My recent travels to the USA led to many musical adventures, but as good as those experiences were I had missed the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) and our local musicians. There is a passion and sometimes a raw edge in New Zealand Jazz which I find compelling.
The first gig I attended upon my return was the Nathan Haines CJC gig. This had been widely anticipated and after the success of ‘Poets Embrace’ the rumours of a new album had started to circulate. Just before Christmas Nathan Haines returned from London for a month or so and not long after Alain Koetsier returned from China. The rumours became fact as there is definitely a new album in the making. The band was well received at London’s ‘Ronnie Scotts‘ last year and an overwhelmingly positive review appeared in the influential ‘London Jazz’. That gig had reunited most of the ‘Poets Embrace’ band.
By the time of the ‘Ronny’s’ gig Nathan had moved back to London, while Kevin Field and Alain Koetsier flew in to join him. When a good band like this travels exposure to wider markets occurs. This can bring rewards. Having Warners behind Nathan proved fortuitous and ‘Poets Embrace’ has now been released in Europe as well as Australasia. With a follow-up album coming the expectations are rising again.
Nathan is no stranger to success (here or offshore) but to break into a difficult market releasing analogue classic 50’s style Jazz demonstrates his appeal. This is not just a lucky break but the result of hard work, Savvy, skilfully written charts and knowing who to choose as bandmates. Although Alain Koetsier (drums) has been working in China for a year he had already gained a solid reputation in New Zealand before he left. He can be heard on a number of top quality recordings where his chops and musicality are self-evident. Pianist Kevin Field has released a few albums of his own as leader and of particular note is his last release ‘Field of Vision’ (Produced by Nathan and released on the Warners label). The original bass player Thomas Botting is no longer with the band and in his place is the talented Ben Turua. This is the second time that I have seen Ben play with this band and he is a good choice. Sadly he is moving to Sydney after the recording.
On the night of the CJC gig we heard a mix of tunes from ‘Poets Embrace’ and some new compositions. Some were so new that they had never been played before in public. I assume that at least a few of these will end up on the new album. The first set started with a selection from Poets Embrace and it was immediately obvious that they were back on familiar ground and ready to notch it up a level. Nathan quickly established the melody and just as quickly moved to explore what lay beyond. Together they mined the material for new stories and the level of confidence was noticeable. The newer material was a little more tentative but this was a first outing. With the recording session due very shortly I have no doubt that we will hear an album every bit as exciting as the last. This music has its echoes in the era of 50’s Coltrane and others but here’s the interesting thing; Nathan has a young and an older fan base. This is a timeless music for the universal man (and woman).
Nathan is hopefully going to include a few of the vocal numbers he performed on the new album. His song ‘Impossible Beauty’ from ‘Sound Travels’ was an attractive haunting tune that stuck in the memory. I rate his (slightly husky) voice highly and I hope he adds vocals to his repertoire more often. The male Jazz singer is sadly an endangered species.
Last weekend the band played ‘The Sawmill’ in Leigh. The seats sold out quickly and to all accounts the gig was amazing. If there is anyone who hasn’t yet purchased a copy of ‘Poets Embrace’ do so immediately and grab up the new album upon release (in Vinyl or CD). I can promise you endless replays.
Who: Nathan Haines Band with Kevin Field, Alain Koetsier & Ben Turua.
Where: The CJC (Creative Jazz Club) the basement 1885 -Britomart – downtown Auckland
When: Wednesday 30th January 2013