Thursday, August 30, 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

Monday, August 27, 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 Kim Paterson
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. 

Wednesday, August 15, 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

Wednesday, August 01, 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.

New Zealand Jazz
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.