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.
THE CRICKETERS ARMS BIG BAND
Published in the Weekend Australian, July 13, 2019
This spirited album reveals the great depth of talent in Sydney jazz. Consisting of mostly young unknown musicians who sound like seasoned veterans, a 10-piece ensemble, led by Michael Gordon, is here playing mainstream and modern jazz. This is straight-ahead music that swings. The band is unusual in two ways: the front-line consists of five saxophones (there are no brass instruments); and, unlike most current Australian jazz albums which feature original compositions, the repertoire concentrates on catchy, unusual compositions by great American jazz musicians (Sam Rivers, John Coltrane, Jimmy Heath), mostly with a Latin or swing time-feel. There are two excellent originals by leader Michael Gordon whose arrangements achieve a rich saxophone section sound. The two primary soloists Michael Griffin (alto saxophone), and Gordon himself (tenor saxophone) are brilliant players. The vocalist Kate Wadey provides a pleasant reading of Cole Porter’s great ballad Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.
JAZZ CONNECTION BIG BAND
Published in the Weekend Australian, July 20, 2019
Buy this outstanding album for two reasons. First, Judy Bailey’s compositions and arrangements are a valuable addition to her formidable orchestral oeuvre. Her vast knowledge of jazz composition over the last century enables her to creatively revisit many of the sub-styles which have exercised the minds of previous composers. Unlike much ephemeral contemporary music, Bailey’s is art music, which will be played and analysed for years to come. Second, while nominally a training orchestra, Jazz Connection includes young musicians who are playing at such a professional level that they compete vigorously with many of the better-known, more experienced musicians on the scene. They include Lachy Hamilton (soprano sax), Yutaro Okuda (guitar) and the Avgenicos brothers, Michael (saxophone) and Thomas (trumpet). In the case of Matt Harris (piano), I returned compulsively to the three tracks which feature his immaculate solos. This album features the giants of the future.
A PERSONAL SELECTION
Published in the Weekend Australian, July 27, 2019
For 40 years Vince Jones has been Australia’s Chet Baker, but in reverse. The late American was a virtuoso trumpeter who occasionally sang, while Jones is a great singer who occasionally plays trumpet or flugelhorn. They also share an intoxicating magnetism, which has enabled both to enjoy wide appeal beyond the confines of the jazz audience. Jones’s strengths were apparent early on: an attractive voice which would win over any music lover; a jazz style that merged into R&B, enabling him to attract fans from that adjoining genre; the supreme individuality of his phrasing as a singer; and his ability to deliver the intimate ballad, particularly in the milieu of the small jazz club, where he is a riveting performer. A Personal Selection is culled from Jones’s 14 solo albums now being made available digitally. One track comes from each album, a “best of Vince Jones” selected by himself. There is no evidence that the most commercial-sounding songs have been chosen; instead, the emphasis is on musical excellence. Several of his most esoteric, sophisticated works are featured, such as his recent compositions This Is The Woman and Call Me, written with Sydney pianist/MD Matt McMahon. On the sleeve Jones supplies brief text for each selection, sometimes in harrowing detail, to explain what the song means to him. Not afraid to bear his deepest thoughts, he reveals the considerable angst underlying his music. Covering the years 1982-2010, the 14 tracks document Jones’s evolution towards social and political messages. It is also an odyssey through the work of some of Australia’s greatest jazz musicians, many of whom have passed through Jones’s backing band. Outstanding solos by pianists Joe Chindamo and Barney McAll, and saxophonist Dale Barlow, are highlights, not to mention a blistering solo from guitarist James Muller in Jones’s spirited live performance of If I Had a Hammer. There is a wordless vocal on one tune only, Jones’s own blues Budgie, and he solos on flugelhorn on Comes Love and Tenderly — concise, consummate achievements. In the standard repertoire I know of no better vocal version of the much-recorded Tenderly. This lovely album caps a brilliant career.