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

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