When ever Alan Brown brings a band to the CJC, the club fills to capacity. Alan is well-known, deeply respected and he swings like crazy. The ‘KMC Live’ release was always going to be a significant musical occasion, but on this night the sparks of inspiration flew between the band members and we witnessed something transcendent . This was an incendiary gig that lifted our spirits; causing us to tap our feet uncontrollably and for some, to dance with abandon in the flickering shadows. Alan had arrived earlier in the day, because dragging a heavy C3 organ down into a basement presented challenges. The patience of Job and the strength of Hercules are required. These wonderful organs with their bass pedals, wood-paneled console and double keyboard have probably caused preachers to swear when moving then. It would not surprise me if some elected to rebuild the church round the organ rather than drag it up front. It is our gain entirely that Alan achieved the translocation. Hearing the wonderful bluesy phrases flow effortlessly from his fingers as they flew over the keyboards and seeing his feet pedaling out compelling bass lines was a rare treat.
Dixon Nacey is without a shadow of doubt one of the best guitarists in New Zealand and it is a joy to watch him solo and interact with the other musicians. During solos he will often close his eyes while weighing up the next step and his facial expressions reveal his commitment to the process as he dives ever deeper into the tune. It is also a revelation to watch him in call and response situations. When he and Alan are batting each other ideas, this often turns into good-natured un-armed combat. Dixon watches intently while waiting for a challenge. Occasionally calling to the others as if to say, “do your worst”. When a musical phrase is tossed into the air he will smile gleefully and pounce on it, turning it about until it is fashioned into a thing of his own. Josh Sorenson proved to be the perfect groove drummer as he locked down the beat and pulled the unit together. This type of drumming requires specialist skills and Josh most certainly possesses these.
Tonight was the launch of Alan’s album ‘Live at the KMC’. This was recorded at the Kenneth Meyers Centre back in September 2010 and choice of venue was fortuitous. The venue is of historic importance as it has nurtured radio and TV in its infancy. It is now part of the Auckland University School of Music (Creative Arts Section). An acoustic gem. Alan had recorded this gig thinking only that it could prove useful as a private resource. One listen convinced him that he needed to release the material at some future date.
The set list at the CJC gig (and on the album) was a mix of Alan’s original tunes with three standards thrown in. The standards were ‘Maiden Voyage‘(Herbie Hancock) and ‘All Blues‘ (Miles Davis) and ‘Chank’ (John Scofield) – all arranged by Alan. The rest of Alan’s compositions were; ‘Mr Raven’ (from the Blue Train days), ‘Charlie’s Here’, ‘Shades of Blue’, ‘In Fluence’, ‘Slight Return’, ‘Inciteful’. ’Shades of Blue’ was the best known of the originals while Alan’s interpretation of ‘Maiden Voyage’ was delightfully brooding and moody. It was a nice take on this well-loved tune. If I had to choose which of the tunes I liked best however I would probably say ‘Inciteful’. This was played in extended form and it teased every ounce of inventiveness and musicianship out of the band.
On this night the stream of ideas kept coming, as fresh musical vistas were revealed. Each one holding us in suspense until the next gem appeared. This was organ/guitar/drum music at its best; intelligent, highly charged and full of joyous abandon. A groove jazz trio of the sort you might find in East Philly or Montreal had been formed on our own doorstep. This gig took place at the Creative Jazz Club (CJC) in Auckland New Zealand on the 18th April 2012