31 May 2008

Black shoes, but who’s walking

Bah! Humbug! There’s a worrying trend for bands without bassists at present. Think Don Byron, but also John Black when he played a live broadcast for ArtSound last night. John played a boogie-woogie cum blues set with his trio called BlackSchu.

BlackSchu is a hip name, and easily misunderstood when heard, but it’s an obvious reference to the core pair in the band, pianist/vocalist John Black and drummer Ben Schumann. They met when playing in a busy local commercial outfit featuring two singers, Sweet Mischief, and still perform together for this bluesy gig. They like the music, it’s well received by everyone, and it can be “a real workout” as John said. So it must be for a pianist whose left hand takes the bass role, while his right hand is busy with melody, comping and soloing, relaxed only a little when he’s singing. It’s a big job for John, and he does it comfortably, with minimal fuss and considerable panache, and even a humourous patter between tunes. I was in the studio photographing and was lucky enough to catch a lovely solo on Angel Eyes. It cascaded over several octaves, but remained understated and constantly melodic. Obviously the work of a mature artist.

Their trio ring-in for this performance (and their recently recorded CD) is an old mate who’s now Sydney-based, tenor saxist Richard Booth. Richard is an ex-Canberran and a graduate of the Jazz School from the early 90s. Their CD is to be named “A touch of anarchy”. Apparently it’s Richard who brings that anarchy to the band, although listening to John’s chatter and witticisms, I think there’s just a little lurking elsewhere. Whatever, it’s a fine, satisfying, R&B outing that they present, with good humour and serious entertainment. The drums are sharp, busy at times, but not overwhelming. The sax is frequently melodic, often soloistic and touching on challenging for this style. But it can be supporting too, playing bass-like riffing roles at times.

So this bass-less gig was a nice, swinging affair from some very competent players with years of experience and playing a style that’s popular, danceable and even irresistible in the right environment. Shame about the bass, but maybe I needn’t be so concerned. After all, Ornette recently performed in Sydney with three bassists. Now that’s a band…

26 May 2008

To the dancefloor

My other band is Crisp. Crisp is a five-piece jazz cum kitsch/pop/disco band which plays weddings, corporate events and the like. It’s been around a good while, but I’ve recently joined. It’s a bunch of capable musicians with considerable experience fronted by a singer with a nice turn of spirit, so the music is tight and the outings are enjoyable. And this is just accentuated by the pop/disco tunes that go down so well on the dancefloor. Crisp played last week at the National Museum. Nothing special about that, but it was memorable for some other reasons.

Firstly, because an engaging, amusing, but deadly serious character was speaking: Patch Adams. Patch Adams is an “American medical doctor, social activist, citizen diplomat, professional clown, performer, and author ... he believes the health of an individual cannot be separated from the health of the family, community, and the world” (Wikipedia, 23 May 2008). He’s also a celebrity to a broader community since Robin Williams, the US comedian, starred in a film about him. At first sight, he was a mature, moustachioed and pony-tailed bloke in colourful clothing. I noted a quick wit and non-conformist streak when he was introduced. He quipped that he’d been at Parliament during the day and that the government had given an apology but he’d given the country back. As is my celebrity-ignoring and film-avoiding way, I vaguely knew the name but nothing more. The band only caught the last few minutes of his talk, but it was serious and heartfelt and impressive. Visiting someone else’s world (a family at a wedding, a doctor’s community, or whatever) is an aspect of performing bands that I love. My favourite story of this type involved playing for Rupert Murdoch at his Cavan property near Canberra many years back, but I’ve told that story before on CJ.

Secondly, our normal pianist was travelling, so I got to play with John Black, now a high school music teacher, and for many years a piano teacher at the Jazz School. Of course, he knew the charts including the pop tunes, he could read with aplomb, and his solos were both expressive and tastefully understated. There’s great pleasure in playing with musos who’ve had this level of experience. My first Crisp gig had Mark Sutton sitting in for a wedding and this was similarly satisfying.

More on Crisp when we do a public gig, but here’s the membership: Nicky King (vocals), James Hoogstad (tenor), Peter Kirkup (piano), Mick Schow (drums), Eric Pozza (bass). John Black (piano) sat in for this performance.
  • Patch Adams on Wikipedia
  • 18 May 2008

    Stop press: Sally wins

    Congrats to Sally Greenaway who won the inaugural National Big Band Composition competition with her chart "Falling of seasons". Well done, Sally! For more info, see my earlier post, or this site under the tab NBBCC: http://www.mothershiporchestra.com/

    Ivey Divey (Sat 2)

    Oh my god. I just heard Don Byron’s Ivey Divey trio.

    From the top, these guys seemed something from beyond. They snaked through the awaiting audience in the foyer of the Street Theatre just 10 minutes before the gig, moving towards backstage. I was assured they’d been warming up throughout the day, but this was impressively nonchalant. Three snappy dressers: casual, with a beat mix of earth colours, fashionable glasses (they all three wore glasses) and slouching caps. Comfortable, with an air of intelligent commitment but hip alternatives. George Colligan’s bearded chin is fashionable these days, but did nothing but confirm a fifties, Krebsian reference. Don later chatted of the cartoon strip, L’il Abner and distant university romances, so reminiscences of the past, of the fifties, beatniks and even Maynard G, seem appropriate.

    The true masters of an art are in some ways, almost beyond comprehension in their statements, but in other ways they make it all seem simple and self-evident. I felt both these emotions with this trio. I could understand Don’s playing on various horns - he played mostly clarinet, a good dose of a very silver tenor sax, and one tune of a squeaking bass clarinet which he explained didn’t survive the long flight to Australia at all well. At base, as Megan observed, there were arpeggios and scales, taken to high levels of complexity. Of course it was, and it always is, but it was also investigatory and intelligently dissecting or even disinterring the harmonies to reveal fellow-travelling patterns and movements and sounds. This is not a field for simple, stated melodies, although melodies are there and rich. This is a walk in a field on a black night revealed under a searing light of knowledge and intelligence.

    I was particularly taken, or should I say dumbfounded (gobsmacked, to borrow that US-derived term now so popular), by George Colligan and his pianistic endeavours. I knew the name, and it’s well respected: for good reason. This was an avalanche of stylistic references and manual dexterity: an ability to establish a musical context and follow it without limitation of skills or intent. Again, intelligence comes to mind. These guys are educators, GC at Julliard, so they know their stuff. But they play it too. There’s reverence and expression of history here, but also interpretation and reinvigoration. This is not just replaying, but revisiting and renewing an older tradition, or perhaps it’s better to say these guys are part of a continuing history. The night was dubbed a tribute to Lester Young. Don spoke at one time about Lester Young making a link between instruments and voice, and this was his intention. So this was the nature of the tribute, but the palette was the history of jazz; far broader than just one man.

    Back to George. His solos were an extravanza, and that’s where I most felt the evening take off. Rudy Royston played some delightful solos, played brushes often, intoned sensitively and sweetly on the drums, but the temperature really lifted in synch with George’s solos. This was intensity over a broad spectrum,white light on the crevices of the underlying tunes. Just two guys (remember, no bass) creating a storm.

    So what of this? I just thought this must be New York: a competitive, busy place, a need to impress and a drawcard for capability. But I’ve heard other New Yorkers visiting here and elsewhere, and this was something else. There was a depth of history and respect, and a profundity of knowledge that you don’t encounter too often. Perhaps Wynton Marsalis when he visited, but I didn’t feel this intensity on that night. Admittedly, the Street Theatre is more intimate, but this was special. So off to NY? Not cheap! The guy next to us volunteered this would have been two sets, each individually charged, in a NY club. Big, city; big expense.

    But Canberra had our visit, and it was both profound and a blast. And we gave it our standard treatment: a lovely theatre, an involved audience, and an ArtSound recording. Chris, when can we expect to revisit this fabulous night? I’m hanging out for more.

    Canberra cantata (Sat 1)

    First of a double bill for this Saturday was the Canberra Cantata. It’s a new work in cabaret style. Not a serious, staid cantata with glorious rising choral work, but a joyful, tongue in cheek look at Canberra from a local cabaret star, and featuring some well-known local names. Peter J Casey was the composer and presenter, and a pianist and singer for several tunes. The other performers ranged widely indeed.

    The show started with the Royal Military College (acronym: RMC) All Stars Big Band and continued with 13 tunes played by a rich range of artists. The Canberra Youth Choir sang a tune composed to the words of a local primary school student, Keean Walton, a paen to Canberra life called “I love where I live”. Natalie Magee teamed with Peter J Casey and the RMC band for a skit on Northside/Southside rivalries. The Singing Ambassadors (as far as I know, these were 12 real, honest ambassadors) sang about their appointments to Canberra in a song called “Tiger look at this”. They obviously enjoyed their unison singalong, and carried it off with aplomb. A classical trio (Suzanne Powell, piano; Anne Ewing, cello; Nicole Canham, clarinet) played the “Roundabout rondo”, dedicated to roundabouts on Canberra roads: nice one. The Gay and Lesbian Qwuire sang a deliciously beautiful love song written for same-sex marriages called “For all of us”. The RMC Band played a rousing big band tune with shouts of Canberra acronyms, appropriately called “TLA” (=Three Letter Acronym). John Shortis and Moya Simpson performed a tune dedicated to “Stasia the Soup Lady”, an institution in Canberra for many years. Lucy Bermingham, Moya Simpson and classical soprano Louise Page jokingly sang “Don’t make me choose” (between the Brumbies and the Raiders). Peter J Casey himself sang a tune about writing and performing the cantata, complete with a topical reference. Louise Page teamed again with Suzanne Powell and Nicole Canham on a tender piece (“Beautiful”) that spoke of the cockies that appeared in Canberra after the fires of a few years back. Four names were memorialised (Alison, Peter, Douglas, Dorothy), presumably the four lost in our local disaster. More happily, Queenie Van de Zandt sang with the RMC band about Canberrans making their names overseas but returning (We move back home). The show ended with a lively bash from the Big Band, with a string of solos, including Reuben Lewis who was sitting in on trumpet, and a wonderful, rolling drum solo from Amanda Waite, who I reported playing with Zip in my first post on CJBlog.

    The other star of the show was the Llewelyn Hall. It’s been refurbished after a lengthy repair and restoration following a damaging hailstorm over a year ago. The new hall is decked with soft timbers and raked seating, to give improved wood infected acoustic and better audience ambience. It sounded rich and sweet to me, although there was a good bit obviously passing through the PA on the day. Being free and part of the Canberra International Music Festival, it was well attended by families young and old, again typically Canberran. I had a nursing mother on one side with a cute 12 week old girl and a toddler behind me continuingly observing the bebe (=baby), bebe, bebe, bebe…. A very pleasant event, and an opportunity to hear these singers and musicians I miss in the core jazz scene. Much enjoyed.

    16 May 2008

    Break a leg, Sally

    Sorry for the late notice, but here's a broadcast to check out this weekend. Sally Greenaway will be conducting the JazzGroove Mothership Orchestra on ABCFM this Sunday. In Sally's words:

    "The Mothership Orchestra and APRA got together and created a big band composition competition (which will become a yearly event). The comp was open to Australian and New Zealand residents aged between 18-42 yrs. As far as I'm aware, I am the only girl, and the youngest finalist in the competition. Two of the other finalists are lecturers (one at the Tasmanian conservatorium and the other New Zealand Conservatorium), and the third one is a guy from the QLD con. So I'm up against some stiff competition!

    I spent 3 months writing and rewriting and revising this piece ["Falling of Seasons"], but there is still a lot of work for me to do ... I am so thrilled to bits that I get this chance!

    I will ... direct a short 1 hour rehearsal with them [on Sat 17 May] and then Sunday 18 May at 5pm I will be conducting them at the Finals Concert at the Eugene Goossens Hall (the concert is open to the public) and this will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM's Jazz Track with Mal Stanley (this live broadcast also starts at 5pm)..."

    To find out more about the competition, visit www.mothershiporchestra.com

    12 May 2008

    Masterly & with integrity

    By Daniel Wild

    I have had the pleasure of seeing Gerard Masters three times now. A few years ago at the Winebanq in Sydney he accompanied Chico Freeman in what became a coming of age gig, although even then there wasn’t much room for improvement. I also saw him as part of SIMA’s program at the Sound Lounge in the Seymour centre. Inexplicably there were only about ten people present. This certainly affected the intensity of his playing. Masters thrives on intensity, atmosphere and occasion.

    The Hippo Bar makes up for the lack of a piano with ambience, closeness and an underground feel (despite it being upstairs). Carl Dewhurst exploited this intimacy by opening with a solo set of experimental and blues guitar. The Hippo is an ideal venue for short solo performances. It is relaxed and allowed Dewhurst to play with the audience dynamic by sometimes musing in the background and then building up his presence with more adventurous guitar riffs.

    One piece was decidedly atonal and freeform, making it initially hard listening. But it grew on you and when it finished the listener had begun to adjust to its parameters. Dewhurst made use of an array of pedal effects for this composition. He certainly enjoyed exploring the distorting, bending, shimmering permutations of the strange chords and their relationships. This music is sometimes more safely performed in the privacy of the musician’s home.

    Dewhurst finished with a straight ahead blues that became increasingly rhythmically varied and witty. Gerard Masters, who had been watching from various vantage points, appeared after a brief break and began heating things up with Stockton Shuffle. The head has an interesting rhythm and explores minor tonalities before a three beat rhythm asserts itself for Masters’ solo. Evan Manell provides exciting support as Masters builds his ideas patiently, inviting the listener to share in the unfolding harmonic possibilities and melodic fragments that could go down various pathways.

    The second piece, Pendulum, borrowed a motif from Chopin’s Nocturne in A flat major. Masters ingeniously incorporates this light, faery motif as a frame around a daring post bop middle section. The original Chopin Nocturne also had an emotionally charged and harmonically challenging B section and Masters expands the romantic depths with some inspiring descents and parallel chromatic chords that define dark and moody tonal centres. Tonality is less important here – it is implied and not stated and engulfed by neighbouring chords which pull and shift the tonality like a gravity-well.

    A slower, more relaxed pace, suited for visions looking forward to the horizon and back upon reminiscences, is the setting for Message to My Girl, dedicated to the band’s better halves. The incorporation of classical elements, fourths and rock riffs makes this an accessible trio piece. The Keith Jarrett influence can be seen and again Masters shows admirable patience in building his solo both in volume and intensity. He never overplays and displays his sensitivity and integrity to context. Masters passes the litmus test of the complete pianist by playing thoughtfully and introspectively in this ballad. Many other jazz players who are known for their chops don’t execute as well on ballads.

    Cameron Undy’s bass playing is perfect and unobtrusive. The trio complement each other well but both Manell and Undy must be commended for ably supporting Masters’ musical aesthetic. Carl Dewhurst introduced Masters as one of “Australia’s and the world’s best pianists”. I second that. If you are a fringe dweller of jazz, or someone who appreciates classy adventurous playing you have to see a Gerard Masters gig. He is still young and could well be Australia’s answer to Chick Corea, Brad Meldhau and other modern jazz pianists willing to push the envelope and not compromise on musical integrity. Masters’ incorporation of classical riffs, blues, rich harmonies and singing and soaring melodic lines may well convert people indifferent to jazz to this modern and thoughtful music.

    Pics coming soon, with any luck

    11 May 2008

    Two can with mates

    Toucani (my old Trio Toucan with a sax) played a few sets with some friends for a birthday bash at the Soul Bar. It’s a lively place at 5.30 on a Friday, just after work, so quite fun, although I don’t recommend it to musos who want to earn a few pennies. It was a favour for a friend who was celebrating a birthday bash there, so that was OK, but you can easily feel a sucker.

    The friend was Tony, and he sat in for a few tunes on trumpet. Nice to hear some horn harmonies on the very common tunes we played with him: Song for my father, All blues and Tenor madness. Toucani had started the night with a set of mainly originals. We’ve decided to make something a bit fresh, so I’ve penned a few latin originals and Daniel is being prolific with weekly new tunes in a modern post-bop style; good hard swing. Brenton has one on appro, and we’re waiting! Anyway, we’re pretty happy with them, and now they take most of our sets. A venue with busy and noisy drinkers gives an easier and more relaxed performance. We played well, the punters gave the requisite applause, and we managed some (moderately) indulgent solos, so all was well.

    The final set was with other mates, two vocalists who perform as Ancient Mariners, Brad and Leanne. Their tunes are mostly jazz standards, but done in a cabaret, rather than as jazz, style. Both are competent singers; Leanne is particularly confident and poised. It’s always a pleasure backing competent vocalists, and you notice the difference voice makes in the responsiveness of the crowd. So, overall a much enjoyed evening.

    Toucani are John Baczynski (tenor), Daniel Wild (piano), Brenton Holmes (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass). Tony Edwards (trumpet) sat in for his birthday bash. Toucani backed the Ancient Mariners, who are Leanne Dempsey (vocals) and Brad McDonald (vocals).

    08 May 2008

    Post-bop perfection

    Jon Gordon appeared with a student jazz ensemble at the Band Room last night. This was just the last of three nights of great concerts. (I think I need triage after this triad of concerts over a trio of days). Jon Gordon was not a name I knew of, but a history with Maria Schneider’s Orchestra and Harry Connick Jr and a provenance of New York were enough to interest me. Then there’s a rave quote from Phil Woods, a doyen of post-Bird altoists, who seems to pass the mantle to Jon. ‘Nuff said; much expected. And much gained.

    Jon played a mainstream set of standards and a few tunes I didn’t recognise, perhaps originals. The standards were old friends: There will never be another you, Invitation, Skylark, Tenor madness, Infant eyes, Softly as the morning sunrise. He played these with respect but malleable interpretations, freely bending and delaying and moving the melody lines, and blowing with chromatic freedom over the charts. This was flexibility and harmonic freedom within the tight constraints of the post-bop style: sustained, lengthy, 8th-note lines moving in and out of the base harmony at will. Not ecstatic wails; more ordered, very challenging, sinuous, classic lines. It was a pleasure to hear such control and skill over the whole range of the alto, with honks shortly preceding high pitched but always defined notes. It was a masterly performance of classy, intelligent harmonic play.

    Jon was backed by some of the most capable students currently at the Jazz School. The evening started with a trio format. Ed Rodrigues played his heartfelt, engrossed drumming style, with Chris Pound rock steady on bass. Dave Rodriguez joined later on guitar. Dave and Ed play regularly together and their complementary responsiveness was obvious, as Dave played simple but mellifluous solos which Ed responded to with clear affinity. Joe Lloyd joined later for some capable and differently styled alto. It was interesting to hear two altos together, rather than adding brass or a tenor. The tones of the two instruments were widely different, as was the playing. I heard Joe’s alto as thinner, toppier, more emotional, and his style as more post-Shorter, passionate in style. Jon was of a classic school: a rounded, middy tone and a more cerebral and calmer approach. No judgemental comparisons here (although I have to recognise Jon’s mastery, of course): these are stylistic differences, and the presence of the two altoists just highlighted the distinctions.

    After several days of excellent concerts, I need a few days rest. These have been fabulous performances of markedly different styles, culminating with Jon Gordon’s intelligent, stylistic perfection. But never too much of a good thing.

    Jon Gordon (alto sax) played with a student ensemble of Ed Rodriguez (drums), Chris Pound (bass), Dave Rodrigues (guitar) and Joe Lloyd (alto sax).

    Blokes’ night out

    Geoff Page’s jazz series featured the biggest band in its history when Wanderlust played at the Gods the other night: six hulking guys on that little stage. And what a pleasure it was! The music of Wanderlust is a rich, worldly blend of styles and influences. And the playing is from an experienced batch of musicians of similarly worldly backgrounds. The band has been around for about 15 years, so the gathering is mature. Gigs are not frequent (more like a family outing) and the pleasure of the players and audience is palpable when they occur. The music flows and swings and grooves with sweet melodies, taut harmonies, strong and attractive grooves and understated but very satisfying solos.

    These were six big blokes, lounging in jeans and t-shirts. No hype; lots of smiles and comradely support; jokey, especially from the ring master, James; satisfied as in the glances of Miro or the smiles of Alister, but not overweening; competent and joyous, and also profound. There were tunes you’d recognise from the Wanderlust songbook. I don’t know all the titles, but everyone knows their “only hit” as a “one hit wonder”, Bronte Café, snippets of which I still hear on ABC Radio National every now and then. There were unusual times, like a mesmeric 9/4 bass-line (divided 4-5), with tinkling piano and slide guitar fills, whale calls and a slow, mystical melody overlay. There was a jumpy African 4/4 rhythm. There was funky with hot grooves and a guitar solo with dirt (rockabilly meets Jim Kelly). There was support from James jumping to the groove, sitting out (once literally, in the audience), and calls of Yeah and the like. This was like a mates’ barbeque afternoon, but the chatter was with horns and the discussion was broader than footy. Excuse the amateur gender studies, but it took on this dimension for me: a serious but playful male event. It makes me wonder whether Wanderlust was different with Zoe Hauptman on bass.

    John Mackey was a ring-in for the second set. The tenor changed the tenor a little, although it was the second set and a bit more of a blowing session anyway. John gave a different air, with a woodwind sound (contrasting with the normal bell-like clarity of Wanderlust brass), a third harmony and a different approach, although his Coltranesque flurries seemed less conspicuous in this company. Superb playing as always, and a surprisingly easy fit for a visitor.

    The second set saw a hard and committed version of Bronte Café, with hot solos all round, and generally intensive groove out of the excellent rhythm section of Steve and Fabian, abetted by complementary comping from Alister and Jeremy. James had played the night with his characteristically simple and superbly correct melodies, but broke into some challenging discordance and later Alister brought the excesses back to earth with masterly control. A beautiful ballad followed called Peace please. Just a melody and individual solos kept faithfully within the melodic style. I noticed John’s sax here (sax is such an apt jazz instrument, being able to voice like vocals, so excelling on ballads) but also Jeremy with an effected tone which gave him a horn-like presence (a standard “defret” effect on rear pickup and bassy tone setting). And pulling all this together was Miro, host and confidant, Harmon-muted or tempestuously trumpeting. Overwhelming and a night of joy.

    Wanderlust were Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), James Greening (trombone), Alister Spence (Rhodes piano), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Steve Arie (bass) and Fabian Hevia (drums). They were joined by John Mackey (tenor) for the second set.

    06 May 2008

    Your comments on Cindy Blackman

    The Cindy Blackman Quartet visited Canberra on the same night as Tomasz Stanko, so I missed this one. Cindy Blackman (drums) played with JD Allen (tenor), George Mitchell (bass) and Carlton Holmes (keyboard/piano). This would have been exciting, and I'm sorry I missed it, but now over to you. Just add your comments below.

    A private visit

    Tomasz Stanko returned to Canberra to perform for a large audience at the Playhouse last night. It was a great performance, and much enjoyed by those who managed to attend. But there’s a gloomier side to this story. There was an attempt to bring them here for a public performance, but it was skittled by lack of a reasonably low price venue for such a specialist art form. So the performance that the band made was a private one for invited guests of the Polish Embassy on one of their two national days. CJ gives great thanks to the Embassy for sponsoring the tour and the performance. It was a wonderful event. Sadly, I give thumbs down to our inability to host a public performance of such excellent players when they are available. It’s all the market these days, and here the market clearly failed. Let’s hope for appropriate available venues for future visitors. But now back to the concert.

    I'd read that Tomasz Stanko was influenced by Ornette Coleman, so I was expecting a challenging free session. The first tune started tenderly, like horns heard over the Alps and soft mallet rolls, then on to a 6/8 time with a chromatic falling bass line, and a slow melodic overlay with a waterfall of piano notes. It continued as free: a complex of varying parts that could have been a medley, with snippets of melody and extended free playing. But the concert proceeded through various styles, with a standards-like chordal tune and a busy latin number, and finishing with an encore that my wife thought was film music, maybe the theme from the Godfather. I know that Tomasz has written film music; perhaps this was from one of his scores.

    Overall, what I heard was a blissful melange of styles. I heard hints of Freddie Hubbard in the latin and lots of Miles in the freer, modal bits. There were some wonderfully complex interplays in trio and in quartet segments. I loved a busy bass playing free with a voluble trumpet and accompanying highlights from the drums. (I remember this interplay in early Chick Corea, and it was bliss to actually see it performed). Alternatively, the piano played impressionistic/expressionistic styles reminiscent of turn of the (20th-) century European fine music tradition: spots of exquisite beauty with the Steinway tinkling like waterfalls. The drums explored rather than set the rhythm with a muted, wooden tonality at a very controlled volume. All the players implied the beat, but perhaps the bass was the stalwart here, although he joyously bounced around the rhythm often enough. Over the top were frequent, extravagant flurries of long, sustained solo lines from Tomasz, often introduced by lucid, perhaps folkloric, melodies.

    I constantly noticed Tomasz’s tone. There were visits to higher notes and fluency over the full range, but I most noticed the airy and humid tone in the lower registers which impressed me as distinctive. The sound was excellent all round. The recorded national anthems which preceded the concert suggested a very unbalanced (very bass heavy) PA EQ, but the concert itself sounded fine. I’ve mentioned the light, tinkling Steinway, and the wonderful drum tones, but the shortened travel bass (Dave Holland style) was also rich and full, and the overall tonal balance was very, very good. The Playhouse seems a competent venue for this music, at least from the front rows where I was sitting.

    I’m always surprised when I hear these international experts. It was like this most recently with Dave Holland. You know what they are doing, and it’s the same as the capable locals and we everyday mortals are doing (sometimes using the same charts), but there’s a distinction of freedom, richness, complexity, fluency, aptness that makes them something apart. My other observation is obvious and common: this is European music and it’s different from American jazz. There’s a distinctly different, more cerebral, less hard style of jazz in Europe with connections to local folk and European fine music traditions. It was evident here as elsewhere. Interesting, and all part of the international art form which is living jazz.

    In summary, this was a wonderful concert. I loved it, and even Megan enjoyed parts of it. So thanks again to the Polish Embassy and to the band. This was one for my jazz highlights history.