On Wednesday the 21st of August ‘Rattle’ records launched Nick Granville’s ‘Refractions’ album. Nick Granville needs no introduction to Wellington audiences, being a professional musician who works extensively throughout that city. While he is not as well-known in Auckland, that is rapidly changing, as he has played a number of well received gigs here over the last year. CJC audiences now look forward to his return.
He is increasingly featured in the award-winning Roger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra and his recorded output as leader and sideman is growing by the year. This latest album is definitely his best to date and there is every expectation that this upwards career trajectory will continue. With this album his guitar chops are very much on display but it is the engaging warmth and unmistakable integrity that draws you into the project. All of the numbers on the album are originals and all are either blues based or have a distinct blues feel. Nick attributes this to the strong Scofield influence that has shaped his progress over the years.
There were mostly numbers from the current album featured at the CJC launch, but we also heard a few updated older compositions. As I am familiar with that material it gave some interesting points of comparison. The stand out tune from that earlier period was ‘Somewhere You’ve Been’ which is a well crafted reharmonisation of the standard ‘Footsteps’.
This album has a lot of strong points and compositionally it is a tour de force. It pays a subtle but heart-felt homage to John Scofield without being slavishly imitative or needing to play Sco tunes. Strong material like this just begs to played by the best musicians available and Nick has pulled this off. Much of the material was composed while completing his Masters at the Auckland University Jazz School, and this enabled him to utilise faculty members for the album. The three who joined him on the album are Roger Manins (tenor sax), Oli Holland (bass) and Ron Samson (drums). You would be hard put to find better musicians anywhere and they had obviously warmed to the task in hand.
A really good album is one that manages to sound familiar, yet original and Nick Granville has achieved this rare feat.
Roger Manins has a busy schedule teaching, co-managing the CJC and gigging around New Zealand and Australia. There is nothing that he can’t tackle as he is a very strong reader and a fearless improviser. His storytelling ability and improvisational inventiveness mark him out. Whether delivering a breathy ballad, where each gentle rasp of air counts, or a fast burner where the furies rain down, he’s a phenomena.
Oli Holland had barely returned from a holiday in Germany, but he showed no sign of jet lag on the band stand. He and Nick go back a way and so it was not surprising that he is on the album. Oli is one of the strongest bass players in New Zealand. At times he surprised as he delivered the sort of raunchy biting grooves that you would expect of an electric bass. Mostly though we heard his deeply resonant fluid lines weaving skilfully throughout the mix.
I always enjoy Ron Samsom’s drumming but he really stands out on this album. When you listen to ‘Gloves off’ in particular you will hear what a multi faceted Jazz drummer can do. This hard-driving funky tune is my personal favourite. It has a punch to rival Jack Johnson’s and an edgy groove that delights. It is one of the tracks that I return to again and again. Throughout this album Ron Samsom is marvellous.
The other strength is the quality of the recording and this is largely down to ‘Rattle’s’ Steve Garden. Every detail from the cover art to the sound quality is meticulously attended to. When it comes to mixing and mastering Steve has a special touch and the results here attest to that.
Nick Granville has pulled one out of the bag here and I strongly advise people to grab a copy.
Where: the CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Wednesday 21st August 2013