Sunday, December 02, 2018

NZ Jazz: Antipodes - Good Winter

Antipodes: Good Winter (Rattle)
Jake Baxendale (as) Callum Allardice (g) Luke Sweeting (p), Ken Allars (trpt), Max Alduca (b) and Aidan Lowe (d) 

Well, I finally got my hands on Good Winter (along with a couple of other new releases from Rattle). It was of particular interest to me as I've known Jake since the first week he moved to Wellington - that must be over 10 years now....rust never sleeps. Back then he was just a fresh-faced lad moving to the big city. It was while I was abroad that he developed into one of the movers and shakers on the scene here. Not only as a player but also an organizer, seeking out playing oppourtunities not only for himself, but the wider jazz community in New Zealand too. One of his main collaborators is guitarist Callum Allardice, who joins him here to form the Kiwi contingency of the trans-Tasman collaboration that is Antipodes. 

Antipodes - New Zealand Jazz
Compositional duties are evenly split between Jake, Callum and Luke Sweeting, with Alduca contributing one.  And it should be noted that Callum has been the recipient of the APRA Best Jazz Composition award on two occasions, and the 2017 winner, “Deep Thought,” appears on Good Winter.

I'm not sure why as I haven't listened to them in a long time, but two artists/recordings came to mind almost immediately during the first spin. There's an uplifting kind of vibe that made me think of David Binny and the other was Reid Anderson’s The Vastness of Space. But I wouldn't say that Good Winter sounds like either (but it did lead me to giving a listen to both just to check in with my initial reaction). 

It's the ensemble sound and collective effort rather than soloists that stands out to me. It is quite a busy and dense sound that features throughout with multiple soloist weaving lines together or soloists improvising lines as written melodies are stated. There are hints of ECM vibe too, but for the most part, things are a little over-the-top for the ECM thing. And that's probably my main criticism – there's just a bit much of everything (yet something is missing). There's no shortage of youthful exuberance but that seems to lend itself to an overblown “epicness” (think jazz power ballads). At times I almost caught myself laughing (definitely chuckling). I'm not sure why I do, but it's probably not what they were going for!

Perhaps the “diametrically opposite” component of the definition of Antipodes is reflected in the contrast between the mellow and the grandiose that is a feature of many (all?) of the tracks. It's not just a band name, but part of the aesthetic of the group. For me it’s a bit overstated and at times somewhat predictable(and in that regard, it reminded me of hearing The Bad Plus live). For example, you just know that the phrase at 0.55 on “Deep Thought” will reappear later coated in full-blown epicness (and it does at 3.20). “Sympathetic Resonance” provides some respite, as does “Haritomeni,” until things get cranked for the last minute or so.

Listening to the album has a whole had me wanting a change of pace. I was better off just listening to a couple of tracks in a sitting. I do like that they have a conception even if it's one that's not really for me. However, I'm still curious to hear where they would take things on a follow-up album.

The New Zealand leg of the album release tour kicks off in mid-December (next week!).
Dec 12 - Auckland, Backbeat Bar, 8pm
Dec 13 - Hamilton, Nivara Lounge, 8pm
Dec 14 – Rotorua, Princes Hotel, 8pm
Dec 15 – Whanganui, Musician's Club, 8pm
Dec 16 - Wellington, The Rogue and Vagabond, 5pm
Dec 18 - Christchurch, Space Academy, 8pm
Dec 19 - Nelson, Fairfield House, 8pm 
Dec 20 - Golden Bay, The Mussel Inn, 8pm
Dec 21 - Blenheim, Dharma Bums, 8pm

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