Tuesday, April 30, 2019

NZ Jazz: Roger Manins - Trio

Roger Manins: Trio (Rattle)
Manins (ts) Mostyn Cole (b) Reuben Bradley (d)

I surprised myself when I realized that the series really hadn’t featured Roger Manins (Secret Islands being the only album I can recall). For a while it seemed that every other jazz album Rattle released featured Rog, yet I don't have many of his albums. During the early 2000s, Roger spent a little bit of time bouncing between Auckland and Wellington. And when I he was down here, I'd catch him when I could. I was trying to remember if I ever heard this trio live? If I did, it was at a Welington Jazz Club gig, but I can't remember who the rhythm section was that night. And hearing him with Shuffle last week broke a long drought.
New Zealand Jazz

I assume that the six tunes were all compositions of Roger's (it doesn't say... come on Rattle!). Roger has chops to burn but keeps things real with his fat expressive tone. He achieves a nice mix of old and new - muscular hard bop, burning Post-Coltrane complexities, a blues swagger to keep things rooted, and throw in a touch of tenderness too (less on show here). Some players take one of those elements and run with it. Roger takes it all and gives back his own thing.

Clocking in at 19 minutes, the album opener, “Marty White”, is the longest single track of the NZ Jazz series to date. It may be long, but the ebb and flow keep things interesting. I enjoy the way they take a relatively basic vehicle, dive and and extract the most of out they can (in that way it reminds me of Sonny Rollins). Following a long rubato opening, the bass and drums take over and Mostyn builds into the main riff. Roger takes off after the melody and the piece comes to a boil as the time breaks up and then things drop right down for a bass solo with spacious accompaniment from Reuben. When Roger returns the trio is simmering along. It's a different kind of intensity the earlier – laid back but with purpose, before the drums ramp things up into the out head. 

“Missing Wes” allows for a touch of tenderness in Roger's playing. For a ballad, the playing is quite busy at times (particularly drums and sax), but I think they make it work. The mallets provide a welcome change of texture. 

I've long enjoyed Reuben's playing and I'm sure more of his albums will appear in this series. He takes care of business with plenty of energy whilst remaining interactive and hooks-up well with Mostyn. Sometimes it's the little things that pop out – like the single tom hit from Reuben at 2.10 on “Blues Form”. The tune features simple yet effective arrangement. Mostyn plays fills during the opening head and Reuben plays them on the repeat. While the out head features no fills, just space. Reuben's solo to open “Hip Flask” really captures the essence of the tune. I like that they don't feel the need to repeat the full melody to end the tune – instead they just play the hits (in somewhat understated manner in comparission to the first time round). I'll have to track down the Hip Flask albums to see how it compares with this trio verstion.

This is the only recording I have featuring Mostyn (edit: since writing this I've picked up Reuben's Resonator.... I'll get to that eventually). And outside of some videos from CJC gigs posted by Jon Fenton, I haven't heard him in ages (I think the last time was at Happy many moons ago – maybe a project of James Wylie's). It's been nice to reaquaint myself with his playing. “Silo” has a lovely solo bass intro featuring a rich tone and melodic playing. The way he develops the solo into the melody is a nice touch.

Maybe the odd track out is “Filled Rolls”, which has Mostyn playing electric bass. I don't think the change was necessary, but it does give the chance to hear compare his approach on the two instruments (not surprisingly he's more notey on the electric). Had he been on electric for the entire album, the end result probably wouldn't be as much to my liking. But one track keeps things interesting.

Exuberance is something I missed from last month's listening, but Trio more than makes up for it. If you like the sax/bass/drums trio format and/or robust, swinging tenor sax, Trio will likely sit pretty well with you.

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