Thursday, May 31, 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

Friday, May 25, 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

Saturday, May 19, 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

Friday, May 18, 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

Sunday, May 13, 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.
New Zealand Jazz
New Zealand Jazz

Monday, May 07, 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!). 

Wednesday, May 02, 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

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Nicole Mitchell and Ben Goldberg gigs

I managed to get out to a couple of gigs this week. Saturday night I was up at Constellation for the 20th anniversary of Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble. There was a nice turn out and the two sets were full of good vibes. I particularly enjoyed Mitchell's solo work along with that of pianist Jim Baker (although at times I struggled to hear him clearly during his ensemble work), Tomeka Reid (cello) and JoVia Armstrong (percussion) and the overall energy of the ensemble sound.

Constellation Chicago
Tonight it was off to Experimental Sound Studio for the Option Series. This week they presented "Practitioner" - the duo of Ben Goldberg (clarinets) and Michael Coleman (keys). The two delved into Steve Lacy’s "Book of H" from his solo album Hocus PocusI’ve heard Frank Gratkowski talk about the blendability of the clarinet (due it the overtone structure). It was on display tonight as Goldberg attained a great blend with the rhodes and synth. Nice to see them delving into one of Lacy’s more obscure albums, and fascinating to hear it reimagined in the duo setting. It was a very enjoyable set. I wasn’t familiar with Coleman and I really enjoyed his playing. And yes, I picked up the album. 

Tackling Lacy has become bit of a (minor) trend - The Whammies, Lacy Pool, ROVA. So far I these groups haven’t let me down with their takes on Lacy (I’m sad to say I haven’t listened Ideal Bread yet). 

Experimental Sound Studio