Australian Jazz Album Round-Up September 2014

This month we take a look at a meeting of two creative pianists from both sides of the Pacific, another stunning debut, this time from a Western Australian trio and finally a meeting of classy musicians from across the ditch. Live, we take a look at a great show from Sylvan Coda.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia

Alister Spence & Myra Melford

Everything Here Is Possible          Self Release    ★★★★

Alister Spence (p), Myra Melford (p), Rec 9 November 2012

This is a genuine meeting of like minds, two free flowing improvisatory pianists creating in real time. This project came to fruition when Melford brought her Trio 3 project to Australia in late 2012.  Spence is responsible for an excellent series of recordings for Rufus Records, including “Flux” (2003) And “Far Flung” (2012), both featuring Necks bassist Lloyd Swanton, whilst Melford needs no introduction. Although they had corresponded by email, they actually met for the first time on the afternoon of the recording and did not discuss what they would record. The resulting music is made up entirely of spontaneous improvisations for 2 pianos over 5 longish tracks. Although this is “free” music, largely devoid of structure, it is not unmelodic or unapproachable. There are many changes in timbre and form, evoking a wide range of emotional responses. It is also not frenetic meaning the whole is accessible and does not descend into a chaotic noise. Both pianists employ prepared piano on two tracks to great effect. The title of this album is very appropriate, when two creative musicians come together to improvise with a clean palette, everything IS possible and here they prove that “free” can be beautiful also.

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Abbey-Foster-FalleAbbey, Foster, Falle                   ★★★★

Brotherhood                      Newmarket

Nick Abbey (b), Chris Foster (p), Ben Falle (d). Rec. 30 July, 1 August 2012

This is an accomplished and confident debut from three musicians from Perth, Western Australia. The members are separately listed as this is not a trio with an obvious leader; all contribute equally to the performance and the songwriting. And what tunes they are, bursting with hummable melodies, danceable rhythms and adventurous, flying improvisations. This is very comptempory jazz, closer to the European trios Phronesis and EST than Bill Evans. The mood throughout this disc is mostly upbeat and this apparent from the outset with the album opener, Foster’s delightful “Betty”, a gorgeous tune explored beautifully by Foster and Abbey. After three tunes from Foster comes bassist Abbey’s “Maelstrom”, a tour de force with its incessant driving rhythm and catchy melody. The pace slows before another burst from the final track, “Brotherhood”. It’s the confidence and the apparent ease that this trio displays that is so striking for their first outing. They appear to be the complete package, excellent songwriting, great use of rhythm and intelligent but emotive solos from all members. More than this, they also they listen to each other’s playing leading to lively and engaging interplay. One cannot help but be impressed and thoroughly enjoy this trio’s first foray into recording.

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Dog                           Rattle   ★★★

Kevin Field (p), Roger Manins (s), Olivier Holland (b), Ron Sampson (d). Rec April 2014

“Dog” is not exactly the most attractive band name and not really indicative of the music contained therein. It is actually a collection of some of New Zealand’s finest, including Manins, who worked extensively with the late Bernie McGann, and veteran drummer Sampson. Together they make one joyous racket over 10 tracks, with the songwriting equally spread among the band. The album kicks off with Sampson’s Push Biker, with its incessant one note intro from piano and sax before the tension releases with the theme stated by Manins. This pacey opening continues over most of the disc with standouts being ”Road To Damascus”; ” Sounds Like Orange” and “Peter The Magnificent” The tempo is subdued within the inclusion of three ballads but it’s the up-tempo numbers that really lift this album to great heights. Experience can count for much and when a quartet of seasoned players comes together their collective experience can lead to inspired sessions and this is what has occurred here. All members of the group contribute great tunes and then enhance them by thoughtful arrangements and flowing improvisations, particularly Manins and Field. In this case the Dog has had its day and may there be more to come!

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Christopher Hale’s Sylvan Coda

Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide

Johnny-Tedesco-and-Chris-HaleYou know a show is special when the audience jumps to its collective feet as soon as the last note is played; this was one of those shows. Sylvan Coda, brainchild of six string semi acoustic bass guitarist Christopher Hale, was performing as part of The Adelaide Guitar Festival. The music is a mix of jazz and flamenco but dominated by neither. The concert, based on the superb 2010 “Sylvan Coda” album (Which Way Music), was delivered by almost the same band that recorded the CD. This gig buzzed from the first chord, propelled by a fine rhythm section, led by Hale and assisted by Ben Vanderwal on drums with the fabulous Johnny Tedesco on percussion. Tedesco further mesmerised the gathered with a stunning display of flamenco dance, demonstrating an amazing agility and lightening fast feet. Gian Slater, voice, was impressive throughout, adding real colour to the music with wordless vocals, while Nathan Slater was brilliant on nylon string guitar. Finally Julian Banks’ tenor saxophone ably completed the front line. Those familiar with the aforementioned album were struck with the elevation of that very good album into a simply stunning performance littered with highlights from all. The intensity was sustained throughout this performance, making it one of 2014’s highlights.

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