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.
Published in the Weekend Australian January 6, 2018
The bar was set very high in the late 1930s by the first exponent of so-called gypsy jazz, the Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt. Even with a disability - two fingers were paralysed on his left hand – this acoustic guitar genius was able to produce solos that have astonished able-bodied players in this genre ever since. Having said that, the two guitarists in Spyglass Gypsies, Richard Ashby and Cameron Jones, do not appear to be overawed by Reinhardt’s legacy. Joined by Loretta Palmeiro (clarinet, soprano saxophone), Andrew Scott (accordion) and Shannon Haritos (petite contrabass) they authentically capture the ambience of this appealing genre. The music here is swinging, infectious, spirited and uplifting. As for repertoire, the members of the group between them provide ten original compositions, a refreshing contrast to the standard workhorses that are often performed by similar groups. There is nothing new about the rhythmic feels which are de rigueur in this genre, but this quintet distributes the usual conventions cleverly: interludes of stop time under the solos for example, and spreading the themes played in unison amongst the various instruments in order to vary the sound. Intelligent arrangements hold the attention of the listener. Most of the guitar solos are taken by the brilliant Ashby, while Jones, when called upon, shows he is no less talented. On the reed instruments Palmeiro goes for mood and melodic beauty rather than technical virtuosity. The real find however is Scott, an outstanding player of the rarely heard accordion. His colours and solos give the album a rare quality. Interestingly, Jones is the artistic director of the Oz Manouche Festival, Australia’s only gypsy jazz festival, which is held every year in Brisbane.
Wizard Tone Records
Published in the Weekend Australian January 13, 2018
When Adelaide drummer Angus Mason selected three musicians to record with him recently, he chose well: the British alto saxophonist Will Vinson, who has lived in New York since 1999; and the Australian virtuosos James Muller (guitar) and Sam Anning (bass). Such fine players could not fail to produce an impressive album. Drummers were once mere timekeepers but now they compose, and Mason is no exception. Of the eight tracks, four are his, and they are packed with interest. The other four tracks include a standard from the Great American Songbook, I’ll Get By, and two difficult jazz standards – by Thelonious Monk (Introspection) and by Wayne Shorter (ESP). The latter is a composition which some jazz fans have found incomprehensible since it appeared on a Miles Davis album in 1965. Musicologists have had fun trying to sort out the rhythmic and harmonic ambiguities in the piece, which Shorter apparently intended to be resolved through extra-sensory perception. However, it resulted in one of the most memorable solos of Davis’s career, and the blistering solo that Vinson plays in this version, and the interaction between Anning and Mason that follows, are a fitting tribute to the original version. As the session’s leader, Mason does not bully the music, nor push himself forward. In fact he’s the epitome of good taste, knowing instinctively when to punctuate, when to break up the time along with Anning, and when to return to a straight-ahead groove. As an accompanist his playing is faultless, and the result is a collaboration to be proud of. Also this is a splendid opportunity to hear Muller stretch out, confirming his reputation as one of the most intriguing guitarists in Australian jazz.
Is That So?
Andrew Dickeson with Eric Alexander
Published in The Weekend Australian, January 20, 2018
The American saxophonist John Coltrane died in 1967 aged 40. 50 years later, his mannerisms still turn up in the language of contemporary musicians playing orthodox mainstream jazz. So it is with the outstanding American tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, even though he is not a Coltrane clone. Alexander visited Australia recently for Sydney’s Manly Jazz Festival. Drummer Andrew Dickeson, a prolific recording artist (50 albums) and a teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, invited him to record with long-term colleague Ashley Turner (bass) and a new kid on the block, Canberra pianist Wayne Kelly. Nine tracks feature unusual jazz and popular standards, a well-known bossa nova (Little Boat) and an original by Alexander (Iron Man). Alexander’s tone is not unlike Coltrane’s, and he is adept at the so-called “sheets of sound” approach where phrases are played at such speed that it’s difficult to decipher the individual notes. On occasions Alexander builds the intensity of his improvisations to the brink of overdrive. Another drummer might have responded with Elvin Jones-style mayhem, but Dickeson’s signature style is resolutely subtle. He exemplifies the truism that the character of jazz music comes essentially from the drums. His priorities are laudable: principally to enable the music to swing; and to provide uncluttered space in which the soloists can excel. Of course, he stretches out in his own solos, which reveal an artistry that has been built up over 30 years. The approach of the bop-oriented Kelly is a reminder of Coltrane’s early recordings, which featured pianists such as Tommy Flanagan and Wynton Kelly, before the cataclysms of Coltrane’s later years. This is Dickeson’s second album as leader, following Weaver Of Dreams, released in 2011.