Sunday, January 27, 2019

Callum Allardice Trio at Rogue and Vagabond

Today was a day of contrasts… the morning kicked off in the rain as I dug out a wire fence buried/tangled in grass and by the afternoon I was in the city sunshine on my way to hear the Callum Allardice Trio - with Seth Boy (b) Cory Champion (d) - at Rogue and Vagabond, before returning home in the misty rain.
New Zealand Jazz

I’m pretty sure that previously I’ve only heard Callum playing original material (maybe there was a standard or two thrown into the mix), so it was nice to kick back and listen to his lines flowing through two sets of standards. The appearance of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” put a smile on my face. Thinking about it on the way home, I don’t really listen to much by guitarists. But why? I don’t know. Perhaps I need to address this! But this evening I managed a double dose with Al Campbell sitting in and opening the second set with “Out of Nowhere” and “Body & Soul.” I hadn’t heard Al play in a while (maybe at the Rogue a couple of years ago), so that made a nice surprise. I’m not sure if they have played much together, but the two guitar made a good pairing.  Pretty good day, really.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Music for Commuting: More Monk Monk Monk Monk Monk

The Riverside albums of Thelonious Monk have continued keep me company on the road each day. This week I had the next five albums cued up: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Mulligan Meets Monk, Thelonious in Action, Misterioso, The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall. I've probably had my fill of Johnny Griffin for now. He could use and editor, but at the same time he provides a contrast to Monk. His bluesy bebopping with touches of quirkiness had me thinking of my friend Johnny Lippiett (Hi Johnny!). Mulligan recorded a few “Meets” albums but this one doesn’t really do it for me, although I do like the sound of Monk on baritone. I plan to round-out the box set next week.
Thelonious Monk: Riverside Albums

Monday, January 21, 2019

Mark Lockett Trio at Havana

New Zealand Jazz

Last Thursday night, I made the trek into the city to catch the Mark Lockett Trio at Havana (Lockett (d) Lucien Johnson (ts/ss) Patrick Bleakley (b). It made for a long day but was well worth the effort. It was nice to be up close for two sets of standards, Monk tunes and a couple of originals. In a few months, Lucien will be leaving our shores - make sure you catch while you can.

1st Set
- I Could Write a Book
- Valse Hot
- Loose Motion
- My Ship
- Off Minor

2nd Set
- Bye Ya
- Pannonica
- an original by Patrick Bleakley
- Strode Rode
- Epistrophy 

The car ride home had me thinking a bit. First off... Where was everyone? Wellington can be a bit quiet this time of year - usually it’s back to normal following Anniversary weekend. Of the small crowd, it seemed most people were there incidentally (although they did appreciate it). 

But was I surprised that there wasn’t a solid turnout? Yes and no. Why wouldn’t you go? No cover charge. High quality playing featuring some of Wellington (and New Zealand's) best jazz musicians. Schools out for summer, so maybe that explains the lack of students and faculty. But let’s face it, how many faculty do you see at gigs? But are all the musicians out of town too? (there are some musicians I virtually never see at gigs). And how about the run-of-the-mill jazz fans? (there were a couple present). Do Wellington Jazz Club members attend anything other than club organized concerts? Is it a case of artists being over exposed on a small scene or a lackadaisical attitude from the listeners ("I'll see them next time")? Is 9-11pm too late for a gig on Thursday? As fans and musicians, this is something we need to think about and work on together.

It had been a while since I'd been to Havana Back in the day it was a regular spot for me to check out some live music. It's a nice place to sit and listen to music. Have a cocktail, a beer, or in my case when driving - a pot of tea. But I noticed some changes. Maybe it's less dank and gritty than it used to be. Rose-tinted glasses perhaps, but I feel some of cool factor has diminished? Havana need to cut the crappy music between/before/after the sets. It really kills the vibe. At least they could play some cuban music. How about having the musicians pick some tracks to spin? In Chicago, I enjoyed the DJ sets on jazz nights at The Hideout - each week a different musician would DJ before the gig and during set breaks too. 

I’m guilty myself of not attending more live shows. Living well over an hour drive from the city makes me pick and choose more than I would like to. Gone of the days are just popping out after dinner, teaching, or practicing and grabbing a set. If I'm coming straight from work, sometimes it's just not possible to get in without missing half the gig. And when it’s a 3.5 hr round trip (from work) to catch a single set, that’s a bit rough. But I want to get organized so I can catch more live music. Maybe I can set the example! 

New Zealand Jazz

Friday, January 18, 2019

Music for Commuting: Monk Monk Monk Monk Monk

Five drives to work, five Monk albums - Plays Duke Ellington, The Unique Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners, Thelonious Himself, Monk's Music. This week I started working my way through the 15 albums Thelonious Monk recorded for Riverside. Of the Riverside albums, it's the earlier albums with which I'm most familiar -  The Unique Thelonious Monk being the exception. After many years in hibernation, I've been listening to Monk on a far more regular basis over the last few years. A most worthwhile re-exploration.
Thelonious Monk Riverside

Friday, January 11, 2019

Music for Commuting: Clangs, Golden Circle and It Club

This week's listening featured more discs from the boxes with which I have been reunited. The week kicked off with Ornette's At the Golden Circle (Volume 1). It's far from my favourite Ornette, but I enjoyed it more than I remembered, and eventually I'll pick up Volume 2. Then there was Lacy's Clangs - a largish ensemble (double sextet) recording from 1992. This one deserves a bit more attention (don't they all?!), so I'll have to sit down with it sometime away from the rumble of the road. I picked up Monk's Live at the It Club early last year, but this was the first time that I had managed to give it a spin (although I had listened to it previously courtesy of the library while I was at music school). Monk made for good driving music so expect to see more coming up from Thelonious.
Thelonious Monk; Ornette Coleman; Steve Lacy

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

NZ Jazz: Unwind - Orange

Unwind: Orange (Rattle)
Hayden Chisholm (as/shruti box) Norman Meehan (p) Paul Dyne (b)

This month I've been listening to another new release from Rattle. Orange is the follow up to the trio's 2017 debut, Unwind. The added bonus here is the inclusion of a DVD featuring the trio in concert at Orange Studios in Christchurch. 

As was the case when I wrote about Unwind, Orange is quite different from the previous month's featured recording (Antipodes' Good Winter). While both groups have a definite ensemble sound the means in which they attain it are very different. The velvety quality of Hayden's phrasing, Norm's hints of churchiness (without overdoing it) and P.D's counterpoint come together as one to form a distinct trio sound.

New Zealand Jazz; Hayden ChisholmThe album opens with Norman's “The Chickenfoot Tango” with an alto solo introducing what becomes a duo between Hayden and Paul. One thing I noticed immediately is that the bass sounds a little more “ampy” than on Unwind. Not that it stopped from enjoying Paul's playing. In fact, I really enjoyed the dialogue between P.D and Norm across the album. There's a really thoughtful quality and delicate placement of notes to Paul's work on “Mendoza”. And the collective soloing of piano and bass. 

This conversation playing also stood out on “Grolnick” - particularly Paul's playing during Norm's solo. The trio attain a very rich sound. Warm, and at times, there is a bittersweet element to sneaks in (not only on this tune). I know Norm is a big fan of Don Grolnick's compositions. He's someone I've never really checked out but perhaps it's time I got around to it.

The tracks are fairly short mostly in the 3-4 minute range with three tracks over 6 minutes. It keeps things rolling along which isn't a bad thing with a program heavy on ballads and slower pieces. “Placeholder” and “Ms Mulgan” are well placed to and provide a little lift. The former is upbeat, and while it is quite busy and even dense at times, somehow it remains light. I dig Hayden's phrasing as he opens up the latter unaccompanied. Norm hides his left hand for the entirety of the piece and it makes for a welcome change in color.

The title track is a brief collective improvisation that had me imagining how a set of free improvised music could sound coming from this trio.

The bulk of the tunes come from Norm. Two are by Hayden and the lone tune from Paul is “Miracle.” It fits well into the mix and next time around I'd like to hear them tackle some more of P.D's tunes. At 3.55 Norm hints that things are going to rev up a little and Paul joins him for 10 seconds of walking before the unwind a little more.

The colors Hayden can draw out of his never fails to please my ears. Often it's subtle, but that just draws me in closer and closer. There's an intensity to his attention to detail with tone that really appeals to me. Listening to “Star Shepherd” always had me focusing on his tone. Does this tune showcase something different (tonally) than the other tracks? I don't think so, but I definitely caught myself zoning in on tone here. 

It wasn't immediately apparent what was pulling me in “Star.” But with repeated listens, I realized it was the way the phrases swell and pulsate that caught my ear – music that breathes.

Orange was very much a case of knowing what you're going to get and not being disappointed. I was expecting and unhurried, warm, intimate album featuring lyrical playing, and it checked all those boxes. But Orange is much more than that. Often in jazz, we fall into the trap of being wowed by chops, the fanciness of hip chords, fancy licks, and weird time signatures. But there's something seriously underrated about presenting a melody, taking your time and not having to shout. And that's the wow factor for me that Hayden, Paul and Norm express so well on Orange. Not a bad way to round out what has been a hell of a year.

Unwind are on tour in February (with Julien Dyne added) with details over at Norm's website. See you there!

PS. I love that the watch beep made the final cut.