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The CJC (Creative Jazz Club) is increasingly on the world Jazz circuit, but it also attracts a number of artists from around New Zealand.   This outreach is exactly what Roger Manins, Caroline Manins and Ben McNicholl had envisaged when the collective began.  The CJC’s prime purpose is to further Jazz and improvised music as an art form and to create an intimate performance space where projects can be realised.    This space is suited to listening audiences, which in turn spurs the musicians on.  The trio who performed on Wednesday appreciated that.  IMG_6436 - Version 2

On Wednesday we heard the Wellington based Myele Manzanza trio.  A drummer led band has a different feel to a piano led trio.  When a drummer is leader the drums are generally more forward in the mix than is otherwise the case.  This is the way of things and whether it’s Max Roach or Matt Wilson we expect to have the drums as a strong focus.  Myele Manzanza is a captivating drummer and I was immediately struck by how different he is to most Auckland drummers.  When I spoke to him later I went out on a limb by suggesting that his style was reminiscent of Manu Katche.  He told me that he had not heard him, but that others had said the same.

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According to Myele, Roger Manins suggested that they should push the boundaries.   Rising to that challenge the band hastily composed a tune for the gig.   The gig was a mix of standards, interesting takes on tunes not usually associated with jazz and a few originals.  The originals were often subjected to an angular approach and with pared back melody.   Their take on the Ellington tune ‘Caravan’ was probably the most conventional of their tunes but even then it was given individual treatment.  The pianist approached the tune in a percussive manner, but with right hand runs that were definitely post bop (a little like Michel Petrucciani was fond of doing).  Led by the drummer, time signatures morphed into various new patterns.

The Pianist Daniel Hayles often begins pieces with long ostinato intro’s and while not quite a minimalist, he never-the-less avoids excessive ornamentation.  I really warmed to him as the evening progressed and I found his approach modern and fresh (and often North European).  With Scott Maynard on bass the unit knitted together well.  Because of the way the tunes unfolded it was essential that he made his presence felt and he did.   In situations like this the bass often has to carry some extra weight.IMG_6431

Myele has spent time working in New York and he has studied under Jazz drummer E J Strickland.  I also know that he is passionate about Jazz, but why his band sounds different is because other very modern influences have seeped into the mix.   Myele Manzanza works with many ground breaking non-Jazz lineups and that is probably what he is best known for.   This brings me back to Manu Katche who is a very modern jazz drummer, but one who works across a variety of genres (Peter Gabriel and Sting).  Katche’s Jazz drumming is atypical and madly engaging.   Jazz should never stand still and this window on yet another approach to our music tells me that the exploration continues.

I hope that the band returns again as they expand our horizons while making us smile.   After thanking his band Myele Manzanza turned to the audience and said, “Thank you Auckland and the CJC.   This is an unusual situation for us.  An audience that listens appreciatively and doesn’t talk through the gig.   This is what Wellington lacks”.

Every city needs a CJC …and lots of nights like this.

Who: Myele Manzanza (Leader, drums), Daniel Hayles (Keys, Piano), Scott Maynard (bass).

When and Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club) 1885 building Brittomart, 20th march 2013

Note: Jazz April and International Jazz Day are nearly upon us.  Do your bit by supporting as much jazz as you can during April.

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