Alan Brown is such a gifted musician that we always expect something special from his club gigs. The October gig not only lived up to expectations but found something extra to offer us. Alan is always on safe ground with Dixon Nacey on guitar and Josh Sorenson on drums, as these musicians don’t need any warm up. They have played together so often that their understanding of what is required is intuitive. Deep energised mesmerising grooves are quickly established and maintained. As we progressed through the first number, the warm grooves took us somewhere else. Transported on mass to a place where winter became a distant memory.
A state of grace, suspended somewhere between reality and a multi hued dream state. This is a place where the familiar is transformed into the extraordinary and we felt incredibly happy about that.
As I watched the interplay between these three I could not help wondering how that felt. How it felt making that music, in that way and with that much soul. The looks on their faces gave me the answer. They also knew that this was one out of the bag and that some special chemistry was happening. The Alan Brown trio were on fire and we were not just witnesses but integral to the performance. There was a shared collective energy and we were each and every one of us connected in a web of pure creation.
I have written a lot about Alan over the last two years and he deserves every accolade thrown his way. If this sounds like hyperbole I will quickly argue otherwise. He consistently delivers performances and compositions that grab the attention and on nights like this he finds something extra. The audiences from the High Street days have never forgotten ‘Blue Train’ and the fact that Alan keeps the crowds coming; still creating new audiences, speaks volumes. This is not about reliving the glory days, but about bringing fresh and exciting perspectives to an ever unfolding musical output.
Dixon Nacey is another musician who always pleases. When ever I see that beautiful Godin guitar I know that something extraordinary could happen and this was just such a night. Dixon is a musician who can communicate as much by his body language as by his soaring inventive solos. You know how deeply he observes and engages because the evidence is in his face and at his fingertips. When exchanges are being traded with drummer or keyboards, his expressions mirror the intensity. When the solo or the interplay really works well, a huge smile lights up the bandstand. That smile and those magical voicings tell us so much about the man and his music.
The remaining trio member is Josh Sorenson and I have heard him on two or three previous occasions. Josh has specialised in groove drumming and he is exceptionally good at it. This is a specialist skill as there are a million deceptive subtleties built into it when done well. I spoke to Josh at some length about this and what he told me was illuminating. It is very hard work and although it sometimes appears straightforward it is not. I gathered the impression that a night of holding such tight grooves together is more exhausting than bebop or rock drumming. The concentration required to move around the kit while holding a tight multi faceted beat together is tremendous. It is not just the concentration required, but the ability to sink into a beat in an almost trance like fashion.
Towards the end of the final number Josh launched into a drum solo and what unfolded was almost supernatural. As he moved all over the kit, the deep-groove pulse never wavered by a fraction. I have never seen this done before and I found it incredibly impressive. That solo and in fact the whole number ‘Inciteful’ (had the audience on their feet, whooping and shouting with enthusiasm). Sadly I had run out of video tape by then, but I did capture some of the magic.
Part way through the gig we had another treat in store when the soulful Jazz Singer Chris Melville came to the band stand. I like male Jazz singers and I worry that their numbers are so few. Chris has a terrific voice and he tackled the old Juan Tizol standard ’Caravan’ in a mature and engaging way. I enjoy listening to his interpretations and to the timbre of his voice, but noticed that it had a tendency to become a little lost in the acoustics of the room. Some small adjustments to the sound levels would remedy that. As the extraordinary Mark Murphy steps back and the fabulous velvety baritone Andy Bey performs less, there are other male singers coming forward like Jose James, Kurt Elling and Gregory Porter. It is a tradition worth keeping and I hope that we see continue to see singers like Chris keeping the faith.
We heard old favourites like ‘Shades of Blue’, some new material and even a rock classic from Led Zeppelin ‘No Quarter’. ‘Charlie’s Here’ cast a warm bluesy aura over the room and I have put that up as a video link. The kicker however was definitely ‘Inciteful’. It was an amazing rendition packed with high-octane solos, clever ideas and groove so deep that even speleologists could never hope to explore it.
The organ was a Hammond SK2 which is not Alan’s usual keyboard. Coupled to a Leslie Unit and the resulting sound was perfect. This lighter modern offshoot of the C3/B3 certainly earned its stripes on this night. It was just right for the room.
Where: The (CJC) Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885 building, Auckland 16th October 2013