Sunday, May 31, 2015

NZ Music Month: Syzygy - Tongue Grooves

For Part 4 of my New Zealand Music Month posts (Part 1Part 2 and Part 3), I've been revisiting an album I listened to a lot during my time at music school.
NZ Jazz New Zealand Jazz

Syzygy: creative music ensemble - Tongue Grooves (Yellow Eye)

Jeff Henderson (as) Joe Callwood (g) John Bell (vibes) Paul Dyne (b/e.bass) Chris O’Connor (d)
Recorded in Wellington during 1996, I never managed to hear this group live. But later on I did get to hear the members in various other groups playing around Wellington (particularly from 1999 up until I headed to the U.S in 2004. And again between 2005-2009). This album may be a bit harder to track down than the other three albums I've written about this month. Originally I brought it from Slowboat Records and somewhere along my travels I lost it. But thanks to Gemm, I managed to get another copy from Slowboat.

Tongue Grooves has plenty of variety - the grinding "Pain and Darkness", straight ahead swinging "Nquitpausuckowashawmen",  the comedy of "Saydah's Tongue Groove", the mellow "Breathe Now", the high energy of "The Risk" and the angular "Demented #2" - but there is also continuity that glues the album together into a solid work. 

Mike Nock recordings aside, Tongue Grooves was the NZ jazz album I listened to the most during music school (C.L. Bob (live and recordings) got plenty of airtime too). It was rare that anyone ever mentioned NZ jazz around school (Paul, Chris and Jeff (briefly) taught me at the university, as did John but I don't remember having any classes with him). The curriculum didn't place any emphasis on NZ jazz and I cannot recall playing tunes by Kiwis (although there were a couple of big band charts by Alan Broadbent), nor can I remember our jazz history class spending any time on the NZ scene. I hope this changes.

Listening to Tongue Grooves this month has brought back memories of 1999 and listening in my bedroom overlooking the car park out back of The George. Nostalgia has kicked in and I want to check out more NZ jazz recordings from that time period. I'm sure there are plenty of NZ jazz albums from the 90s that I haven't heard but Tongue Grooves must still rank very highly. Next time I'm home I'll have to hit the used record stores to try and track some of them down.
New Zealand Jazz

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