Monday, April 29, 2019

Jazz on Sunday in Wellington

I kept myself busy on Sunday by getting along to two gigs. If I had been organized, I could have got along to a third - maybe next time.

New Zealand JazzFirst up, it was off to Cafe L’affare for The Dry Horrors - Anthony Donaldson (d) Tom Callwood (b) Lucien Johnson (ss/ts). I didn’t realize that L’affare had music and I stumbled upon this while making a last minute check of the gig guide.

It was interesting to hear these guys playing a cafe gig - some tunes by Monk, Ornette, Bird, Ellington and David Murray, and some standards and blues. The acoustics had everyone pulling back. I was expecting it to get really washy but it actually wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t really heard Anthony in this context before (maybe ages ago) but I really enjoyed his playing. In some ways his beat has an old feel but it ends up sounding modern (which brings to mind Han Bennink). It was a chilled out afternoon - even when things were moving along - and it was nice to see parents with their young kids listening to the band (even if just for a moment).

The Donaldson and Callwood pairing is quite longstanding. Will it attain the stature of the Sellers/Dyne, Gibson/Brown, Hopkins/Haynes pairings? Maybe it is already there? I’m glad to have caught Lucien again before he heads to NYC this week. I’m looking forward to hearing what he gets up to.

Next up it was off to Rogue and Vagabond for the Jasmine Lovell-Smith Quintet - Jasmine (ss) Mike Taylor (trpt) Anita Schwabe (p) Phoebe Johnson (b) Hikarangi Schaverian-Kaa (d). What started out as a sunny day had now clouded over, and the music seemed seasonly appropriate and continued the Sunday vibe - intimate, warm and pretty chilled out.
New Zealand Jazz

I was expecting Callum Allardice on guitar, but he was subbed out by Anita. And while I was keen to hear a guitarist playing Jasmine’s music, it was a bonus having Anita there as I hadn’t managed to catch her live since I’ve been home.

It was my first time hearing Phoebe Johnson and I was particularly impressed by her creative accomplishment, nice sense of space and unhurried approach. She fits in with Jasmine’s approach really well. She locked in nicely with Hikarangi too. He doesn’t overdo it, but gives things a kick, often unexpectedly, when needed. At times the sound guy didn’t do the bass any favors - quit turning up the volume during the bass solos. It really threw out the balance of her tone and make the bottom end overly boomy.

I enjoyed listening to the contrast between the sax and trumpet. Between the more notey playing, Mike hints at a melodic side too. The notey-ness has been part of his playing as long as I’ve known him, so it might be a bit odd if he edited it out, but sometimes the strength of a melodic line is lost when bookended with superfluous notes (and, in this case at least, the contrast with Jasmine would diminish). I would like to hear them together more to see what develops, especially as far as collective improvising goes. And while the performance may not have been as cohesive as the album but I enjoyed hearing some pieces from Fortune Songs live. 

After the gig we were talking about Sunday in Wellington becoming quite the scene - Third Eye’s regular afternoon session, L’affare in the arvo (not sure how regular it is), Rogue at 5pm, and the odd Sunday night gig (JB3 were at The Library that evening). So if you’re a jazz fan and in the city on a Sunday, there’s something happening somewhere - check it out.

No comments: