Sunday, June 07, 2020

Time to Unwind

Okay… this post iHayden Chisholms way overdue. Like last year, I took a little time off in February to catch Hayden while he was back on tour in support of Saffron, latest release by Unwind.

To kicks things off, I headed up to New Plymouth for the opening gig of the tour. I had pre-gig pint at Shining Peaks (recommended) before walking down to the Fourth Wall Theatre. It's a nice sized venue with pretty decent sound to boot. It’s always nice to hear him in front of the hometown crowd (my third time now) as it adds a different flavour to proceedings. Although it was first gig of the tour, the trio (Julien wasn’t due to join them until Napier) hit their stride pretty quickly.
New Zealand Jazz

The night kicked off with “Going Home” and they capped the night off with a medley of “How Great Thou Are/Amazing Grace/Pokarekare Ana”. In between there was "Nearness of You", "Mendoza", "S.T.B", "Morning and Evening Calm", a Serbian song about yellow quinces, and some others from Saffron

The quartet tweaked the set list a little to appeal to the (mostly) Whanganui Jazz Club audience at Lucky Bar by including a couple of numbers from Hayden’s big band album, Ace of My Heart - “Rhythm Got Me” and “For Ever More and a Day” (based on Rhythm Changes and Shine on Harvest Moon respectively). Jaco Pastorius’ “Three Views of a Secret” was a surprise addition (they played it in Wellington too).

New Zealand JazzIn Wellington, the quartet appeared at The Third Eye for the Wellington Jazz Cooperative’s fortnightly concert series. There was a solid crowd – but it was not as packed as I was expecting. It seems like it can be hard to draw an audience in Wellington at times (and it seems to have gotten worse while I was living overseas - the creative capital?). I was expecting to see a bunch of saxophonists there - but where were they? (Maybe they had gigs!). I noted the clarity of Paul's bass tone. I have noticed a lot of players end up with heaps of boomy bottom end or a very electric/ampy sound when playing at Third Eye (maybe it's due to the extra volume of the large ensemble gigs... as the couple of examples I can think of where the bass sounded good were trio and quartet gigs). It’s nice to hear the contrast of Unwind with and without drums – Julien brings an energy and adds colours that work really well for me. And he’s an improvisor (and listener), with tunes getting treated quite differently night to night. Sometimes he can be quite busy, yet not get in the way.

Solo SaxophoneLike last year, Hayden played a solo set at St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the TGIF lunchtime concert series. Hayden’s tone in this space is something to behold. It was interesting to hear how the “Well Tempered Shurti Box” is evolving. This time around there was a bit more overtone singing than I recall him doing last year and Pokarekare Ana made an appearance too.

That evening it was off to Raumati South. The house concert is a great setting for this group – Hayden and Norm with vocalist Hannah Griffin. The vibe in the room was fantastic and the trio was on form – the dialogue between Hayden and Norm was on point and Hannah’s singing was as real as I’ve heard. It was great catching up with her after the gig. Hard to put into words really - a beautiful concert, and the highlight from the tour for me.

The following evening Hayden, Norman and Hannah were at Futuna Chapel in Wellington. It’s a great space…. They just need a decent piano! While similar repertoire was used for both evenings, there was definitely a different vibe the previous evening – more formal and more mellow too. Jazz Poetry

Some of the works feature across the two evenings were: Hinemoana Baker: “Matariki, e”, “I Forget You” (a slow version used for the encore), “Liver”, “Urupā”, “Poi Dances”. One piece Norm announced as being played at “stripper tempo” (it was less raunchy when played in the chapel). Janet Frame: “Before I Get Into Sleep With You” and another I missed the title. David Mitchell: “Aesthetics”. Bill Manhire: “Little Prayers”, “Einstein” and “The Occupation Against Time”. Hone Tuwhare: “Rain” and “Life’s Eternal River”. And probably some others I missed.

I am really keen to hear the quartet plus Hannah (maybe next year) – it sounds like the Auckland gig was a gem. John Fenton wrote a bit about it on his blog.

New Zealand Jazz

That weekend I set a personal record for church attendance... three days in a row. On Sunday Hayden was featured with the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral. Sitting through a church service isn’t really my thing…. The things you do for a bit of music!

Following the tour, the quartet went back into the studio so expect another album in the not so distance future… and I hear 2021 tour plans are underway. I’ll have to book some leave.

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