Tuesday, October 31, 2017

NZ Jazz: Chisholm / Meehan / Dyne - Unwind

I first met Hayden when he toured NZ with Root 70 in 2007 and have been listening to his music since about 2003 (more on that later). Of all my friends I've written about his music the most - and I still feel a bit guarded in doing so. Going back to 1999, Norm and Paul were teachers of mine at jazz school and earlier this year while back in NZ, I got to hear them both - P.D with Jasmine Lovell-Smith, and Norm just happened to be playing a gig at the airport(!) when I was there to head back to the U.S. This series of posts is going to challenge me to write about my friends, teachers and associates more than I have in the past. 

New Zealand jazz
Unwind is quite the contrast to the Space Case discs from last month. Following the initial spin I played word association and scribbled down some words that came to mind: space; warmth; quiet; understated; open; cozy; subtle; intimate; sparingness; dark; unhurried; joy; communicative; and intense.

The three originals from Haden have been explored before in the alto/piano/bass setting. “Fly,” “Inebriate Waltz” and “Tinkerbell's Whim” all appeared on Breve with the latter named “Tinkerbell Swing”) and “Inebriate Waltz” is also on Star Shepherd. One thing I haven't done this month is give some comparative listening to the match-ups of Dyne/Meehan, Penman/Taylor and Kaufmann/Eldn alongside Hayden. Norm contributes seven pieces and “Nick Van Dijk” (Hi Nick!) seemed very familiar to me. I think it's from watching the video of the trio that John Fenton posted on his blog late last year as I don't recall hearing another recording of it. There are some strong melodies here and later in the month I started working on “Free Motian” and “S.T.B.”

It's always interesting what pops out as you listen passively - “Edward” and “Free Motian” were the two melodies that initially drew my ear. And there's phrase from Hayden's improvisation on “Nick Van Dijk” (at 1.54) always seemed on leap out at me and now I catch myself waiting for it. Parts of the melody (the bridge) of “View of the Moon” remind me a little of “Ballad of the Hurting Girl” from Norm's Small Holes In The Silence (also on Rattle).

One of the keys to the album is the nuanced playing and subtleties – Paul's upper register playing during the melody of “Beekeeper,” or the way Norm uses a pedal tone to generate some gentle propulsion during the out head of “Free Motian.” Hayden's Basie-esque riff behind Paul's bass solo on “S.T.B” (a live track to end the album) and Norm's intro to his solo on the same piece. Some of these examples last only a matter of seconds but are vital nonetheless. On a mostly ballad outing such as this, textural variety can make a big difference. The piano/alto duo of “Free Motian,” the brief solo sax opening up “Tinkerbell's Whim” the bass/alto duo on “View of the Moon,” and Hayden's comping behind Paul on “S.T.B” provide enough variety to keep the ears fresh. Oh, and the counter point on the out head of “S.T.B” is a nice touch too (the melody of this tune brought to mind Bernie McGann).

The trio brings some laid-back churchy blues to Hayden's arrangement of Robert Schumann's “Sei Gegrusst Viel Tausendmal.” I'm enjoying the way Paul's interactive lines breath with the soloists.
Following the melody, “Unwind” momentarily features the tangled lines of dueting alto and piano before the bass reenters. This tune has bit of a different vibe to the other pieces – maybe a bit darker or starker (again, a nice bit of variety). But that feeling is more apparent during the melody statements than in the improvisations. It's nice hearing the melody used as a tool for accompaniment. I could hear this tune reimagined as a wilder out-of-tempo free-jazz thing too.

A positive vibe prevails on “Edward” which features communicative collective playing and swell to the accompaniment thats builds throughout the song. 3.28 and 4.20 were another couple of phrases/sound bites that caught my ear.

On the mid-tempo pieces like “Tinkerbell's Whim” and “S.T.B” Norm's lines have a nice singing quality to them. His playing on the latter has some nice twists and turns and use of space/phrasing that I'm digging. Paul's sound really pops on “View of the Moon” and “S.T.B” as he digs in for some walking and he plays some lovely counter melodies on “Beekeeper” and the title track.

Hints of Hayden's Johnny Hodges roots come through in “Inebriate Waltz.” The breath is very much part of Hayden's sound and while some players try to hide air sounds (or it is taught out of them), Hayden embraces it. At the six-minute mark he links two phrases with air – not something I hear people doing.

Unwind, lets you do just that – highly recommended. 

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