JAZZ ALBUM REVIEWS IN THE AUSTRALIAN
In September, 2017 Eric Myers commenced reviewing jazz albums in the Review supplement of The Weekend Australian. All reviews in this folder are written by Myers.
Moons of Jupiter
Published in The Weekend Australian on May 26, 2018
Paul Grabowsky’s music is often far out, so it’s apposite that this album is called Moons of Jupiter. At the same time paradoxically the music here reeks of the jazz tradition. Even in outer space, an exploratory composer can remind the listener concurrently where the music has come from. This is a suite of seven compositions, named after various moons which encircle the planet Jupiter. Without delving into musicology, some general comments are possible. This album maximises Grabowsky’s gift for melodic beauty at the piano, constantly ameliorating the often unorthodox music surrounding his contributions. Trumpeter Scott Tinkler has been afforded the most sympathetic context I have yet heard for his innovative, undeniably powerful artistry. The extraordinary violinist Erkki Veltheim plays with aching lyricism and beauty throughout. A virtuosic rhythm section includes Philip Rex (bass) and Dave Beck (drums). Electronics, which provide atmospheric and often quirky backgrounds, and also another solo voice when necessary, are provided by Peter Knight. Some music here will challenge the conservative listener but, at the same time, passages of free or even dissonant music make adjoining passages of lyrical beauty all the more exquisite. Those who love the jazz ballad should enjoy Pasiphae, a 13-minute contemplation. It refers directly to the moods and ambience of that particular genre, while simultaneously providing a solid redefinition. In many ways, the Holy Grail of contemporary jazz is balancing the avant-garde with the jazz tradition. That is, how to present the most innovative music in a form that does not alienate traditional listeners, balancing notated jazz and structured improvisation with the freedom that the best musicians now demand. Moons of Jupiter is a great stride towards that sort of integration.
Across A Field As Vast As One
Published in The Weekend Australian, June 9, 2018
I have rarely heard a more intensely beautiful album than this. Bassist Sam Anning, a ubiquitous sideman on so many albums over the years, has acquitted himself brilliantly in the most demanding situations. Who would have thought that his own music would be so unpretentious, lyrical and heartfelt? This album is testimony to the Perth-Melbourne jazz axis, where in both cities young musicians were encouraged to find their own voice rather than copy American models. Three are originally from Perth: Anning himself (double bass & guitar), Mat Jodrell (trumpet/flugelhorn), and Carl Mackey (alto & tenor saxophones). From Melbourne are Julien Wilson (tenor saxophone & bass clarinet), Andrea Keller (piano) and Danny Fischer (drums). This is in a real sense an all-star group. By the standards of contemporary jazz in Australia, Anning's eight compositions are unusually melodic. The average listener could conceivably hum along to most of the themes, and easily relate to the harmonic changes therein. This is not to say that the music is without complexity and sophistication, but there is an accessibility about the music which augurs well for commercial success. Standing out is the title track, written by Anning in New York following the death of his friend and mentor drummer Allan Browne. The name Across A Field As Vast As One is taken from a poem Anning wrote when Browne was dying in Melbourne. This lovely performance, tinged with sadness if not grief, features luminous solos from Jodrell on flugelhorn and Keller on piano. It’s a moving tribute to Browne's legacy which his students and colleagues still feel today. It’s worth remembering what the great man once said: “Music is far too important to take seriously".
The Stranger In The Mirror
Jake Mason Trio
Soul Messin’ Records
Published in the Weekend Australian, June 16, 2018
This excellent album from a Melbourne organ trio features Jake Mason on the Hammond, and guitarist James Sherlock and drummer Danny Fischer. Mason plays left-hand bass lines, and achieves the classic organ trio sound, beamed through the traditional Leslie speaker. The saxophonist Paul Williamson guests on three of the ten tracks. All compositions are by Mason, about half of them co-written with others. Attractive, catchy tunes, they are effective vehicles for improvisation. Sherlock, Mason and Williamson produce solos that epitomise good taste and swing. Relaxed and playing within themselves, they’re not concerned to tear the place down. The album’s success is found in the variety of different moods on each track. Most of the conventional time-feels in this genre are given a solid workout. The title track The Stranger In The Mirror, is a haunting beguine. People Two & One has a dead-slow 12/8 feel, characteristic of the blues. Rib Eye tears along in bright four. Candy Smack is a happy, clap-along shuffle with a back-beat, characteristic of R & B. And so on. Fischer must warm the heart of each bandleader he works for. As shown also in groups led by John Scurry and Sam Anning, he is the quintessential jazz drummer, able to excel in different contexts. Rather than foist a style onto the music, he’s concerned to play only what is necessary to maximise the time-feel, and the mood of the moment. Not afraid to use brushes, nor to bring the volume right down when necessary, his talent is indispensable: to create space in the music. Yet, when the music goes into overdrive, as in many places on this fine album, he’s right there with you.