Joel Haines is a well-known and established New Zealand guitarist. He also comes from an exceptionally talented musical family and this carries additional expectations. While this was very much a funk-Jazz gig Joel had brought a little of the rock-god to the bandstand. Many post Jim Hall Jazz guitarists bring elements of the Rock dialect into Jazz and in this case we certainly heard strong hints of that. Accompanying him was veteran funk Jazz organist Alan Brown on a Hammond B3 portable (XK-3C) and Stephen Thomas on a classic 1960’s Rogers drum kit. Joel played his stunningly beautiful Ibenez hollowbody guitar on all numbers except one.
The gig was always going to be loud (and it was) but interestingly not as much as some bands when playing in this confined club space. I was surprised by this as I was in the front row. The answer may lie in the fact that Joel uses an older style valve amp which he did not feed into a PA. Alan Brown used a Lesley Unit with valve amplification and at one point I could hear someone in the audience say appreciatively – “look at the glow and pulse of those valves”. It was brother Nathan. It is possible that hearing analogue uncompressed sound is more pleasant to the ear.
The set began with one of Alan’s compositions ‘Minor Avalanche’. The tune has a solid vamp which builds and builds. Over that Joel played his funky bluesy lines with Stephen locking into the groove. The second number (‘Ferret droppings’ – by Noel Haines) was slower and in consequence we saw more of what the trio was capable of. There was time to construct well thought-out solo’s and the drumming was a little looser, with more cymbal work and less kick drum. Needless to say Alan always acquits him self well with a Jazz audience as he smilingly punches out his signature staccato chords while dazzling with his right hand.
On the third track, Alan Brown’s ‘Shades of Blue’ we struck the mother lode. I have loved this tune from the minute I first heard it on the Alan Brown trio album ‘About That Time’ – Ode Records. ‘Shades of Blue’ is a great tune and above all it is a perfect vehicle for improvisation. Several bars into the number there are a couple of compelling hooks and nice as they are they are not overdone; leaving you wanting more. Alan certainly knows how to write good charts. It was on this number that we saw Joel at his best. His solo was fabulous and every note counted. As he bent the strings and worked his pedals you could hear echos of ‘Electric Ladyland’. Not sounding like a clone of Hendrix but taking the sounds deep into a Jazz context.
Joel’s ‘Live at Wembley’ was a nice ballad with long melodic lines and his other contributions were tunes interestingly titled ‘Who Flung Dung’ and ‘Hangover’.
Yes there were plenty of licks and tricks of technique but the band took us way beyond cliché.