The CJC Jazz club in Auckland has been located in the 1885 Britomart building for nearly two years now and it goes from strength to strength. There are important reasons for this success such as the ambience and friendly vibe, but the program of music is the real clincher. Patrons see a real variety of bands and more importantly be exposed to improvised music that they might not otherwise encounter. They see surprisingly talented local musicians who were hitherto unknown to them; also musicians from other cities and countries. This week we heard a well-known and talented guitarist who works as a professional musician in the Wellington region. I refer of course to Nick Granville. This was not his first visit to the CJC but it was his first to the 1885 basement.
The job of selecting bands falls to Roger Manins CJC program director and his choices really do count – he has a genius for this. Without his approach we would tend to have long residencies and then audiences could drop off because people would say, “Oh that was great – but we saw them a few weeks ago”. On Wednesday the person next to me said, “I don’t dare miss a single week because they are all such great gigs”. The Nick Granville Quartet/Quintet definitely fits that category.
I have known Nick for a few years now and along with many Aucklanders saw him perform with the Roger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra and Alan Broadbent – later Patti Austin. He is a core member of that big band and in that and in other configurations he is regularly called upon to accompany visiting artists such as Kurt Elling, Patti Austen, Bob Mintzner, Bennie Maupin (and an endless list of notables). He regularly plays for television shows, embassies, Wellington functions and he has toured the USA. His bag is anything from fusion, gypsy Manouch, straight ahead and bebop. In short he is a professional musician and gigging is not a part-time thing for him. Nick is also a keen writer and although he keeps this talent deliberately below the radar because of time constraints, he often writes big band charts.
Nicks CJC gig was one I looked forward to and it also gave me the chance to catch up with him. I learned that he had brought his beautiful Gibson Les Paul with him and we talked at length about this often underrated guitar. Contrary to the opinion of some it is very much a Jazz guitar and its unusually warm sound and sustain make it special to my ears. Pat Martino, Philip Catherine and others have used it to great effect and Les Paul was himself a Jazz Guitarist (playing at the Iridium in NY right up until his recent death). The tune that I have chosen to post as a You Tube clip is a lovely composition of Nicks titled ‘Blues for Les’ (Les Paul). Nick wrote this tune while waiting for a plane – using only an iPhone and a scrap of paper.
The reverb pedalling as he comps behind Roger Manins is gorgeous and it is never too loud or overdone. Nicks, Oli’s and Rogers solos are all really memorable and one is left with that warm glow that comes from a well written ballad. Everyone knows that Roger favours fast burners but his work on this blues ballad is breathtaking. Rumour has it that this was the first time that he had seen the chart and considering that the lighting was so low that only a bat could have read it he worked wonders. Ron Samson is a drummer who never disappoints and he gave us a solid lesson in how to match the traps to the occasion. No one locally does brushes or mallets like Ron.
All of the tunes were compositions by Nick Granville and as with all good set lists they fitted together well. There was a tune with a distinct New Orleans feel and it swung against a raunchy loose vamp. This was an open invitation to Roger and to those of us that had not seen his bar hopping soul jazz persona before it was a revelation.
One of the tunes was a little loose around the head but it didn’t matter a damn. This was good time music, a live experience to put a grin on our faces. We don’t want somber faces and chamber music, we want authenticity, nice compositions, an engaging leader and great playing. Nick gave us all that at the CJC and I can’t wait to see how these new compositions and others in the pipeline evolve. Thanks man.
The band; Nick Granville (Gibson Les Paul guitar), Roger Manins (Selmer tenor Saxophone), Oli Holland (upright bass), Ron Samsom (drums), guest Mike Booth (trumpet).