Sunday, July 19, 2020

Times Flies with Jazz Escapism

Where does the time go? Sometimes (most times, actually), the weekend just flies by. Today, that was the case. Jazz just let the time drift by with its usual effortlessness as I listened to potential tracks for the radio shows. Some recent releases (2019/2020) from tenor players - Jimmy Heath, Eric Alexander, Houston Person, Jerry Bergonzi, James Carter, a couple from Joshua Redman. Bit of a mixed bag really. Part of me really doesn't want to showcase a bunch of music I'm not really into. Not that all my programmes only feature music I dig.... but an entire (or majority) show of stuff that doesn't hit the spot for me might be pushing it. We'll see. I'm not afraid of spending some time with things that aren't my cuppa tea. At the urging of a friend, I spent a bit of time listening to Joey Alexander. His latest release, Warna, got a spin but I found my concentration fading in and out. Hype and media buzz often puts me off listening to artists/albums. And Alexander fits into the that category for me. I've always found that the music that sticks with me is stuff I "discover" for myself. But I'm willing to hang in there and give him some more time. Then there was a bunch of Miles Davis live recordings from 1960-64. Thought it could be good to put something together from the final Miles/Coltrane tour through to Wayne Shorter joining the group. Some of these are pretty familiar to me (Four & More/My Funny Valentine, the Plugged Nickel recordings), but it was nice to revisit the Blackhawk recordings which I hadn't heard in years (probably since music school) and the 1960 Tour "Bootleg" box set is new to me. I definitely want to spent a bit more time with the latter. It's the final tour Coltrane made with Miles, and you can hear he's ready (overdue?) to go his own way. From the little I heard today, Miles seems a little up and down (first impression) and the rhythm section sounded on form throughout. The fidelity of these sides are nice too... not essential, but an added bonus for sure. But as much as I enjoyed hanging with the jazz today, I still didn't manage to finish off the next two radio shows... and that was the plan.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Music for Commuting: A Bunch of Broadhurst

For the last couple of weeks the I've shared the ride to work with a handful of Phil Broadhurst albums. It's nice hearing the same (almost) personnel across the four albums. Roger Manins (ts) and Olivier Holland (b) are there all the way and following Delayed Reaction, drummer Alain Koetsier is replaced by Cameron Sangster. When not listening at 100% it's interesting to hear what pops out and sticks with you... and that forms the basis of this post.

Delayed Reaction might be the odd one out (solo disc aside) or at least the one I haven't dug as much. It splits Broadhurst's tunes with those of Michel Petrucciani (whereas the other albums feature Broadhurst compositions). There's a latin-type thing and general cleanliness (?) running through the album that I'm not much of a fan of, but Roger brings plenty of energy that gets things moving (although sometimes it almost feels out of place).
New Zealand Jazz

Flaubert's Dance has quite a warm, mellow vibe. Usually I listened to these albums on the way to work but this one hit the spot when I wanted to mellow out at the end of the day during the ride home (rather than caffeine music to kick off the day). Roger's tone has some added smoothness to it here which works nicely. The trumpet of Mike Booth eases into the group on three tracks (he made a single appearance on Delayed Reaction) and here, and on the albums that follow, his melodic approach compliments the busier Manins.

Of the five albums Panacea was the only one with which I was familiar. Roger is on form throughout and it’s no fluke that his discography has grown rapidly over the last 10 years or so (yet surprisingly, I don’t have a lot of his work as a leader yet). He is the go-to player if you’re looking for some contemporary tenor in this part of the world. He’s not all rip, shit or bust though – the opening of “Inverted” is one example of his lyrical side. Another thing that really pops out on “Inverted” is the pedal steel of Neil Watson. And it’s a nice touch (and an ear grabber) that he emerges about half way through the track (Watson also makes an appearance on “Knee Lever”). And then there's "Japanese Shadows", the sole trio track. Once again, it breaks things up nicely.

Positif opens up with some great energy (perhaps a flow-on from having an audience present) and the album really grew on me with each listen. You can hear the development over the span of the recordings and with the latter two, the quintet comes together and sounds like a really solid group. The horns and piano only on "Sorrento Sunset" was nice way to break things up.

Solo jazz records are not a common thing on the New Zealand jazz scene, so I was keen to hear the new release, Soliloquy. I recognized "Sambal" immediately, although I hadn't listened to Sustenance's Food for Thought in a long time - it's funny how some things stick in your brain. And another track that popped out was "You Stepped Out of a Dream", as it's the only standard across the discs. With a few exceptions, I tend to prefer hearing Kiwi's playing original material as it's pretty rare that I'm really taken by standards. And why so few solo records?

Each of these albums are worth more attention than I have afforded them, and no doubt I will return to them again. If I had to recommend any, I'd go with Panacea or Positif for the ensemble records and Soliloquy if you're after something a little more introspective.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Live music is back - Lucien Johnson Quartet

New Zealand Jazz
Well, we're pretty lucky here in New Zealand - live music is back. And when I heard Lucien Johnson had a couple of gigs scheduled with the stellar band of Jonathan Crayford (p), Tom Callwood (b) and Cory  Champion (d), it was a no-brainer to get along. Lucien has been in the studio working on a new album (with vibes and harp in place of piano) and it was those tunes that were featured at both concerts. There was no time for a break on Friday as it was straight from work and into Meow....I'm surprised I made it in on time. There was definitely a sense of anticipation and excitement in the room and the band didn't let them down. Many of the pieces had an atmospheric quality to them, but it wasn't all wishy-washy (not a term I associate with Lucien) with plenty of variety to keep things moving along. One particularly memorable moment was the bass and piano re-entry following the drum solo on "Jungle Rendezvous" was magic and you wouldn't pick it was their first gig playing this material. Tight. Butch Morris' "Spooning" and David Murray's "Morning Song" wrapped up the evening - a welcome return to live music.

Unsurprisingly, things were more a little more formal at the Whanganui Opera House on Saturday night. The concert was produced by Chamber Music Wanganui, and they pulled in a pretty decent crowd (I couldn't tell if there people on the upper deck) - great to see them supporting jazz. It was my first time at the opera house, and I was keen to check it out as a venue for jazz.  It was fantastic to hear the quartet playing without amplification (bass aside. In that room, bass and drums could be problematic, but overall the sound was nice without a lot more room for subtleties that can be lost in amplified and noisier setting. Sometimes the front of the bass was lost a little, but Cory did a great job balancing the drum levels. It was a chilly evening in Whanganui, but I don't think that was responsible for the shiver I got when Cory entered with double time against Tom's ostinato on one of the pieces (I forget the name of it, but its a nice tune). He seems to be getting better each time I hear him. It was great hearing Lucien's tone in that room, especially on soprano (which is tricky to mic up). I can't remember the last time I caught Jonathan Crayford live, and it was a treat hearing him on the concert grand in that acoustic space - his solo intro on "West of The Sun" was a highlight. Jonathan mentioned he really dug the room and is keen to return, and I would recommend others to investigate playing there. 

I couldn't have asked for a better return to live jazz with two very enjoyable evenings of music, and it made a nice change to have some company for the Whanganui leg. I'm looking forward to hearing the album.

New Zealand Jazz