Mark Lockett lives in New York these days but he manages to visit Auckland every so often. This year, as he did in 2012 when he released ‘Sneaking out after midnight’, he appeared with a trio. Lockett is an engaging personality and his often quirky good humour spills into his playing. He is probably the most unusual drummer I have seen. One manifestation of this is the way he holds his sticks which is sometimes more than a third of the way down. It’s as if he puts his entire body into the task in hand, partly lowering himself over the kit and listening intently to each sound and sensing each player; feeling for the spaces in between.
There is an apparent deliberation that accompanies each beat or flurry, holding back for a micro second , then dropping the stick. What is more interesting is his ability to convey the maximum of effect when playing quietly. He isn’t a loud drummer but he conveys a world of sound. Reminding us as he uses elbows, hand palms, rims and stands, that the drum kit is a subtle and incredibly musical instrument in the right hands. His are the right hands. Lockett’s compositions are also quirky and there is always the hint of a delightful joke in the offing. These jokes stretch beyond the humorous titles, unfolding as musical stories with clever narrative lines. His communication skills are such that the audiences follow with delight. The humour is gentle but deeply imbedded and perhaps this is the best hook of all. This tour was appropriately titled, ‘Flying by the seat of my pants’.
There are definite risks with trios like this, as they tempt saxophonists to self indulgently noodle once freed from chordal constraints. Manins was perfect with this trio and used the opportunity to build upon the existing narratives. At times playing outside but never once disconnected from the bass in drums. He clearly took his lead from Lockett. He is known for his intuitive reading of varying bandstand situations, a particular strength of his.
The bass player Umar Zakaria had never played at the CJC before and in fact when I saw his name on the web site I thought that he had come from New York with Lockett. When I spoke to him it surprised me to hear a Kiwi accent. Zakaria has been attending the School of Music in Wellington and I believe that he is doing his honours at present. My belief that he was an experienced offshore musician was not dispelled until I spoke with him after the gig. His solos were interesting and he ably supported the others. This was a good night of music from a solid band, that entertained without taking itself too seriously.
Who: Mark Lockett Trio – ‘By the seat of my pants tour’. Mark Lockett (drums and compositions), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Umar Zakaria (upright bass).
Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland New Zealand. www.creativejazzclub.co.nz