Some acts appear to arrive out of no-where. All of the rehearsing and scuffling hidden from the common gaze. Others invite you in at ground level, letting you see the raw material as it evolves, letting you see the promise, beckoning from the future. Letting you see the influences, the base metal. For a pop act the former makes sense, for improvised music it makes no sense at all. Improvised music should move at will, explore awkward corners and morph into new shapes as it feeds off the life around it. Standing still is death.
Last time this band was in town the name ‘Tiny Hearts’ had not yet surfaced. They were the ‘Dilworths’ then, but the music was just as beguiling. One of the things that I quickly learned was the strength of the bands influences, powerful tributaries feeding a common cause. I was momentarily tempted to view the group as a discrete entity, a single project, but now I’m not so sure. The more that I learn about them, the more I see the individual strengths of the musicians, where they’ve come from and where they’re headed. Each of them have excelled in former projects but there is more. Together they exude an organic quality, growing, evolving in unison. Expressing the moment.
I was familiar with a few of the tunes, the ones played during the ‘Dilworths’ tour. I had also kept in touch with the musicians and seen clips as they developed their program along the way. These are great compositions, but the performances lift them to another level. All of the pieces have the individual musicians stamp imprinted on them. This is in keeping with the ‘Tiny Hearts’ ethos. A Steve Barry tune is unmistakably his, A Dilworth or Jackson tune likewise. While most of the tunes were written with ‘Tiny Hearts’ in mind, they often referenced earlier projects or perhaps give a nod to future offshoots. The ink was hardly dry on Tom Botting’s atmospheric Balclutha chart when he visited with the ‘Dilworths’ last time. ‘Big Sea Reprise’ takes up the baton from Paul Derricott’s amazing Big Sea (Arrow) album. I loved that album and asked Derricott about it when I caught their act last week. He told me that he had liked the album as first, but then developed some doubts. It lay fallow for a few years, then Paul revived it. He is now pleased with it.
Dilworth is the fronts person for the group, his friendliness and confidence making him and obvious choice. Musically, all speak equally. The composition of the band is part Australian and part Kiwi if you count their countries of origin. In reality they’re best described as Australians. Musicians like Barry and Botting could never be confined to our small Islands. Dilworth, Derricott and Jackson are Sydney musicians with solid reputations. If you are growing curious then here is my challenge. Purchase a copy of ‘Alluvium’. If you already possess it then order copies of: ‘Big Sea’ by Derricott, ‘Steve Barry’ the eponymous titled award-winning album by Barry, ‘Caravana Sun’ by Dilworth, ‘Cosmontology’ by Jackson. I have just ordered the latter to complete my set. I also spoke to the band about future projects and there are plenty in store. A Paul Derricott, a Steve Barry and a Dave Jackson album are in the wind.
I missed their CJC gig as I was in Australia, but I caught them at the Auckland Jazz and Blues Club. Reading the venue perfectly, they devoted much of the night to the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook. This was not done begrudgingly as they revelled in the chance to play sets dominated by these timeless standards. As the night progressed we whooped and clapped as numbers like ‘It don’t mean a thing’ brought the joy among us. Embarking upon a night of unprepared swing era tunes would catch a lessor band on the hop. For these guys it came naturally.
If you get the feeling that these musicians are in the middle of a massive and self-perpetuating project then you would be right. For those who haven’t worked it out, the title says it all. Alluvium comes from the Latin ‘to wash against’. Loose base metals tumbling together in a stream. That sounds about right. I can’t wait to see them again in any of their incarnations. They really are extraordinary.
Who: Tiny Hearts – ‘Alluvium’ Eamon Dilworth (trumpet), Steve Barry (piano), Dave Jackson (saxophone), Tom Botting (bass), Paul Derricott (drums).
http://www.davejacksonmusic.com/ – stevebarrymusic.bandcamp.com/