Nick Granville’s return to the CJC was long overdue and the fact that he’d invited local favourite Dixon Nacey to join him made this an extra welcome return. Granville is one of the busiest and most versatile guitarists in New Zealand. Although a Jazz guitarist, he is just as likely to appear with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (the recent Dr Who tour), on TV, with visiting pop idols or touring beside visiting jazz royalty like Joey Defrancesco. He’s a prolific recording artist, widely travelled and always in demand. Dixon Nacey is also extremely well-known. He has been absent from the club recently; touring the Pacific rim and gaining new fans wherever he goes. Dixon is a real crowd pleaser.
It is not often that we get two guitars in a quartet gig at the CJC and when the guitarists are Granville and Nacey it is a twelve stringed celebration. When two guitarists play together, each needs hyper awareness of what the other is about. Jazz guitar collaborations tend to fall into two camps; either they work extremely well or the musicians crowd into the same space. These men are masters of their instruments and it was evident from the start that they knew instinctively when to play, comp or lay out. The cross talk and the support was there without compromising the others space.
Although there was an upbeat Scofield number and a very engaging Pat Metheny number, the gig gave a distinct nod to the traditional. It was certainly not the material, as there were no standards; it was the approach. Most of the compositions were contemporary originals but both guitarists bop roots were on show. There is appropriateness to that when you consider the bench marks. To my ears the twin guitar gold standard occurred in 1974 with Joe Pass and Herb Ellis on their ‘Seven to Eleven’ (Jake Hanna and Ray Brown rounded out that quartet).
Granville is an Ibanez artist and Nacey a Godin artist. In juxtaposition, under the lights, the gleaming instruments glowed as if in a beauty contest. A preening mass of highly polished wood tones. These instruments are things of great beauty and to see them and hear them together is a treat. In the hands of these two guitarists even more so. There were a number of Granville’s compositions played during the night but the second up; ‘Somewhere I’ve been’ (which is Granville’s reharmonisation of Shorter’s ‘Footsteps’) burned and crackled with unimaginable energy. This set us up well for the evening, as we progressed through further compositions by Granville, Nacey, Samsom, plus a Scofield and a Metheny number. I managed to capture Metheny’s ‘Question & Answer’ and I have posted it. This clip speaks well of the musicianship and the genuine interaction between the two guitarists.
On bass was Oli Holland and he is in perpetual good form. With his Doctorate now completed we can expect to see more of him on the band stand. Ron Samsom on drums played with fiery enthusiasm. It is always a pleasure to hear Samsom and especially to hear his compositions. That said, the icing on the cake was catching a photograph of that fleeting signature snarl. This illusive manifestation of ‘drum face’ occurs all too rarely and only when Samsom digs deep. I am a great believer in drum face as it often presages rhythmic riches.
Who: Nick Granville (guitar), Dixon Nacey (guitar), Oli Holland (bass), Ron Samsom (drums)
Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland, New Zealand, 12th November 2014