Saturday, July 27, 2019

Swagman, Norm and The Woods

New Zealand Jazz
Swagman at Raumati Social Club (June 2019)
I’ve been totally slack keeping up to date with things here... time to catch up!

I'm trying to make a habit of catching Swagman's monthly gig at Raumati Social Club (the last Friday of the month). I really enjoy hearing a group working with a set of tunes over a period of time. This time around they included one or two news tunes too. It's been a while, so I'll be brief.... but a couple of memories are that the balance was a bit off - louder than usual and lack of clarity. And, Brent quoting Max Roach's "For Big Sid" during one of his solos over an ostinato from Joe and Gabe (I think Brent was surprised that someone picked up on it). 

New Zealand Jazz
Norman Meehan's farewell concert (June 2019)
The following night it was off to St Paul's Lutheran Church for Norman Meehan’s farewell concert (Norm is now based in NYC). The two sets featured pieces (old and new) from varying line-ups comprised of Norman (p) Hannah Griffin (vocal) Blair Latham (ts/b.clarinet/g) Lance Philip (d) Martin Riseley (v) Andrew Laking (b). Hannah seems to get better each time I hear her (admittedly only twice since I've been home) - I particularly enjoyed her duo with Martin Riseley. And when was the last time you heard someone double on tenor sax, bass clarinet and guitar? Blair managed it well (even playing all three on one tune). There was almost a house concert feel about the evening (maybe it was the cuppa tea and ginger nuts?).

New Zealand Jazz
The Woods at Raumati Social Club (July 2019)
The Woods play that dreaded mixture of jazz, world music and rock. It was the first time hearing this group (aside from a sneak peak on bandcamp a while back.... begs the question, “Why don’t I have their album yet?”) and once again, hearing original compositions being performed without sheet music is refreshing!

Hearing Blair twice in a week playing the unlikely combo of instruments, I couldn’t help giving Blair a little shit that he now has to lug around a guitar, pedals and an amp (he said that wasn’t lost on his bandmates either - after years of him hassling them for all their equipment). I have to give him credit for doubling on guitar in the same band as Joe! And his raspy tenor tone is the perfect fit sonically for this group.

I'm really glad to have caught Joe as much as I have since I’ve been home. I've probably mentioned it before, but I dig his relaxed intensity, and it makes it look easy. And and much as I enjoyed Tom’s playing on upright earlier in the evening, the electric pulled out a different quality in the group sound that really worked. By the second set the volume started getting a little out of balance with the room (I was sitting somewhere different too), with the bass getting a bit too buzzy but it seemed to settle down eventually. I haven't heard Rick Cranson all that much since I've been home. He knows when to turn up the power but didn’t overdo it. He did unleash over the vamp on final tune and the dynamic shift at the end was nailed by the entire band. The two sets flew by, and that's always a good sign.

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