Tuesday, May 09, 2017

NZ Music Month: C.L. Bob

As it is NZ Music Month, I'm going to try and write a little each week on some NZ jazz albums that I have been listening to. Stay tuned for more.
I'm kicking things off with the self-titled release from C.L. Bob (Yellow Eye) - Steve Cournane (Drums) David Leahy (Bass/Trombone) John Bell (Vibraphone/Trumpet) Nils Olsen (Sax/Clarinet) Simon Bowden (Guitar).
NZ Music Month

Recorded in 1997, I stumbled upon C.L. Bob's self titled album sometime the following year. I'm not sure how I knew they were a NZ group (maybe I'd seen an article in the paper or heard something on the radio) but that was the motivating factor of my purchase. Somewhere along my travels the album was lost/borrowed/misplaced and recently I reacquainted myself with it (good ol' discogs) after many, many years apart.

I got to hear various incarnations of C.L. Bob live many times around Wellington up until I headed to the U.S. I can't remember if I saw this particular lineup live but I'm almost certain I heard them before they added a second guitar to the front line - so it's a possibility. I think I only heard them play material from their third album (The Great Flash) - released not that long after I returned from the states - on one occasion, and the band seemed to dissolve not long after that.

It's very much a collective effort with composition duties and solo features spread evenly throughout the band. As with their later work, the first album from from C.L Bob is quite an eclectic jazz album infused with touches of fun ("Cartoon Donkey"), break beat ("Transitions"), rock ("Endings"... add it to the fun category too), avant grade ("Spike"), and ballads ("Jane"). It comes together as a whole and works pretty well and definitely points towards areas they would develop on the two albums that followed.

At the time, hearing them live was an enjoyable night, hanging with friends and listening to a good band. I studied with Nils for about six months and it's always good to check out what your teachers get up to outside of lessons. I don't recall this music ever reaching me on a deep personal level though, and if anything, listening to C.L. Bob over the past week or so has been a somewhat nostalgic experience. It has been fun giving it a listen with fresh ears and had me thinking about some other ensembles from around that time featuring C.L Bob personnel. There was a trio (I forget the name....Bertha?) featuring Nils (bass clarinet), Steve (drums) and guitarist Chris Williamson (who by then was part of C.L.Bob) who drew repertoire from the songbook of Monk (and Mingus too if my memory is holding together). I would really like to get my ears on the album by Sanctus Trio (John on vibes with Chris O'Connor & Patrick Bleakley).

Be sure to check out Steve Cournane's bandcamp page for digital versions of the C.L Bob albums plus plus a few other recordings.
new zealand jazz

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