Sometimes you have high expectations of a gig only to find that they have been exceeded. This was certainly the case at Auckland’s Wednesday night Creative Jazz Club, held at the ‘1885 Britomart’.
The CJC gigs are held in the basement of an old building in Galway Street (the ‘1885 Britomart’) and it has the look of a pre 1900’s ships chandlers or bond store. This is the perfect performance space for Jazz because it fits the archetypes of the best clubs of the world. It is in a basement, intimate, comfortable and has good acoustics (oh and a nice piano). It was damn cold outside and so we were hoping the club would be warm and it was; warm and inviting in the best possible way. As we descended the two flights of stairs we could hear the pianist Kevin Field exploring a few voicings on the piano and with just those few chords we knew that we were in for a great night.
The Kevin Field (+ Craig Walters) band started with a medium paced number and soon settled into a tight groove. This was the sort of band that brought an ever-increasing smile to your face and as they laid out the melody of each tune and then mined the changes for improvisational gold. Their version of ‘this will be my shining hour‘(Harold Arlen) was a miracle of high energy and exploration. They just tore it up and the fast paced riffs and increasingly risky explorations brought hoots of delight from the crowd. I have heard this tune 100’s of times but I have never liked it more than on Wednesday night.
The saxophonist was ex-pat Kiwi Craig Walters, who lives and works in Sydney and travels internationally. This cat is certainly post-Coltrane and his impeccable Jazz credentials showed on this gig. He has that way of all good Jazz musician’s; an engaging manner, great chops (and the ability to make subtle self-deprecating insider jokes). The rhythm section were all locals and probably need no introduction as they are among our best and brightest.
Kevin Field is a lovely pianist and his post-bop voicings would enhance any group. He teaches Piano at the Auckland School of Music (his real job) but he is also a respected leader about town. Kevin Haines is probably NZ’s best bass player and we are used to seeing him performing in a variety of settings. On some of the ballads like ‘blame it on my youth‘ his solo’s were impeccable as he anchored the group – holding the centre of the sound in his fingertips. I want to make special mention of the drummer Tony Hopkins because this guy drummed up a storm. I must confess that I have been a fan since I saw him in my youth (blame it on my youth). He was all over the kit in the best possible way and if this is what 70 year olds drum like then there will be younger players applying for septuagenarian status all over town. Tony is not only an impeccable time-keeper but he managed on this gig to sit high in the mix without overwhelming the others. At times he and Kevin Haines would glance appreciatively at each after a particular lick was exchanged and this high level musical communication is at the heart of all good Jazz.
I will watch future CJC events with interest because great Jazz, thin crust margarita pizza and a warm spot in the corner of a Jazz club is my idea of heaven.