Monday, April 30, 2018

NZ Jazz: Broadbent/Chisholm/Brown/Gibson - Fine and Dandy

Fine and Dandy (Ode) 
Alan Broadbent (p) George Chisholm (trpt/flugel) Andy Brown (b) Frank Gibson Jr. (d)

A couple of months ago a friend of mine caught Alan Broadbent playing in New York. Following a conversation with him about the gig, I decided Broadbent was due for a spin. Initially I was going to go with his solo album in the Maybeck Recital Hall series but for whatever reason Fine and Dandy (Ode) was chosen instead. 

New Zealand Jazz Album of the Year Considering his stature, I haven't listened to a bunch of Alan Broadbent – a couple of duo albums with Lee Konitz, his duo with Irene Kral, the solo album mentioned above, and a smattering of others (bits and pieces from a couple of trio albums, some Quartet West) - and I'm yet to hear him live. This album features his line playing more so than his harmonic work (check out the Kral album Where Is Love for some great work as an accompanist). Some words that come to mind are classy, elegant, refined, melodic, swinging, and clarity. I have really enjoyed the fleetness of his playing on the title track - the phrase starting at 1:30 always seems to grab my ear. I also hear the Lennie Tristano influence in his phrasing most clearly on this track. Another favourite is his comping and solo on “We'll Be Together Again” (probably the track during which I scribbled down those half a dozen adjectives) – tasty playing.

I mentioned back in September's post (Space Case Retrospective) that I would be hearing more from the classic pairing of Andy Brown and Frank Gibson Jr. I'm guessing that by the time this album was recorded they would have been playing together for over 20 years. The title track features Brown walking as Gibson solos. It's a texture you don't hear all that often but I like it (from memory I first heard it via Sonny Dallas and Elvin Jones on Lee Konitz's Motion). And I particularly enjoyed his brush work behind Broadbent on “We'll Be Together Again.” I know there's a least two or three albums on the shelf featuring these two but I'll try and share the air(ear)time with the other Kiwi rhythm section stalwarts of Paul Dyne and Roger Sellers and Kevin Haines and Tony Hopkins as well.

Of the quartet, George Chisholm is the player I am least familiar with (I have his album, Lend an Ear, but it's been ages since I listened to it). I feel he is at his best when keeps things concise and melodic as when he gets into double time, his lines can lose focus and the notes lose vitality. The album opener, “Have You Met Miss Jones,” is a pretty good example. He starts off in a melodic mode, from the second chorus he starts interspersing double time lines which for the most part seem a bit forced. However the double time lines on “We'll Be Together Again” flow more naturally. On “Limehouse Blues” he stays clear of the double time and I think it suits him better. 

Overall, Fine and Dandy is a clean, solid, all-standards outing. Perhaps it's a little too clean for me, but the playing is high quality playing and it's definitely one for the straight ahead fans to check out.

In 1992 Fine and Dandy won Jazz Album of the Year. Last year I created a list compiling the winners and finalists (here) - it's still a work in progress so drop me a line if you have any correction or information to add (there are a few holes that need filling).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Steve Coleman & 5 Elements at Fulton Street Collective

On Monday night I got down to Fulton Street Collective for Steve Coleman and 5 Elements [Coleman (as) Jonathan Findlayson (trpt) Kokayi (v) Anthony Tidd (b) Sean Rickman (d)]. It's somewhere I've been meaning to check out for a while now and it's a nice space. It was good to be close to the action and acoustically the room was ok - the horns sounded great but the electric bass lacked a bit of clarity... but my ears adjusted to it. This was the second time I had heard this lineup (last time was at Constellation) and like then, it was an enjoyable evening. Actually, I may have enjoyed last night a bit more. They played one long set - almost 2 hours in length mostly consisting of pieces strung together without rest. At times the music drifted a little (or maybe it was my mind drifting) but I didn't really mind, possibly due to the trance/ritualistic/cyclic vibe they generated. Kokayi is a great fit for the group and it seems Coleman's tone gets richer each time I've heard him (four times now). He's been in town for most of April, and had I been more organized I could have got along to a lot more than this one night. Hopefully Coleman fans made the most of it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

And so it continues

Now that digitizing the CDs has almost wrapped up, I decided it was about time to restore a little order. Maybe one day they'll be in strict alphabetical order, but for now they are clumped together in varying ways - a pile of soprano players, a stack of solo sax albums, NZ jazz albums, and grouping artists' albums together (Paul Bley, Lee Konitz, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Sonny Rollins form a pile, Ran Blake, Monk and David Liebman form another etc.). My progress was thwarted when I ran out of space saver sleeves, so things will change as I continue to rehouse discs in jewel cases and multi-disc folders (the latter made it easier when moving but I find I don't listen to the discs as much as the ones on the shelf).

Accompanying me while I sorted out the mess was Some Time (Wout Gooris Trio plus Hayden Chisholm & Erwin Vann), Dream Flight (Liz Gorrill ..aka Kazzrie Jaxen), Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" (Christine Schafer & Solistes De L'ensemble Intercontemporain) Bela Bartok's "Concert for Orchestra (Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Fritz Reiner) and Mingus Plays Piano.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Some pics from NYC

Downtown Music Gallery
A fruitful visit to Downtown Music Gallery
Zurcher Gallery
Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg at Z├╝rcher Gallery, April 5 2018
Punjabi Deli strikes again
Troost bar
TJ Maiani (d) Michael Brownell (b) Nick Lyons (as) at Troost, Greenpoint, April 8 2018
Yonkers Brown Ale

Sunday, April 01, 2018

NZ Jazz: Chris Mason-Battley Group - Dialogos

Chris Mason-Battley Group - Dialogos (Rattle)
New Zealand Jazz
Chris Mason-Battley (ts/ss/ewi) David Lines (piano) Sam Giles (bass) Stephen Thomas (drums/loops)

I had no idea what to expect from this album. Many years ago I heard Two Tides from the CMB Group (also on Rattle) but it didn't make much of an impression on me. This time around there are exploring compositions by John Psathas. And although I'm not familiar with the compositions, this was the kicker for me to pick up Dialogos – contemporary jazz group interpreting contemporary classical compositions. I can't say my unfamiliarity with the compositions lessened the listening experience for me - just take the music at face value and away you go. Similarly, I'm not really familiar with the musicians involved, so once again the (almost) clean slate ruled the day (or month in this case).

There is a nice sense of space across the album. This contrasts/compliments the (at times) busy drums, which are featured throughout. The chops-heavy, busy playing, while creative, didn't appeal to me. Along with Mason-Battley, Thomas is the dominant solo voice, but I felt that he could have backed of a little without sacrificing his contribution. Rhythm is a unifying force across the album. As Mason-Battley stretches out on “Calenture Reprise: Dialogos,” the underlying rhythm from the rest of the band keeps things grounded.

Although my preference is for acoustic, the electric bass fits in to the group sound well. Occasionally I thought things got a little muddy, but then I'd listen again and didn't notice it. If anything, the sum is greater than the parts. There is a definite band sound that I find stronger or more appealing than the individuals. Dynamics are often neglected in jazz performance, but the CMB Group harness them across the album to great effect (and not just in that “building to a climax” kind of way). Likewise, there is plenty of textural variety throughout the album. These two elements added plenty of strength to the performance and kept my ears primed.

The overall mood is dark, brooding and perhaps, at times, introspective. With all that is going on here at the moment maybe it wasn't the right month to pick this album, and as a result I probably haven't listened to Dialogos as much as some of the other albums in this listening project to date.

If you are after a swinging jazz album, you'd be best to look elsewhere, but the exploratory playing provided plenty of surprises and resulted in stimulating listening this month. I wouldn't hesitate recommending Dialogos for those looking for something a little different in the New Zealand jazz discography. Plus, fans of John Psathas would be well advised to hear where his compositions can go in the hands of improvisers. Perhaps it's time to cast fresh ears on Two Tides