough departed hugely from the rhythm yet it all held together. Sam held these complex rhythms with continual improvisation, played some very interesting contrasting melodic work (these were interesting compositions) and soloed with panache and lots of high register thumb positions. Andrew was blissful with a constantly rich interplay over the tunes, and blaringly intense soloing despite a deceptive lightness of touch.

    I was interested but not surprised by the popularity of these diverse styles. There was a constant hubbub at Hippo’s, not just hardcore listeners. But I noticed when two chatting women in front of me suddenly started gyrating when Ben started up in a Jelly Roll style. And as any entertainer knows, once they start moving, you’re on a winner, so Michel Camilo and even that Arthur Lyman with class went down a treat. So it was a wonderfully intelligent and interesting night.

    Ben Winkelman Trio were Ben Winkelman (piano), Sam Anning (bass) and Andrew Gander (drums).
  • Ben Winkelman's website
  • 16 June 2007


    The Leigh Barker Quintet is still in town. They performed last night at the White Eagle. Other commitments meant I missed most of it, including the trio outfit Leigh runs called “The Shieks”. But the last set I heard was impressive, and the performance I’ve most enjoyed from them. It could be the venue, but I think it’s the White Eagle audience. Here musos are performing for their peers, so they are on their mettle, and able to be, and perhaps called to be, more daring or creative or challenging. There’s an atmosphere of goodwill and there’s no hype, but there’s some residual competitiveness, too.

    The core intent of the band was unchanged: a melange of modern improvisation and more traditional underpinnings, presented through mostly original compositions (Leigh prefers to just call it improvised music). But whatever the labels, this seemed a more authentic and lively performance then the others I’ve heard. They played a beautiful, as yet untitled ballad with reference to Charlie Haden. It featured some tasty and convincing soloing from piano, sax and trumpet. There was also a hard-bop original called Guts of steel by Al Mcgrath-Kerr with hints of McCoy Tyer in some passages in fourths by the piano. So, a broader range of materials from an increasingly interesting band.

    11 June 2007

    To the Harbour, Darling?

    So it was, Megan and I set off for a night in Sydney and a few hours at the Darling Harbour Jazz & Blues Festival. It’s now a Jazz & Blues festival, but it was mostly jazz I heard on Sunday. In this current incarnation, it’s a big, commercial event, so there was a good sprinkling of pop, funk and the like for the punters. Not the intensity and mix of a local festival (like Merimbula which was on over the same weekend), but worthy none-the-less. It’s not Canberra jazz, although there was a Canberra contingent present. Here’s a quick summary of what I heard.

    The Con (Sydney Conservatorium) Jazz Orchestra was the first event I attended. It was on the Tumbalong Park stage. This was the biggest and most impressive stage – glorious lighting, fabulous line arrays and masses of power for a crystal clear, punchy, full range, processed and polished sound. Sadly, it was a hindrance to other, smaller stages at times due to the sheer power and spread of the sound, but nice while you’re experiencing it.

    The Con band was really impressive. A proudly sharp, tight performance on challenging charts. Tunes included A child is born, Nica’s dream and lesser known big band charts. It was hard to determine who was soloing at times, as the players didn’t stand for solos. The solos weren’t all blow-outs, but the ensemble playing was superb: excellent intonation and articulation. Great show. Loved it. Probably my favourite from what I saw.

    I just caught a few minutes of Catherine Hunter with the Bobby Gebert Trio. Catherine Hunter (vocals), Bobby Gebert (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and James Hauptman (drums). Not enough to really comment, and only a few bars of Catherine, but these are capable players. Of course, these are part of the Sydney ex-Canberra contingent: all but BG studied in Canberra.

    I just passed another stage with the Elizabeth Curthew Quartet, but again no comments. She was singing Without love… as I passed by. Gary Holgate was on bass.

    I’d seen Eon Beats Project several years before at another DHJF, and was blown out. EBP was then sax, piano, drums, turntable (?), as I remember. No bass. Fabulous, heavy grooves with a distinctive modern sound. This time, they played a set of pretty standard but capable funk/reggae, and with a more common lineup: Rick Robertson (tenor sax), Phil Slater (trumpet), Jonathon Pease (guitar), Gerard Masters (keyboards), Alex Hamilton (electric bass), Ian Mussington (drums) and Evelyn Duprai (vocals). It was a popular set and showed jazz influences from the excellent players. I loved Gerard Masters on piano, organ and clavinet sounds. Phil Slater and Rick Robertson both played great solos, and Alex Hamilton laid down a solid, great sounding and ever-present bass line on a Fender Jazz, with some lovely slight chordal fills. Evelyn Duprai had a great, black, bluesy voice, which suited perfectly and I loved it. The vocals will give you an idea of the style: “You don’t know what you’re gonna do / you don’t know what you gonna say / you’re wondering how you’ll make it through / I’ve got some questions here today“. Hmm … but then jazz isn’t too highly regarded for its poetry, either. Quality funk with some reggae; original tunes; nice playing; eminently sellable.

    I caught two tunes by the Bernie McGann Quartet. Bernie McGann (alto sax), Warwick Alder (trumpet), Ben Waples (bass), James Waples (drums). This was typical, quality BM. I heard them play Spirit song and Dexter Gordon’s Fried bananas. Bernie played his typical little impassioned, falling lines. Warwick Alder dissected the tune with post-bop improvisations and some tortured trumpet notes. This is true commitment to the form: tasty, tuneful and without hype.

    I heard even less of the Jackie Orszaczky Band with Tina Harrod, and thinking back, I regret it. Again, this is not a jazz band in the standard tradition, but it is informed by the style. It’s more a pop-funk band of considerable style, but also with a unique twist: two basses. JO (bass and leader) sits and plays a front line role, somewhat like a guitar, and actually with a tone also somewhat like a guitar: trebly, crisp, chordal, soloistic and essentially cool and relaxed. In back was Alex Hamilton (bass) who had previously played with Eon Beats Project, doing a similar, fat, funky style. Interesting stuff. The rest of the band was Tina Harrod (vocals) and two other female singers, trombone, tenor sax, keyboards and drums.

    I was intrigued by the concept of the next act, so I left JO early. Perhaps I should have stayed. They were Back on the Block, a Quincy Jones tribute. This was a big and superbly professional set of players on the big Tumbalong stage, with sound to match the reputation of Quincy Jones. But it was essentially a superior pop set and I left after a few tunes. Not to put them down – they were very, very good and proved it with an excellent, driven, distorted rock guitar solo as I was leaving – but not what I was there for, so I departed.

    I dropped in on the Eamon Dilworth Ensemble. They were bravely playing away, against a massive barrage of sound which was spilling over from the Quincy Jones show. It must have been a challenge, but I guess it was OK when they actually got playing. EDQ was Eamon Dilworth (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jeremy Rose (alto sax), Rob Turner (drums) and Alex Boneham (bass). I particularly liked Jeremy Rose and his calm presence and investigative alto solos.

    Next I caught a blast from the past: Crossfire. I remember Crossfire as a very popular touring fusion band in the late-70s. I didn’t remember that they had recorded with Michael Franks, and played with Lee Ritenour and other big names on the Californian scene in their prime. They are now grey haired, with glasses and the like, and have reformed to revisit former glory. And they were still very good. Sharp, interesting playing and original tunes. Worth catching if they visit or when they return to the Basement. The original band members, Jim Kelly (guitar), Tony Buchanan (saxes), Ian Bloxsom (percussion) and Greg Lyon (electric bass), are joined by new members Steve Russell (keyboards) and Scott Hills (drums).

    The last gig I caught was the US Navy Seventh Fleet Big Band. I was hanging out to hear a quality American outfit after this Australian music. They were great, as I expected, but nothing to embarrass our locals. Their ensemble playing was sharp and accurate. Some very fast unison sax passages got away from them, but then they were ridiculously difficult, so no shame there, and there were some other unison lines with bass and all the players which came off wonderfully. The solos didn’t particularly knock me out, but they did a great range of styles, with and without singers, and went down really well. There were several modern instrumental big band charts, which were my favourites. But they also did Sinatra with a male singer, Basie/Shuur with a female singer, Glen Miller’s In the mood and the Beatle’s Norwegian Wood, so this was a stylistically diverse set. And they did two songs with the featured jazz singer, Barbara Morrison, who was to feature at the festival later that day: My one and only love, and the blues classic, Everyday I have the blues. BM performed more as a blues than jazz singer for these two tunes: fairly straight with little improvisation, except a nice chromatic line at the end of My one and only love, but she sang with a satisfying, raunchy voice and a great stage presence which was perfectly suitable for this performance.

    As for the sound at the event, it was very professional, as you would expect from such a big, commercial gig. On the Tumbalong Stage, the mixing was generally right for the jazz style, although the bass was sometimes unnaturally deep on double bass, rock-loud and overbearing on electric. The horn mix was blissful, with tinkling pianos and guitars and drums coming through fittingly. There was something wrong for the solo horns on the US Navy band – a thin, tin-whistle alto sax tone, and similarly thin tenor – and I heard a buzz in one bass bin on the first day, but otherwise the sound was great. As for the other stages, they were similarly well provided. I was amused by a strong echo on Evelyn Duprai’s mic, but maybe that’s what the band wanted. As mentioned above, there were problems with sound carrying between stages, and John Shand complained about this in his SMH review (“Enough sizzling grooves to warm the brave” / John Shand, in Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 2007, p. 13). I especially felt sorry for the Eamon Dilworth Ensemble who bravely played on despite a massive background spill from the Quincy Jones tribute band.

    But the rain held off while I was there, and I had a good time, and caught up with some bands I’d been wanting to hear for some time. So despite the commercial cum popular bias of the event, it was well worth the trip.
  • More DH Jazz Fest pics from CJ's men in Sydney
  • Darling Harbour Jazz & Blues Festival website
  • 09 June 2007

    Lazy afternoon of Discovery

    The Carl Morgan Trio played live to air today for ArtSound’s Book & CD sale at CSIRO’s Discovery Centre. People milled around looking for a $2 gem. My find was a CD of the Canberra Musicians Jazz Orchestra from the 90s, featuring several names that I’ve mentioned in more recent years on CJ. But the live entertainment on the day was Carl and his crew.

    I heard this as somewhat like a superior restaurant gig. The team obviously plays together – they are all current students at the Jazz school - but they still read plenty of the charts, and the tunes were the old standards: Beautiful love, C Jam blues, My romance, Someday my prince will come, and the like. But they had an intelligent, interested, relaxed audience, and they were broadcasting live to Canberra, so they could loosen up, play some more impassioned and altered versions of the charts, and generally be more creative.

    The band was Carl Morgan (guitar), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Ben Foster (piano). Carl played with a more subdued tone than when last I saw him, but still lashed out with plenty of flying runs and dissonant changes. He’s a strong and serious player. Phill laid down reliable and responsive lines. He easily pushed solid walks and defined clear, reliable rhythms. So the groove did not suffer despite the absence of drums. Ben played some intuitively apt accompaniment and comping, some lovely solos and melodies. But what most impressed me was beautifully accurate sense of timing in several styles. I first noticed it on one luscious blues melody about mid-concert and it stayed with him for the following tunes.

    ArtSound was broadcasting live from the venue, with a good strong signal given a short distance and direct view of Black Mountain Tower. These guys really are impressive and professional to boot. They would put plenty of commercial outfits to shame: not so much for the great equipment (although for a community station, they are very well supplied), but for their intelligent interests in the local and broader cultural scene.

    As for the music, you can take me to any restaurant that offers a background like this. Just don’t expect me to talk too much over the main course.

    ArtSound at Montreal Jazz Fest

    Here's an exclusive for CJ. Just received in the news room. Lucky Chris. He's done tons for ArtSound, so good luck to him.

    ArtSound FM's Jazz Coordinator, Chris Deacon, will attend and represent ArtSound at the forthcoming Montreal Jazz Festival. In a coup for Canberra, Chris has been accredited to cover the festival on behalf of ArtSound, and will provide reports for distribution to Australian community radio.

    The Festival is simply huge, with over 250,000 visitors expected, plus a blend of music and musicians we do not always have the opportunity to hear in Australia.

    Over 11 days and nights, Montreal rolls out the red carpet for over 2,500 musicians from every corner of the globe. From jazz to soul to blues, with detours through traditional music, electro and folk, Montreal conjugates in every style, speaking the universal language: music! North America’s French capital becomes a mecca for everyone from aficionados of pure jazz to fans of all its musical relatives.

    The Festival is truly a global event: for the first time, 30 countries are represented at the Fest by roughly 3,000 musicians and street performers. With 500 concerts, including 350 free shows to choose from, some 250,000 tourists come to the City of Festivals every year for musical discoveries. At the Festival, music finds various forms of expression, from the daily Louisiana parade to a marquee event, from an intimate concert or avant-garde set to a major performance from a living legend, from jam sessions to the Petite école du jazz, and from a cruise to a workshop given by a big-name performer or stringed-instrument maker.

    The Festival’s indoor concert program alone offers close to 150 shows spread over 15 series, presented in venues throughout the city. As eclectic as ever, this year's Festival will present musicians and music from every region and every source, from the classic to the most avant-garde. Some jazz legends will be there — Keith Jarrett, Bob Dylan, Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, with his very special project Congo Square — and the music of the immortal Ennio Morricone, reanimated by the stunning The Spaghetti Western Orchestra, all of whom contribute to the magic of the Festival.

    Consider, for instance, the presence of artists from the prestigious ECM label including Keith Jarrett, Anouar Brahem, Tord Gustavsen, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, and Stefano Bollani, who in themselves represent a diverse range of today’s music. The festival will also welcome Manfred Eicher, founder and president of the jazz label considered one of the most important in the world.

    To mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Fela Kuti, Afrobeat will be everywhere: indoors, where his son Femi Kuti will uphold the legacy, along with Afrodizz and Antibalas.

    Other musicians to front the Festival stage include Jack de Johnette, John Scofield, Algelique Kidjo, Mike Stern, Holly Cole, Medeski Martin and Wood, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Waune Shorter, Dhafer Yusef, John Pattituci, Dave Weckl, Erik Truffaz, George Coleman, Jimmy Cobb, Buster Williams, Roy Haynes, Billy Cobham, Anouar Brahem, Didier Lockwood, Cesaria Evora, Bugge Wesseltoft, Kurt Elling, Jaco Pastorius, John Abercrombie, Alan Holdsworth, Bela Flek, Bill Frisell, and Toumani Diabate.

    The Festival will also be presenting an exceptional double feature, where culture and music are once again at the core of a superb collaboration: Louisianan Zachary Richard and French artist Francis Cabrel, both equally adopted by Quebec for years, will be sharing the spotlight. This collaboration is the undisputable result of an artistic alliance-turned friendship between the pair. After Hurricane Katrina, Francis was first invited by Zac to collaborate on his latest album for the song ‘‘La promesse cassée’’, of which the royalties helped raise funds for musicians from New Orleans. The two artists also recently performed together in New Orleans and Lafayette. For the Festival, the beloved French artist will draw from his affinity for blues and American music in order to create a unique repertoire for the occasion. Both artists will surely pay each other musical visits! from June 28 to July 8, 2007!

    This profoundly unifying event will turn North America’s French capital into a mecca for everyone from aficionados of pure jazz to fans of all its musical relatives.

    Apart from ticketed concerts, every day there will be free outdoor concerts, some of which will take the listener around the world! Take for example the Seun Kuti: Afrobeat party with over 20 musicians and dancers, the Arabian Night with Rachid Taha and a rhythmic and colourful concert blowout, the Brazilian carnival bash with Brazil’s Carlinhos Brown.

    This is a festival that promises to reveal the full spectrum of jazz in all its vivid individual colours. In short, from the purest jazz to the most colourful hybrid, from the archetypal to the original, this Festival will gather and present some of the greatest living names in jazz!

    Stay tuned for more coverage June 28 onwards.

    Chris Deacon
    Jazz Coordinator
    General Manager Engineering & Development
    ArtSound FM

    06 June 2007

    First of the Gods

    Leigh Barker’s Quintet were the first performers in this year’s Jazz Series at the Gods. Leigh and his mates provide a real Canberra ambience at their local gigs. Leigh, the leader and bassist, is a local, as is John Felstead on saxes. But it’s not just the fact of their background, but also the presence of friends and family at his concerts, and the references to the local area, that only a Canberran would understand. Their first CD is called “Off to Moruya”. It’s obviously a reference to the Moruya Jazz Festival, where they regularly play. Apparently, the cover designer was a Melbourne bloke who was intrigued by a grotesqueness in the name, Moruya, so it stuck for the album. Then, there’s the hot swing original tune called Merimbula, another obvious reference to a town and a local jazz festival. But the band is now resident in Melbourne, and apparently is very busy with work there. So in truth this is another homecoming from more successful ex-patriates.

    I like this band’s complexity of conception. It’s a real mix. You may hear pre-bop in the rhythm section, cut time on drums, perhaps a gentle swing on bass, along with the sound of French boulevards on the piano accordian, and a bit of modern dissonance on the sax and trumpet. So it’s an intriguing and, to me, unique blend of trad, mainstream and modern styles. And their presentation fits to boot: brown suits, with jackets removed after a few tunes, and rolled up sleeves for the busy end of the night. Leigh even wore braces. Perfect. This is intelligent entertainment. No wonder they have plenty of work.

    The night started with Ellington’s The Mooch. (I’m sure they started with this at Hippo’s when I saw them, but it’s a perfect, sleezy tune to set the ambience). There was a tune by Heather Stewart of Melbourne, called Music Room, which featured a cut-time reminscent of European films – cute, humourous and deceptively light music. There were several originals by the band, recalling Moruya and Merimbula, If I had a brain from the Wizard of Oz, and a Nat King Cole favourite called Ruby and the Pearl. They raised a chuckle with a tune called “What this thing called, love?”, and ended with a dedication to Bill Frisell (I think I got this right), which surprised me given the style, called In the country with Bill.

    From my modern jazz, soloistic, individualistic point of view, I most liked the solos of the two horns. Eamon played some very satisfying fast lines, and often broke out into dissonance with repeated patterns at chromatic and other intervals. John also frequently dipped into the distorted pool of dissonance, and I liked that. When I previously heard Matt at Hippo’s he played both accordion and piano, and I thought there was more inventiveness on the piano. This time he only played accordion, and the style was not so much jazzy as euro-folk and ambient. I liked this, and it certainly highlighted the uniqueness of the band. Leigh and Al both set capable rhthyms, and did a few nice solos, too.

    The Leigh Barker Quintet are Leigh Barker (bass), Al Mcgrath-Kerr (drums), John Felstead (saxes), Eamon McNelis (trumpet), and Matt Boden (piano, accordian)

    Leigh’s band plays again at White Eagle on Thurs 14 June, for those who missed this show. ArtSound recorded the concert, so you can also expect to hear the band on radio over coming months. Thanks to Geoff Page for organising the series. The next Gods to visit the Café are Sandy Evans, Toby Hall and Brett Hirst, on 3 July. These are authentic Australian jazz gods, so get there if you can.

    02 June 2007

    Large ensembles coming out

    About this time each year, the large Jazz School ensembles perform on home turf for family and friends. This year, last night, it was the turn of the Recording Ensemble and the Commercial Ensemble. These are competitive entry bands; they are open to anyone in the Jazz School. Auditions are held each year, and a hot first year can replace a long term player. So there’s an element of pride the outfits, and a go-ahead edge to their performances. This night is like their annual coming out performance. Otherwise, there are gigs at various festivals and a planned recording for the Recording Ensemble, for these students to make their mark and impress outside of Canberra.

    The first set was by the Recording Ensemble, led by Miroslav Bukovsky. The band started with a tune written by Miro called 10 Part Invention Blues. Right from the start, we heard the rich tonal and harmonic colours of this orchestrated, recorded style of music. It’s a blissful sound, and is the reason people hanker after bands of this size. It just doesn’t come with small outfits; it’s dependent on capable orchestration and numerous instruments to play the parts. The band played six tunes in the set. There were several written or orchestrated by Miro, including numbers for his band 10 Part Invention and a version of Oliver Nelson’s classic, Stolen moments. Jenna Cave provided a chart dedicated to Wayne Shorter called Little Shorter. The playing was typically competent all round. Carl impressed, as always, with some blistering solos. I took particular note of solos by Alistair, Jonno and Sebastian, but the performance was a group effort, and these weren’t the only notable soloists. The rhythm section was superb. We’re seeing lots of Bill and Ed around town, and there’s good reason. They play well together, they each play with great delicacy and responsiveness, they hold a rock solid steady swing, and they solo with panache. Lovely stuff.

    The Recording Ensemble is Ed Rodrigues (drums), Bill Williams (bass), Carl Morgan (guitar), Dave Rodriguez (guitar), Kayla Corlis (trumpet), Jonno Apps (trumpet, flugelhorn), Alistair Clarke (trombone), James LeFevre (alto, baritone sax), Jo Lloyd (alto sax), Sebastian Macintosh (tenor, soprano sax), Nick Combe (tenor sax), Miroslav Bukovsky (leader).

    The Commercial Ensemble provided the second set. There was quite a deal of overlap in membership in the horn section, but otherwise this was a different experience. This is the Letterman-style band. Bold and brassy, playing hot, funky charts. Where the Recording Ensemble gives us sublimity and colour, the Commercial Ensemble gives us beat and life. It’s not a matter of better or worse, although it can be a matter of preference. Eric Ajaye leads this band. They started with a great version of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, with Sophie singing her own original lyrics. This was followed by a funky blues number by Bill Cunliffe with a great unison intro. Then a laid back, New Orleans-style chart by Les Sabrina dedicated to basketball and called Shoot the hoop; a Pat Metheny-style tune (which Eric introduced with a glimpse at the geography of Oregon and Washington State); a hard, funky Bob Mintzer chart called Go-go; a ballad by Matt Harris in the style of Michael Brecker; and to finish the night, a fast latin piece also by Matt Harris, called Bacio innocente. Again, there were capable solos all round, and again Carl lifted the roof. As a bassist, I particularly liked the great sound Stu pulled when playing slap on a Musicman bass, with Eden amp and speakers – smooth and balanced, with a lively but sweet top end.

    The Commercial Ensemble is Ben Foster (piano), Evan Dorrian (drums), Stu McKnown (bass), Carl Morgan (guitar), Kayla Corlis (trumpet), Jonno Apps (trumpet, flugelhorn), Alistair Clarke (trombone), James LeFevre (alto, baritone sax), Sebastian Macintosh (tenor, soprano sax), Sophie Leslie (vocals), Eric Ajaye (leader).

    So, a great night of rich and funky playing. I’ll look forward to hearing more of both these outfits over the rest of the year.