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Alex Churchill (s) and Cameron Sangster (d)

Anyone running a Jazz club is unlikely to be hitting New Zealand’s ‘rich lister’ status anytime soon.    Success in the Jazz world has seldom been measured in dollars, but in a far richer currency – keeping the spirit of the music alive.     A successful club depends on maintaining good audiences, therefore dedicating a night to emerging-talent is arguably a risky proposition .    Jazz however is all about risk and it is certainly about supporting fresh talent; in this case the gamble was royally rewarded.     The Alex Churchill – Andrea Groenewald band may be youthful but when they hit their stride, age became an irrelevance.

What the audience saw were musicians of calibre and their obvious dedication to the music was evident.    While one or two of the earlier numbers were a little less focused than what was to follow, the band soon had the audience whooping delightedly at the joyous exuberant sounds they were hearing.   Everyone saw that this was to be another great night at the CJC.

They opened with a set of their own compositions and almost all of the band had contributed tunes.   I particularly liked ‘Paint the Sky‘ which I think was composed by Andrea and the bands playing on this was great.   They had warmed up and it showed in spades.   Alex has a post-Coltrane vibrato-less tenor sound but his tone is pleasing and warm when that is called for.   His nimble soloing was nicely augmented by Andrea comping behind him with clipped octave chords.  I think that the band realised early on just how much the audience were enjoying the gig and the mutual feedback loop worked exactly as it should.

The second set was dedicated to Pat Metheny’s music and I was intrigued to see how this would work.   I soon found out, because the rendition of “Have You Heard’ was pure bliss.   To hear Metheny’s music stripped of the pedal effects and dare I say occasional over-production, was pleasantly surprising.    They ripped into this number with the chops of a band that had been playing together for ever.

Andrea Groenewald (g)

Note perfect, joyfully exuberant and inspired.    Apart from the great solos on this number, what I loved most was Alex and Andrea paying the head arrangement in unison; but with Andrea’s voice adding an extra horn-line. To do this with less than perfect precision is to invite calamity but the band nailed it.

This was a great night and the band should feel extremely pleased with how it went.     I saw Roger the club manager smiling and given the numbers who attended and the enthusiasm of the audience we can hope for more emerging talent nights.    As for this band, they have stepped into the known and the emerging talent category will soon be behind them.   I would certainly go out on a cold night to see them again.

Having emerging bands of this quality in our own city bodes well for the future of Auckland Jazz.    I had seen two members of this band before (Cameron and Andrea) but the other three were unknown to me before now.

The band were; co-leaders Andrea Groenewald (g) & Alex Churchill (ts) – Renee Cosio (p), Nick Taylor (b), Cameron Sangster (d).

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