Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Music for Commuting: Mike Nock Duos with Pike and Liebman


Jazz Duo New Zealand Jazz
Accompanying the drive today: Beginning and End of Knowing and Duologue. I'll write more on the former later this month. And eventually I'll probably get around to writing something on the Liebman disc too. Both are highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The soothing sounds of Prez

The Kansas City Sessions (Commodore)
I could ramble on passionately about this recording till the cows come home. But in the meantime, I’ll just add that the 1938 session with Prez, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham, Freddie Green, Walter Page and Jo Jones is some of my all-time favourite music. The ensemble passages, counterpoint, solos, accompaniment, balance, swing, sound, feeling... incredible music. There’s the added bonus of having two takes of each piece and Prez plays plenty of clarinet too. In addition to singing Prez' solos, I had a blast singing along with Freddie Green’s vocals on “Them There Eyes” - something I did back-to-back with versions by Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday’s during my lessons with Connie Crothers.

Connie Crothers

Sunday, August 26, 2018

NZ Jazz: Kim Paterson - Impending Journey

Kim Paterson: Impending Journey (Tap Records)

Kim Paterson (trpt/flugel), Jason Jones (ts) Kevin Field and Mark de Clive-Lowe (p) Greg Tuohey (g) Cameron Undy and Kevin Haines (b) Nicholas McBride (d) Miguel Fuentes (percussion) 1997

New Zealand Jazz
As a new stage of my life begins, this month I have been checking out the very aptly named Impending Journey. A veteran of the NZ scene, Kim Paterson is somewhat under represented on record. In fact, Impending Journey was Paterson's first album as a leader. And outside of his work with Space Case and a couple of tracks on Jason Jones' Subspace, I have heard very little of Paterson’s playing, making this album a very welcome addition to the collection. Am I surprised that I can't recall him getting mentioned during my time in school?

This listening series must be starting to sink in as I immediately picked when Mark de Clive-Lowe was on piano. It's his rhythmic feel that stands out – more percussive than Kevin Field. Also, I thought “Tariqat” sounded like a piece Mike Nock would write – turns out he's the co-author along with Paterson, but I can't really put my finger on what the giveaway was though, just a gut reaction.

Back in 2001, Paterson talked about his love for latin music during and interview on Radio NZ's “Musical Chairs," and the presence of a number of Latin pieces here made a change for me. It's definitely a gap in my listening, and considering that I enjoy percussion it's a little odd that I still haven't delved into it that much at all. I think the bravado that often pops up in some of the music has put me off (although there is not much of that here). But I need to make more of an effort and I will probably get there eventually (recommendations appreciated!), but for now it remains on the back burner.

Although they bring a different mood to the album, the standard tunes almost seem out of place. I'm not sure if it's due the nature of playing as a duo, but I for me, I would have liked to hear more space on “Old Folks.” Both Paterson and Kevin Haines play in a pretty busy manner. On Horace Silver's “Peace” the group is stripped down to the trio of Paterson (on flugel) Tuohey and Undy. The lack of percussion leaps out and the guitar brings it's own color and texture into the mix, providing plenty of contrast to the four numbers that preceded it. The track grew on me a bit, but I found it lacked the forward momentum of the my favourite playing on the album. On more than one occasion, I ended up focusing on Undy's economical playing. The trio returns on “How Insensitive” and features some bold playing from Paterson (who is pretty busy here too), but I still feel things get a bit bogged down.

Jason Jones makes a welcome appearance on four tracks, and my initial impression was that he plays stronger here than on his own release, Subspace (but I probably need to go back and give it another listen). He never overplays his hand, paces himself well and plays some nice bold lines. I particularly enjoyed his well constructed solo on the title tune that features alternating swing and latin sections.

Paterson plays with plenty of energy, has a nice melodic sense and there’s some fire too, without overdoing it - around the 2 min mark on “Lost and Found.” Or on “Tariqat,” which features a nice mellow approach on flugelhorn but he adds some zip when he moves into the upper register. The muted trumpet lines stood out on “Miguel” – I think it was the urgency to his time feel that did it (and in general, I liked his time feel throughout the album). I really enjoyed Kevin Field's comping behind the trumpet too (and his brief solo is perhaps the most harmonically varied of the soloists) and the alternating grooves on the piece “Miguel” brought the piece to life. Not surprisingly Miguel Fuentes got a bit of room to stretch out too [side note: while I felt the trio tracks interrupted the flow of the album, it would have been great to hear a track featuring Paterson and Fuentes as a duo]. “Vision” is full of spark, energy, swagger and ebb and flow. It comes with bit of a mid-60s Miles vibe and it stood out to me. Mark de Clive-Lowe's spacious approach to comping behind Paterson really hits the spot. He builds into the piece, creating a nice dialogue between piano and horn. The album wraps up with Paterson playing solo muted trumpet. It's his take on "Gujarati Arti" and the intimate performance makes for a nice coda.

I think all that remains for me to pick up in the Tap Records catalog is Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Vision, which features many of the same personnel. But as far as Paterson goes, I want to get the live recording from the late 60s with Bernie McGann and the more recent, The Duenede

The one year mark for this series is just around the corner so stay tuned for more as I try and keep it going. In the meantime, if you want to see Paterson in action, John Fenton uploaded a video from a gig from earlier in 2018. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The soothing sounds of Connie Crothers and Hayden Chisholm

On select nights over the past couple of weeks, Hadyen Chisholm's Circe (Jazz Haus Musik) and Connie Crothers' Music from Everyday Life (New Artists) have been doing the late night rounds as I drift off to sleep. Both are albums I return to often, particularly when the mind needs calming.
New Artists Records Jazz Haus Musik

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

NZ Jazz: Vibrant Tongues - The Shadow Out of Time

Vibrant Tongues: The Shadow Out of Time
Blair Latham (ts) Tom Callwood (b) Reuben Bradley (d) 2006


Up until now, this project has focussed on filling some gaps in my listening. So I why did I choose an album that wasn't new to me? Aside from it's nice to revisit albums once in a while, I don't really know. Somewhere along the way the CD developed a glitch on the last two tracks but thankfully it ripped onto the computer without a problem. I pulled a pile of NZ jazz albums off the shelf and for whatever reason, here we are, with The Shadow Out of Time.

Reuben Bradley Blair Latham Tom Callwood
I remember listening to this album quite a bit after picking it up at the CD release gig (at Happy) but it has been a long time between listens. I couldn't really remember any specifics, but the overall vibe – a dark quality, yet energetic – was still firmly in my mind. It was the more up tempo pieces that had left that impression. I hadn't remembered the ballads being as strong, but I gave them a closer listen this time around and they went down nicely. They offset the more outwardly energetic pieces and bring variety to the album that I had forgotten. Blair and Reuben share the composition duties (with five and three respectively) and there is plenty of continuity between the two, creating a nice flow to the album.

At times the Tom Callwood's bass is a little low in the mix or it's probably more of a case of the tenor being too high. It could lead a listener to miss some of the subtleties of the important role he plays in the trio. On the upside in did cause me to tune in to the bass more closely. Mixing broken time, walking and double stops provides a welcome disjointed feel to “Mad Uncle” with the drums joining in as the sax swings along energetically. Around the 2 minute mark on “I Dare Hear” there are some nice, somewhat unexpected bass interjections that popped out at me. Tom's solo on “3 4 5” sets up the transition back into the final melody statement (this time taking a rubato approach – nice touch). Much like his work on “Asturias” on West of the Sun (see the last post in the series), the solo bass intro on “Search In Progress” does a great job of establishing the tone of the piece. The ostinatos (with variations) are an important factor in “Shimmering Sunset” and “Wanna Get Happy?” Not one for flashy pyrotechnic displays, Callwood is a creative accompanist and soloist who gets to the essence of the compositions and I find that makes far more interesting and enjoyable listening.

Back in my alto days (daze?), I remember being a little disappointed when Blair made the switch from alto to tenor, but that seems a long time ago now (I guess it was in the early 2000s). The album opens with “Make It Quicker” and Blair comes straight out of the blocks full steam ahead (and Rueben latches on to Blair’s energy throughout).Blair's playing contains a certain quirkiness that I find very appealing (and the quirkiness doesn't become gimmicky). His tone is resonant (vibrant) with a bit of bark and well as a cry. At times a vocal quality comes to the fore. The growl is well integrated into the overall sound and doesn't really sound like it is just pasted on (“and now it's time to growl”). Instead, it's part of the natural development of the line and feeling (I feel even Coleman Hawkins fell into the trap and overdid it). There is an exuberance to his time feel (almost a bubblyness) which makes for an interesting contrast with the darker qualities of the music. On “Wanna Get Happy” his lines are scattered and energetic and his tone almost splits as he attacks notes on “I Dare Hear” whilemixing up a swinging swagger with darting double time lines to great affect. There's even a little atmospheric bass clarinet during the intro of “Shimmering Sunset” before he switches to tenor for a very well-paced solo to round out the album.
I haven't heard Blair live for quite some time and he hasn't recorded all that much (this is the only recording I have and I must seek out others). But listening to The Shadow Out of Time has made me want to hear more. He doesn't really sound like any other saxophonist that I can think of..... and if this music is about developing a personal sound and approach then Blair is ticking those boxes. It's definitely not your garden variety, clean, generic modern tenor playing.

Reuben has established himself as one of the top jazz drummers in the country but I'm afraid to say that I haven't had a close listen to much of his recorded work. I'm keen to listen to Shark Variations (with Roger Manins and Brett Hirst) to hear him in another sax/bass/drums setting some 10 years after The Shadow Out of Time. At times he can quite busy but without cluttering or dominating even as he builds intensity throughout a piece as on “Wanna Get Happy?” On “Shimmering Sunset” he draws out some different colors and there's airiness to his playing that remains present throughout, even if only hinted at, as the piece develops. These days Reuben is based in Australia but hopefully he gets back regularly as I've always found him to be a positive force in the NZ jazz community. In fact, he played (with Blair) while I was back but I was unable to get along. Next time!

While this series was originally about discovering new music, revisiting The Shadow Out of Time has been time well spent – I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this album.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Arthur Street Loft Orchestra

New Zealand Jazz
Lucien Johnson
While I was back home I wanted to check out some live music. On the short list was the series organized by my friend Jake Baxendale - The Arthur Street Loft Orchestra. And it just so happened that my visit coincided with the series featuring the music of my friends Jasmine, Lucien and Jake. While the name implies a single unit, the series actually features various large ensembles utilizing a rotating cast of players, showcasing the works of local composers. This Monday night series has been going 12 weeks and so far he was the series booked through the end of September, but is confident he can keep it running until the end of the year. The Arthur Street Loft Orchestra is a welcome addition as it fills a gap in the Wellington scene, which hasn't had much room for regular performances by large ensembles - especially ones presenting original music.

It was nice to hear people writing music for large ensembles outside of the standard 16(ish)-piece big band line up in terms of both instrumentation and conception. First up was a large ensemble led by Lucien Johnson - five saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones, and rhythm plus Lucien on synth (and he played some soprano too). Unsurprisingly, Lucien came up with something a little different – a synth and bass driven big band sound. Normally I wouldn't like the bass as prominent in the mix for a big band but for this music it really worked. And it was nice to hear “Light Shaft” and “Asturias” from West of the Sun arranged for a larger group. The playing was enthusiastic, even if they were a little underprepared (yet delightfully so!).
New Zealand Jazz
Jasmine Lovell-Smith and Jake Baxendale

The following week I got along to an evening of music written by Jasmine Lovell-Smith & Jake Baxendale played by a ten-piece lineup consisting of rhythm section and six horns (2 brass and 4 saxes with a couple of doubles). It was advertised as a “chamber jazz” group, I'm not really sure I would have picked that descriptor. But based on that, I was it expecting something more on the quiet side – largely acoustic, light, subtle, brushes, weaving lines, etc. (although perhaps the acoustics at The Third Eye may not be suitable to such an approach). And while it didn't really check all of those boxes, it didn't stop me from enjoying the music. 

I was not surprised to see plenty of new (younger) faces on the bandstand, but I was surprised that I didn't really know anyone in the audience (both gigs we pretty well attended) - compare this to when I was home last year I knew about 75% of the crowd at a gig of Jasmine's. This time round the average age was older too. I'm not sure what to put it down to - Monday night perhaps... or maybe because it's more expensive than most gigs around town. But it's a nice atmosphere, so if you're in Wellington on a Monday night check out the Arthur Street Loft Orchestra at The Third Eye. To quote Jake, “the only other gig in town on Monday is the folk jam at the Welsh Dragon, and that used to be a public toilet.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

NZ Jazz: Lucien Johnson + 5 - West of the Sun


Lucien Johnson + 5: West of the Sun 

Johnson (ts) Lex French (trpt) Nick Van Dijk (trb) Jonathan Crayford (p) Tom Callwood (b) Chris O'Connor (d) 2016
New Zealand Jazz
I still find it tricky writing about recordings when I know many of the individual's involved (whether they be teachers, colleagues, friends... or all of the above as is the case here). As a result, this post almost got put on hold - but here it is!

I've known Lucien almost 20 years. When I started music school it was immediately clear that he was one of the better musician's around (and he knew what that place was about). I remember being blown away hearing him play Warne Marsh's solo on “All The Things You Are” (from the Copenhagen trio recordings) and his and arrangements and compositions were always interesting. He spoke his mind (and ruffled some feathers) but I always found him approachable and a great source for listening suggestions (it was Lucien who encouraged me to check out Steve Lacy).

Although Lucien hasn't recorded a ton, there is plenty of variety in his output - The Night's Plutonian Shore, Stinging Nettles, Captain Blood (I haven't heard the latter in ages) are all very different. So was it a surprise to see his latest recording change things up again and feature three horns and rhythm section playing six original compositions? Not really, but it didn't disappoint either. The opening track, “Clarion Call,” set the mood for the album and grabbed my attention. West of the Sun appears upbeat on the surface, but a darkness also is present, a combination that drew me in from the beginning. 

As with Jim Langabeer's Secret Islands, I found Lucien's choice of personnel was really on point. The sextet is comprised of players that I've heard live quite a bit and they meld together here to form a very cohesive unit. Chris O'Connor has long been one of my favourite drummers on the NZ scene and he doesn't disappoint. He gets a little room to move on the closing track, “Zapata,” but other than that, he's quite understated. However, the taste and groove is always there. Supportive and creative – it's hard to ask for more than that. 

It would have been nice to hear a little more from Nick Van Dijk as his playing mines deep and captures the essence of “Asturias.” His solo features a reaching lyricism, not a quality I hear all that often but one that I find very appealing. There have been many occasions this past month when I have looped this solo. I'd love to hear Nick get oppourtunities to be able to stretch out in this manner more often.

Lex French's tone and playing during the obbligato over the tenor and trombone on “El Cid” fits the vibe of the piece to a tee. His solo work is strong across the album and I enjoy the contrast between the tenor and trumpet in terms of color and feel. Both play some slinky lines but Lucien tends to be a bit more laid back and perhaps Lex is a little more notey. 

Sometimes I find Tom Callwood's tone is a little ampy but I enjoy his playing. “Asturias” opens with Joe strumming solo bass and he does a fine job of setting the mood. His accompaniment during Jonathan Crayford's solo on the title track hits the spot. The piano solo itself is very tasty and a study in not overstating things. Fans of jazz in New Zealand need no introduction to Crayford and it will come as no surprise that his playing is top-notch. I know he was an important part in Lucien's development so it's nice hearing them recording together. His playing here was a reminder how much I need to give a listen to his two trio albums on Rattle (more to add to the list!).

Lucien's woody, dark tone with some buzz and ring to the edges really slots into the overall vibe of the album. His solos are strong throughout as he creates weaving lines with some nice bolder melodic interjections that grab your ear. The title track (with its stripped down line-up sans trumpet and trombone) features a very mature solo that flows on very nicely from Crayford's solo. It's expressive ballad playing with no need for lots of flash – he cuts things back to the bone. The “lazy” opening phrase of his solo on “El Cid” puts a smile on my face, and it leads into a well-paced solo. His writing is also very strong and he utilizes the instrumentation to bring a depth of sound to the ensemble passages without weighing things down. It's been refreshing listening to a three-horn front line. They get a nice blend and the shout chorus between the tenor and piano solos “Light Shaft” is a very nice touch.

I was pleased to see West of the Sun amongst the finalists for Jazz Album of the Year. In my book, the LP length is a bonus as it's a great length for listening and remaining focussed. So head over to Bandcamp and pick up a copy. If Lucien has any vinyl left I might have to grab one next time I see him.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Straight Horning: Bruce Ackley Trio - The Hearing

Bruce Ackley Trio: The Hearing (Avant)

Ackley (ss) Greg Cohen (b) Joey Baron (d) 

Bruce Ackley has very much flown under my radar. Outside of the little I've heard from ROVA, this is the first album I've heard from Ackley. And after a little digging around this appears to be his only release as a leader (are there others?). I may be late to the party, but thankfully The Hearing has been getting plenty of airtime since picking it up back in May. 

Soprano Saxophone Jazz
The album was produced by John Zorn who, not for the first time, enlisted Greg Cohen (b) and Joey Baron (d) – a Zorn house rhythm section of sorts perhaps. A couple of other Zorn produced discs in my library featuring this pairing include Misha Mengelberg's No Idea and Lee Konitz's Some New Stuff and then there's Masada (I'm sure there are others too). It's a really solid pairing – swinging, creative, supportive, interactive and flexible. You can't ask for too much more really. It's a testament to their ability that the album locks right into place – I wouldn't have picked that they hadn't played with Ackley before.
Soloistically sometimes Baron is a little bombastic for me... but it's only a minor complaint and in some ways it matches Ackley's spark - and it's not out of place on pieces like “Serf Music.” Cohen's double stops on “Clear Blue Sky” grabbed my attention. He doesn't overdo it - a couple times during melody and one phrase during his solo – plus he plays very nice walking lines and melodic solo too.

The exuberance of “Out of the Box” brought Monk to mind - when I read then liner notes (I always give the album a listen first) it mentioned Herbie Nichols was the inspiration. “1, 2 and Radical 3” has a mysterious vibe. Baron shows he is much more than bombastic with lots of subtle changes behind the more dominant bass and soprano. Solo following the melody features lots of shorts phrases, pecking and jabs and some flurries, register leaps, and melodic variation. The head of the energetic blues, “Juggernaut,” has pointed feel due to Ackley's clipped articulation. But things smooth out a bit during the blowing but the energy remains throughout. I liked Baron's shift in sound/texture as he accompanies Cohen's solo before employing some trademark Baron power during the trades. Mr Mood” is a bit more reflective/introspective. There's almost a stream of conscience type thing going on, with ideas, direction and colors changing phrase to phrase yet somehow it all ties together and is very much in fitting with the melody. I couldn't help thinking of Wayne Shorter. There's plenty of interaction between the trio and at a push it could be my favourite track on the album. On the full-throttle, busy, up-tempo burn of “JT”, Ackley moves into the outer regions via the upper range. There two sides to “Syndrome”, a buoyant march that opens the work and then a more outwardly reflective (yet still inwardly driving) for the rest of the piece. I expected that they would reprise the march at the end but they don't and it really wasn't necessary. “Serf Music” features Ackley utilizing a chanter-like effect over arco bass and drums (playing a quasi-surf feel at times... Or is that the tunes title playing on my mind?). The chanter effect contorts and distorts with the addition of multiphonics and altissimo as the piece progresses. Cohen's intense arco playing really sets up the vibe of “Actual Size”, and locks in with Baron's dry cymbal for some swinging bass lines while Ackley generates an exploratory feel while still maintaining the swing. Rounding out the album is the mid-tempo “Ivan's Bell” features an angular melody that is still somewhat lyrical, and the melodicism remains for Ackley's solo. 

Ackley is definitely coming from the Lacy realm but expresses his own personality from within that sphere. He has a full-bodied, solid, robust, flexible, bold, pure soprano sound. There's evenness across the range and a he finds a nice combination of darkness/spread and focus. Ackley plays with plenty of energy and spark (slightly manic quality at times, but appealingly so). There is a probing quality to his playing that really enjoy. I think some of it is due to his time feel and busyness of his playing - he can be quite notey at times. One word that always came to mind as I listened to this was “exploratory” - like Lacy, Ackley is an explorer. 

Fellow soprano saxophone enthusiasts/fanatics, do yourself a favor and dig into The Hearing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Recent listening: Some Ornette and Bley

Experiencing Ornette ColemanNew Zealand Music Month had me listening to a lot of jazz from back home, although towards the end of the month I started listening to selected tracks from a bunch of Ornette Coleman albums. I've been working on the melodies of "Jayne" from Something Else!!!! and "Humpty Dumpty" from This is Our Music. "What Reason" from both of the Sound Museum albums has been getting airtime (both of these albums deserve more of my attention). Ornette on Tenor is the Atlantic album that I have listened to the least, so that has been played a few times over the past week. The hook-up between Jimmy Garrison and Ed Blackwell is superb and it made me want to hear more Garrison with Ornette - coming in the form of New York is Now! (I don't have Love Call...yet). Also tickling my fancy of late has been some Paul Bley - a player never out of rotation for very long. This time round it's been a smattering of tracks from Paul Plays Carla and the Complete Savoy Sessions 1962-63. Not pictured are Song X and Tone Dialing which is where this little blast of Ornette began after I caught myself singing "Kathleen Gray" couple of times and decided to learn it. Accompanying on the train ride to work has been Michael Stephan's Experiencing Ornette Coleman. It's a pretty easy read, not a lot of new information, but it's interesting to read another take on Ornette. I'd be interested in reading Stephen Rush's Free Jazz, Harmolodics and Ornette Coleman. And as it turns out, it's at the public library too, so that will likely be next on the list.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NZ Music Month: The 3-Out – Move

The 3-Out: Move 
Mike Nock (p) Freddy Logan (b) Chris Karan (d)

New Zealand Jazz
Years before I heard Move, a friend (hi John!) played me a single track (possibly from a radio broadcast) blindfold test style. It was the 3-Out, and I picked Mike as the pianist. I'll put that down to an educated guess. I don't know if there are qualities on this recording that I recognize in Nock's present-day work. Perhaps I hear similarities in the energy and time feel... perhaps. The simple fact that I know it's Mike Nock makes it a bit tricky and easy to suggest things that are not really there. But something clued me in during that first listen.

Does his music conjure up images or feelings of New Zealand? Not so on Move, but on later recordings I do get that feeling. But again, the power of suggestion is at play (“Land of the Long White Cloud” from Ondas for example). Knowing he's a Kiwi leads me to making connections between his music and my own feelings/memories/impressions of New Zealand – whether it be landscapes, space, the light or the weather etc. If these connections exist only in my mind are they real? What I hear as reflecting New Zealand could easily be heard as something entirely differently by someone else (including fellow New Zealanders).

I don't get that feeling from other overseas based players such as Alan Broadbent or Matt Penman – so why do I get it with Mike? (sometimes I make that connection with Hayden Chisholm's music too) Maybe it's because Nock was the first jazz musician from New Zealand with whom I was aware, I latched onto that and projected it onto his music.

How about local jazz players invoking a New Zealand quality? The textual component of much of Norman Meehan's recent work helps, but you could debate how “jazzy” some of those recordings are. Jim Langabeer maybe (again with the power of suggestion re: song titles). And then there's the use of Taonga puoro. From the little I have heard of Jonathan Crayford's trio albums (they're on the list more a closer listen), they bring to mind some New Zealandness. But can it be NZ Jazz when two-thirds of the groups aren't Kiwis? I know that some entires for Jazz Album of the Year have been not seriously considered because they were recorded overseas with only one Kiwi. Thankfully Jonathan Crayford's win in 2017 for East West Moon seems to have put an end to that.

What is New Zealand Jazz? Does it invoke a particular feeling or imagery? Is it all just in my head? Is it even a thing? I lean towards no, and what I've heard from others on the subject, this is likely the consensus view at the moment - New Zealand Jazz isn't a thing, but jazz from New Zealand is. Perhaps, on some level, that's what this listening project is really about. 

Move might sound pretty tame these days, but it pays to put things in context. From all reports this trio was at the fore of Australasian jazz. I stumbled on a couple of pretty interesting articles discussing that period of jazz in Australia, particularly the El Rocco – here and here

I haven’t heard (m)any recordings from around this time to make comparisons. With the ease of recordings these days (not always a good thing!) sometimes you forget that once upon a time, musicians had to have someone willing to invest in them. That resulted in a lot of music not getting recorded. There is an interview with Mike where he talks about playing in saxophonist Bob Gillet’s band which was incorporating works by Kenneth Patchen - that’s something I’d like to hear! [Side note: Gillet, an American, was an important force on the jazz scenes in both NZ and Australia but I’m yet to hear a recording of him - is anything available?]

Anyway, it's great that the two albums from the trio have been reissued. Also reissued around the same time was Judy Bailey's 1964 trio album – lets hope for more. With these being Nock's first recordings of note, it's definitely one for Mike Nock fans or those interested in jazz in New Zealand and/or Australia in the late 50 and early 60s.

Well, this post took a somewhat unexpected turn. Thanks for hanging in there.
New Zealand Jazz

Thursday, May 24, 2018

NZ Music Month: The Three Out Trio - Hot and Swinging

The 3-Out were featured in the March 16, 1962 issue of the NZ Listener. I remember hearing Mike mention that this was the group everyone asked him about. I put it down to the records being scarce (and expensive). Since then, both Move and Sittin’ In have been reissued and I wonder if the Three Out questions have subsided? Anyone keen to try and track down the six shows they recorded for NZBS?

Click on the image to view the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
NZ Music Month New Zealand Jazz
New Zealand Jazz

Friday, May 18, 2018

NZ Music Month: Nathan Haines - The Poet's Embrace

Nathan Haines – The Poet's Embrace (Haven Music)
Haines (ts) Kevin Field (p) Thomas Botting (b) Alain Koetsier (d) 

Shift Left was released around the timeI started playing saxophone  (there was even a music video for the single) and, aside from my saxophone teacher (hi Phil!), Haines was the first New Zealand saxophonist I was really aware of. It took a while, but in 2012 Haines finally recorded a set of all-acoustic music - The Poet's Embrace.
NZ Music Month - New Zealand Jazz

Haines has talked about the ever-present influence of John Coltrane, especially when he plays tenor. The opening notes of “Realisation” had me wondering if this would be a “clone-trane” all-tenor outing, but that thought soon diminished. 

As a saxophonist myself, tone is the thing I dial in on first and it is probably his tone that I have been most closely listening to. Initially it drew me in as it was different than what I had heard from him on tenor previously. Round, woody, spread, dark, a certain amount of tubbiness and a lot of color. There is also something that I struggle to describe – a hollowness maybe. This is by no means a negative, I like it. Sometimes I feel there's a little too much room sound in general (the drums on “Universal Man”) but more so on the sax in particular which at times seems like he's a little off mic (“Realisation”). But my ears always adjust and I soon forget about it. I like the way he shifts tonal colour between (and sometimes during) phrases on “Ancestral Dance.” He doesn't overdo the high notes, when he does move into the upper register it makes for a nice contrast.

I would have appreciated some soprano too, but hey, you can't win them all. Instead I put on Haines' 1994 debut as a leader, Shift Left, for my soprano fix. It had been ages since I gave it a listen. A nice throwback to my teens and it made me realize that Shift Left was the first new(ish) jazz release that I purchased (if it can be considered a jazz release. [Side note: I'm pretty sure the next new release I purchased was Ornette Coleman's Tone Dialing

Shift Left was also a reminder as to just how long Kevin Field has been on the scene. And a reminder that there is a gaping hole in my listening when it comes to Field. His playing is classy throughout. The title track contains a very tasty solo introduction (the solo isn't bad either) and he provides plenty of energy of “Universal Man.” 

And then there's Botting and Koetsier, two players I am really unfamiliar with. They generate a really well balanced rhythm section sound in support of Haines and Field but don't get too much room to stretch out themselves as far as soloing goes.

Haines wrote 5 of the 7 tunes. And the other two slide into the program seamlessly. I've spent some time this past week playing along with Field's “Offering.” And Roy Brooks' “Eboness” is a real ear worm. I can't tell you how times it's been accompanying me in my mind's ear. There's plenty of variety – lyrical ballads (the title track and “Offering”), fire (“Consequence”), mellow groove (“Eboness”) and upbeat vibes (“Universal Man”). 

Ending the album is Kevin Field's “Offering.” The piece leaves you hanging as if waiting for a response to the musical offering conjured up by the quartet over the past 45 minutes. I find the LP length recording refreshing. It's a nice amount of time to listen in one sitting. I feel you get in more repeated listens and can dig into the album without realizing.

I am yet to check out follow-up, Vermillion Skies, recorded a year later by an expanded ensemble. I'll add it to the list! Apparently there are plans for a third album in this series of acoustic works.

New Zealand Jazz

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 NZ Jazz Award Finalists Announced

The finalists for the Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist and APRA Best Jazz Composition have been announced. 

Does anyone know why change Jazz Album of the Year is now Best Jazz Artist? To me they are different things and the award is still based on the album. Anyway....

It's great to see a number of friends in the running. Of the albums, Fearless Music, is the only one I haven't heard, but Unwind has had plenty of airtime since I picked it up last year (and I woke up at 3am this morning with "View of the Moon" floating through my minds ear) and I'm listening to West of the Sun as I write this post. I've been listening to it sporadically since picking it up at the start of the year - Really enjoyable and recommended (I'll get around to blogging about it eventually). I'm a little surprised that Jim Langabeer's Secret Islands didn't make the final three. The composition award is a different matter – I'm not familiar with any of them! However, the works by Callum and Jake were recorded by Radio New Zealand and you can listen to the The Jac & Black String there (part of my plan today). Anita's tune is on her soon to be released album, Eat You Greens – her first as a leader (I think) and I'm looking forward to hearing it. 

Best Jazz Artist 
Lucien Johnson: West of the Sun
Hayden Chisholm/Norman Meehan/Paul Dyne: Unwind
Umar Zakaria: Fearless Music

APRA Best Jazz Composition 
Callum Allardice: "A Gathering"
Anita Schwabe: "Springtide"
Jake Baxendale: "Beyond the Palace"

APRA Best Jazz Composition NZ Music Month

Saturday, May 12, 2018

NZ Music Month: Nathan Haines - Growing up in NYC

Next up in the NZ Music Month articles is the April 1992 issue of NZ Musician. This issue featured Nathan Haines following his first sojourn in the United States. Nathan is currently recovering from surgery and treatments to remove a cancerous tumor from his throat - be sure to send him some good vibes.
Click on the image to view the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
NZ Music Month
New Zealand Jazz

Sunday, May 06, 2018

NZ Music Month: Sustenance - Food for Thought

Sustenance: Food For Thought (Southbound)
Phil Broadhurst (p) Colin Hemmingsen (ts/ss) Paul Dyne (b) Roger Sellers (d)
Phil Broadhurst Colin Hemmingsen Paul Dyne Roger Sellers New Zealand Jazz

I think it's fair to say that Sustenance is essentially the Phil Broadhurst Quartet, but of the quartet, he is the musician with whom I am least familiar. Broadhurst also represents the geographic isolation between scenes that I've mentioned previously - my having only passing familiarity with the NZ jazz world outside of my local (Wellington) scene – an issue that this listening project is addressing. I did tune into his Radio NZ program, “The Art of Jazz,” on a pretty regular basis, maybe that's when I first heard Food for Thought. I remember he played plenty of artists/recordings I hadn't heard before. So I'm well overdue giving him bit of attention. He has numerous albums as a leader and one of the earlier trio outings is in the queue on the shelf.

Colin plays a lot more soprano on this album than I expected. In fact, there's more soprano than tenor, which is surprising as I always think of Colin as a tenor player. As a soprano player myself, I'll take it. There is a lyrical aspect to Colin's playing that not many people talk about. It pops up in many of his solos, even if just for a moment, they make a nice contrast to the more notey line playing and it's these moments that stick out the most to me – the solos on “Harbour” and “Food for Thought” came to mind first but there are examples across the album. Maybe it was all those years playing classical music?

I'm used to hearing Roger in standards/be-bop orientated settings and it's nice hearing him in a more contemporary setting (not that his playing is all that different). Throughout this series I have been (and will be) listening to a fair amount of Frank Gibson Jr. I find Roger's playing more understated but no less swinging or creative. He draws plenty of colors from the kit and one that grabbed my ear was the cymbal sound behind P.D's solo on “Why Me?” - it's the only time he utilizes that sound on the album. Paul is rock solid as usual. One spot that popped out at me was his playing behind Broadhurst on the title track – underpinning the group whilst staying melodically creative.

I don't have that many recordings of P.D and Roger. At first I wasn't sure why, but then I realized that back in the day I heard them play together (and individually) live on such a regular basis that it probably didn't occur to me to pick up recordings. C.L Bob, Jeff Henderson and some others come to mind that I heard live a lot but didn't get their albums (I did get the 1st C.L Bob album but that was before I heard them live). The same is true for Colin, although he wasn't gigging nearly as much, I did hear him play a lot... but do lessons and classes count?

It would be great if the earlier vinyl-only albums got reissued... how about a Sustenance box set?

This week I've enjoyed playing the melodies of “Dilemma” and “Harbour.” Interestingly, after 
working on the latter, I caught myself singing Mike Nock's “Mossaflo” too (recorded on Climbing and Open Door). Also, I listened to 75% of Sustenance on Radio NZ's “Musical Chairs” - Colin, Roger and Paul (even has an excerpt from the pre-bass days with P.D on clarinet!). 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

NZ Music Month: Colin Hemmingsen - Music in New Zealand

During May I will be uploading a few articles on NZ jazz that I stumbled into while poking around the library. First up is the winter 1993 issue of Music in New Zealand in which my saxophone teacher, Colin Hemmingsen, was featured.

Click on the image to view the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
NZ Music Month New Zealand Jazz
New Zealand Jazz