Thirty years ago Jazz students kept close to the safer standards for a first time club gig. Post millennium Students reference a variety of genres; even during a single number. That may sound like a recipe for disaster and if handled ineptly it would be. What I heard on this gig was at times clever and perhaps even cheeky. It bodes well for the adventures ahead. It is important that Jazz retains a sense of adventure and joy. There is certainly room for serious explorations, but music that takes itself too seriously is a downer.
The programming of CJC gigs ensures that a variety of acts. This is a particular strength. I have remarked upon this before and it is this practice that enables the Jazz club to hold ’emerging artists’ gigs every so often. It is far from being a weak commercial proposition as these nights usually draw significant crowds. Everyone who follows this music knows that artists don’t emerge from their studies fully formed. They develop incrementally; as they practice, play beside better musicians and as they perform in front of discriminating audiences. Having a project in hand like the ’emerging artists’ series is an important step. There are a number of Jazz schools in New Zealand (and some very good teachers in the private sector). It is therefore important that we evaluate the students. So far the quality of emerging artists has been impressive.
There was a double billing on the 6th August. First up was the Asher Tuppman Lattie quintet, followed by the J Y Lee Sextet. Following tradition the band members were all fellow students or recently graduated students and the reasoning behind this practice is sound. If they appeared with well established and highly competent musicians, a lingering doubt could remain. Would they have sounded as good without the latter? Choosing from fellow students gives context and synergy. Everyone needs to step up in unison.
I have posted a number titled ‘Tango’ which provides a context for my initial comments. At first it appears to be traditional Jazz Tango fare as it briefly utilises the raspy sounds made famous by Gato Barbieri. Then you get a sense of fun, as it playfully takes the genre apart. We get bebop and the merest hint of free in what follows. The vaudevillian feel of the piece worked well. It is similar to the sounds I heard during my explorations of Italian Jazz, a country where the blurring of Jazz, folk and free is often elevated to high art. Jazz Tango is something that I love and I’m not sure Kiwi’s get this. Listen to Gerry Mulligan with Aster Piazzolla or Gary Burton or even Carla Bley and you will find Tango gold. The Jazz Tango master who appeared to acclaim at the recent Wellington Jazz Festival was probably ignored by most Jazz fans. Their loss. The pianist Connor McAneny played the first set. He is an imposing presence; not because he is dominant, but because his assuredness when comping and his tasteful solos grow ever more confident.
Second up was J Y Lee, a young alto player who is often seen around town. He is heard in many lineups and his taste for the avant garde has added a piquancy to his sound. His played a varied set, giving him the ability to demonstrate a range of his writing and playing skills. Utilising Chelsea Prastiti on vocal lines was a masterstroke as the colour she adds to an ensemble is unique. As in the Asher Tuppman Lattie set the second horn player was Sam Weeks. Sam had played Alto in first set but took up tenor duties for the second set with J Y Lee. I have put up a piece which shows Weeks and Lee playing together. The arranged head is tight and melodic and as the piece opens out, everyone is given a chance to stretch a little.
The pianist for the second set was Chrystal Choi. She is a gifted pianist and it is a real shame that we don’t see her more often. In spite of having well-developed chops she never over-plays. Every note counts and she is definitely one to watch. Bass player Djordje Nikolic and drummer Tristan Deck played both sets. I have only heard Nikolic a few times but he acquitted himself well. Tristan Deck is increasingly seen about town and it is no wonder that he is employed more often. His time feel and confidence mark him out.
There was a good attendance for the gig and judging by the whoops and cheers everyone enjoyed it.
Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club) www.creativejazzclub.co.nz