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.
Time After Time
Blues Point Vocal Group
Published in the Weekend Australian, February 16, 2019
I found this pleasant, modest album quite addictive. The melodies were swimming around in my head for days. This is the Blues Point Vocal Group’s third album in 20 years, others being released in 1997 and 2002. It features four excellent Sydney singers accompanied by immaculate bassist Craig Scott. Lorraine Silk and Lauren Dawes share the soprano and alto parts, with George Washingmachine and Dan Barnett singing tenor and baritone. The latter two are best-known as instrumentalists (violin and trombone respectively) but, of course, they are both also fine jazz singers. This album is short. At 20 minutes it’s over in a flash. Beginning with Louis Jordan’s 1943 hit Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t, it includes the stirring Adele pop hit Rolling In The Deep. Otherwise four jazz standards are beautifully treated, including All The Things You Are and Moonlight In Vermont. The singers are reading charts by five different arrangers who – in an unusual choice for this kind of group - do not provide for any improvised scat singing. The late Bill Motzing’s version of Caravan is notable, in that it includes several two-bar improvisations from Scott, joined here by guest drummer Dave Sanders, using brushes. Later in the same piece Scott plays a splendid 12-bar solo which considerably enlivens the music. In the case of Judy Bailey’s arrangement of Time After Time, Silk sings the first chorus solo. When the group enters for the second chorus, the rich four-part harmonies are like a burst of sunshine. At the end Bailey provides a little harmonic flight of the imagination which adds spice to the piece. On an album which sounds somewhat conservative, these little things mean a lot.
Published in the Weekend Australian, February 23, 2019
This is such a good album that it’s difficult to know which superlatives to start with. The Vampires are four exceptionally brilliant Australian jazz musicians, all in their early 30s: saxophonist Jeremy Rose, trumpeter Nick Garbett, bassist Alex Boneham and drummer Alex Masso. It’s an album of 14 tracks, with seven compositions by Rose, and two each from Garbett and Boneham. The three short percussion tracks from Masso suggest that he’s a creative student of African rhythms, and also point to one of the group’s principal strengths: their unusually sophisticated rhythmic time-feels. I’ve not heard before some of Masso’s innovative drum patterns in the ensembles, but they are natural outgrowths from the jazz tradition. It may be counter-intuitive to say that The Vampires’ music is innovative and yet at the same time traditional, but those two terms are not necessarily contradictory. This is a balance which only the finest jazz musicians achieve. There is something distinctive or original on virtually every track. Rose and Garbett have an unusually rich trumpet/saxophone sound together, and their empathy is palpable in the music. Of course The Vampires have been together for over ten years, and this is their seventh album. To my ears, the most infectious tracks are Garbett’s Don Pacifico (note its groove) and Boneham’s West Mass (note its beautiful time-feel). I couldn’t wait to go back and hear them again and again. This is state of the art modern jazz at the highest level, ticking many boxes, but at the same time it is unusually melodic and, dare I say, accessible to the average ear. I would not be surprised to hear that The Vampires have dedicated fans throughout the world.
Zela Margossian Quintet
Art As Catharsis Records
Published in the Weekend Australian, March 2, 2019
Zela Margossian, a young woman born in Beirut, Lebanon, of Armenian heritage, now living in Australia, is a talent to watch. She has already distinguished herself as a pianist with Sydney’s formidable Sirens Big Band. Transition includes nine of her compositions, plus her version of a composition by American-Armenian composer Alan Hovhaness. She is accompanied by Stuart Vandegraaff (soprano saxophone, clarinet), Adem Yilmaz (percussion), Elsen Price (double bass, bass guitar), and Alexander Inman-Hislop (drums). Metin Yilmaz plays plul/kaval on two tracks. Margossian’s piano playing, particularly when unaccompanied, has an appealing lushness, and her improvisations, which suggest a training in classical music, are beautifully fluent. Her attractive compositions become more in-depth on repeated hearings. There is an interesting Middle Eastern flavour to the music, but the overall ambience is that of jazz/rock fusion. The time-feels in the rhythm section, coming from either Latin or rock musics, flood the album with a rock sensibility which is somewhat incompatible with the jazz idiom, particularly when Price plays electric bass. I can understand why today’s young musicians are attracted to this style. But, compared to many sub-genres of jazz still being played - such as traditional jazz, bebop, or 1960s avant-garde - fusion is probably the most spent force of them all, tending to produce the most predictable music. In the marketing of the album, the music is declared to be “ethno-jazz” or “world music”, which suggests that it should be regarded as something other than jazz. Margossian’s piano playing is a delight to hear, particularly in the quieter moments but, in line with the album’s title, I for one will be looking forward to what she comes up with on her next album.