Australian Jazz Album Round-Up October 2014

Originality from the combination of the jazz and classical worlds with Topology & Trichotomy is contrasted this month with two more straight ahead releases, one from a long admired performer turned academic, saxophonist Rob Burke, with assistance from American pianist Kenny Werner and the second from the younger fellow saxophonist Roger Manins and his somewhat unique line-up and his simply joyous album.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia


Hip Flask

2         Rattle             ★★★★

Roger Manins (s), Stu Hunter (o), Adam Ponting (p), Brendan Clarke (b), Toby Hall (d). Rec December 2013

Roger-Manins-Hip-Flask-300Roger Manins is nothing if not prolific, last month saw him in “Dog”, this month an entirely different, a Trans Tasman group with an equally quirky name and unimaginative title, and yes, it is their second album! This is a very different beast, just a look at the instrumentation makes that clear. It is unusual to see a bassist and organist together, let alone piano and organ in tandem. Such is the writing and arranging skill displayed here that it all sounds just so right. The resulting noise is firmly rooted in the mainstream, with a very healthy dose of Soul Jazz, courtesy of Stu Hunter’s organ plus a big drop of blues. The obvious exception to this is the very distinctive and album highlight, the Manins original, “Circles and Clouds”, with its circular theme. The balance of the album is just great fun, punctuated by fine melodious solos from the excellent Manins, and his keyboard front line. Make no mistake, this is jazz to be enjoyed. It has a very positive vibe, which, not surprisingly, finds itself in “play” mode on a regular basis. Manins has said that part of his philosophy for this music was based on the fact that most jazz “does not go down well with the next door neighbour”. Play this and expect to be asked to turn the volume to max.

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Robert Burke  

Do True                       Jazzhead         ★★★

Robert Burke (s, b cl), Kenny Werner (p), Johannes Weidenmueller (b), Richie Brashy (d). Rec. 3 October 2013

Robert-Burke-Do-True-Jazzhead-300The opening title track starts off with what initially sounds like a melodic free jazz solo before slowly coming together and allowing the remainder of this excellent quartet to join in. In many ways this introduction of atypical of the remaining content, straight ahead jazz as one would expect from this collaboration with pianist Kenny Werner. Burke is a stalwart of the Australian jazz scene and currently Associate Professor at Monash University. For this recording he wanted to leave his comfort zone, so he travelled to New York and joined Werner and his recommended rhythm section comprising of bassist to the late Hank Jones, Weidenmueller and drummer Brashy, who has worked with both Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. The group perform mostly Burke originals plus three from Werner and one from fellow Australian, Paul Grabowsky. Burke is a fine technician and posses a distinctive dry, but attractive, tone which he utilises to great effect throughout his delightful improvisatory excursions. Werner’s contributions cannot be understated, “Valse” and “Georgia James” are highlights whilst his piano solos shows one jazz music’s best in glowing form. Burke may have wanted to see if he could cut it with some of the best from the Big Apple, especially Werner. He needn’t have worried, this is a strong album, not to mention completely enjoyable.

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Topology & Trichotomy

Healthy                        Self produced           ★★★★

Topology: John Babbage (s), Kylie Davidson (p), Robert Davidson (b), Bernard Hoey (viola), Christa Powell (v), Trichotomy: Sean Foran (p, el p), John Parker (perc), Pat Marchisella (b). Rec March-April 2010

trichotomytopology300This is not one of those Beatles / Frank Ifield albums where each artist fills one side; nor is it dominated by one over the other. This is a complete collaboration between two very distinct groups that are also from totally opposite disciplines; Topology is rooted in classical chamber music whilst Trichotomy is from the jazz tradition. That is not to say that there were no issues that had to be dealt with make it work, there are, after all, two basses and two pianos. Each group contributed equally to the writing and arrangements, with the only non original being a startling arrangement of Steve Reich’s “Clapping Song”. The final result is compelling and represents probably the most successful integration of these two disparate musical worlds this reviewer has heard. Oddly, the sax comes from the Topology’s John Babbage, but such is his musicianship and virtuosity that he handles his new found freedom with ease. The result of this unique coupling is simply delightful, a very melodic and beautiful acoustic chamber jazz, closest to Oregon in texture, but with violin and viola instead of guitars. So often collaborations of this kind promise much and deliver little. It is a testament to these two groups that they make it work so well and deliver in spades.

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