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Dan Kennedy

Greetings to the world Jazz community on USA Jazz week from Auckland New Zealand,

This is snapshot of a gig held at the CJC Jazz club in Auckland just over a week ago

I have known Dan Kennedy for some time now and I have always enjoyed his propulsive energetic drumming.    He has played at the CJC on a number of occasions and most often as drummer for the late night jam sessions.  Dan is popular on the New Zealand scene and he has played beside some prestigious visiting artists and top flight locals.   On this night he brought his own quintet to the CJC for a gig, where they entertained the audience with a mix of originals and lessor known but intriguing Jazz tunes by artists like Chris Potter and Dave Douglas.

I like to see a quintet playing well-arranged heads and this band had put together a number of well crafted vehicles.   There were two numbers composed by Dan (leader and drummer), but the majority of the originals were composed and arranged by Finn Scholes (trumpet).   This was a varied and original program and it created nice contrasts.    They are a relatively young band with the oldest member being Cam Allen at 32 years.

Cam and Finn

Finn Scholes & Andy Smith

Cam Allen (Tenor) is an interesting musician, having played in New York and at other offshore locations.    His maturity of style was evident from the start and like many of our good tenor men he does not hold back during solos.   He can excoriate the audience or woo them with a set of ballad phrases and he is obviously a good reader as his playing on the head and out-chorus is always tight.

Andy Smith (guitar) has experienced a steady rise in popularity during the last year and it is no wonder.    His sound is pleasing and often rock inflected.    While the lines are pure jazz he uses the vocabulary of his day and this is a common trend with many younger guitarists.    Guitarists like Lage Lund or Mike Moreno are 100% Jazz but they are not afraid of taking a different route to reach their destination.    Andy’s tenure in the Alan Brown band has done him no harm at all and a good way to sample his playing is to locate a copy of Alan’s ‘Between the Spaces Album’ album.  Read my review of this album).  https://jon4jaz.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/alan-brown-between-the-spaces-cjc/

I knew who Finn Scholes (trumpet) was, but I had not previously heard him play.  I am pleased that this omission has been remedied.  He has a commanding presence on the band-stand and he can throw in the odd valve slur and muted growl when required.   I hope that he comes down to club again as I am keen to hear more of him.

The electric bass was played by Cass Mitchell and she showed her chops and more importantly her good taste as she played through the sets.   While she did not do too many solo’s, she never-the-less delivered the bass lines like a veteran.   Electric bass players are often tempted to use ‘loud’ as their default volume level but Cass stayed exactly where she should be in the mix.   At times it was hard to believe that she was not playing an upright bass so smooth were her lines.

Dan told the obligatory funny stories from the bandstand and his account of how he came to write ‘The Bouncer’ was a classic.    “I often struggle to write tunes quickly” said Dan, “but after being beaten up by a night club bouncer for no good reason I managed to write this peaceful ballad in no time flat, go figure”.

Cass Mitchel

I also liked ‘Awakening’ by Andy, ‘Pleasure Arp’ by Finn (“I made him change the title just before the gig”, explained Dan, “because the original sounded too bloody soppy”).  The one genuine standard was ‘Oliloqui Valley’ by Herbie Hancock.  They certainly did this tune justice and it fitted in mid-set as if it had always belonged there.   Tune placement is important if the flow of a gig is to be maintained.   It was Finn Scholes tune “Fast Swing’ that had me on the edge of my seat.   To say that they stretched out and blew hard would be an understatement.    Dan is soon to head to Australia and we wish him well (a little begrudgingly).    We wish he would stay, but that is how it works between us and Australia.   We loan them some of our best musicians and they do well there; only to return home and dazzle us at regular intervals.    The stolen generation I call them. but they invariably make us proud.

The Dan Kennedy Band are: Dan Kennedy (drums), Finn Scholes (trumpet), Cam Allen (tenor saxophone), Andy Smith (guitar), Cass Mitchell (electric bass).    The gig took place at the CJC Jazz club on Wednesday 4th April 2012.  To connect with the CJC gigs guide  http://www.creativejazzclub.co.nz/

Important Note:  This post is to feed into the Jazz Journalists Association 2012 Awards program.   Auckland is now part of a world-wide ‘blogathon’ occurring this week.   The program kick’s off today because it is the start of USA Mayoral designated Jazz Week.   Please visit the website of the JJA Awards Page and view the ongoing activities.    On the UNESCO designated World Jazz Day (which is the 30th April), we will be announcing the Jazz Heroes candidates from around the world.

NZ will be featured and I can’t praise the JJA highly enough for making a real effort to include Auckland and New Zealand in its scheduled events.    As a professional member I find the organisation to be helpful and incredibly supportive of what we do.    This is just the beginning Jazzers, as the world-wide outreach (connecting us to New York and them-to-us) can only get better as technology assists us in reducing the tyranny of distance.

The judging panel has also been meeting via a closed group FB page and the nominees for best artists are now posted on the Awards Page.    Along with other professional members I will be part of the final judging panel that determines the category winners.   That will be announced at a party which is to be held at a top venue in New York.    The good news for us is that Auckland Jazz fans will be participating through a Satellite Party.

That will be held in June and the details will be circulated through the CJC Jazz Club and the Jazz Journalists Association Awards page.  If you look through the Jazz Photography page you will notice a pic of our own Thomas Botting glancing lovingly at the neck of his bass.  I have also submitted a short You Tube doco about 3 nights at the CJC Jazz club.     I will post it at the end of this blog but do visit the JJA site over the next few months:

.  Jazz Journalists Association Announces Nominees for 16th Annual JJA Jazz Awards (theurbanflux.com)

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