Paul Nairn’s Phantom Quartet@CJC

When I saw Paul Nairn’s name on the CJC website I wrongly jumped to the conclusion that he was unknown to me.   I had actually met Paul when a friend introduced me several months ago.  Perhaps it was the CJC promotional picture that threw me.    The picture is very clever as it appears to reference one of the giants of the post-war West Coast tenor scene.  Harold Land (‘Harold in the Land of Jazz’ album).  Harold is pictured with a controversial steel sculpture framing the shot; Paul against a large steel electricity pylon.  I am geeky enough about Jazz history and Jazz cover art to love the reference, as the juxtaposition is so tongue in cheek and so Kiwi.    Anyone with knowledge of ‘Land’ or Jazz artwork will have smiled in delight at the sight of it.   I would be amazed if the reference was accidental but who knows.

Paul has a reputation for being somewhat reclusive when it comes to gigging but he is one of the go-to people when it comes to horn maintenance.  He should step into the limelight more often because it was a pleasure to spend an evening with his Phantom Band.  The band delighted the audience with many lessor known standards and in some cases seldom heard arrangements of very familiar standards (such the lovely Naima by John Coltrane).  What works best for me is musicians enjoying the material they are playing and making no apologies for it.  ‘God Save the Weasel’ could work as a Jazz vehicle if musicians committed themselves to the task in hand.  This band enjoyed what they were doing.

The Phantom band are all veterans, with the ever popular Phil Broadhurst on piano, Alberto Santorelli on bass and Frank Gibson Jnr on drums.

They played compositions by John Coltrane, Cedar Walton, Wayne Shorter, Gato Barbieri and an original by Phil Broadhurst.   The Phil Broadhurst composition ‘Tuneless’ was a vehicle for piano and drums interaction.  The bass and sax laid out.  While Phil developed his attractive ostinato lines, Frank Gibson responded with colourist, Paul Motian like filigree.    It worked nicely as a contrast to the standards. 

I was torn between posting a video of Naima (Coltrane) or the Gato Barbieri number ‘Last Tango in Paris‘.   I chose the latter for a number of reasons.  It was played beautifully, it was deeply evocative and it is a tune that is seldom heard these days (to my regret).   ‘Last Tango in Paris’ comes from the famous 1972 movie and while millions would recognise the tune they would have no idea who the Argentinean Barbieri was.   It was one of those rare moments where a Jazz performance passed deep into the heart of popular culture without the public realising it.   If anyone hasn’t seen this extraordinarily well acted and confronting movie starring Marlin Brando and Marie Schneider they should remedy that.  In the hands of Bernardo Bertolucci a plethora of romantic and erotic issues were traversed and the sales of condiments soared.  Barbieri was nominated for a Grammy and Brando was hailed as the greatest actor of all time.  ‘El Gato Barbieri’ (the cat) spent the subsequent years as an A & R man and in pursuing his avant-garde dreams.   Thanks for the memory Paul.  


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