CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Hard Bop, Straight ahead

‘Hardbopmobile’ (with Carolina Moon)

Hardbopmobile MONK 11-3-2014 059Frank Gibson Jr’s ‘Hardbopmobile’ has been around for a number of years and the band always delivers uncompromising hard-hitting performances. Gibson and Watson see to that. This no nonsense approach guarantees that Hardbopmobile’s music, even while traversing well worn standards, is fresh. This particular gig was titled ‘Hardbopmobile plays Monk’ and with the interesting addition of vocalist Caroline Moon (Manins) on vocals, it gave us much to enjoy. Familiar and lessor known Monk tunes appeared as the evening progressed. While all of Monk’s recorded material is perennially interesting and seemingly beyond caveat, in the right hands vibrant new interpretations are possible. This is the nature and Monk, the Picasso of modern Jazz; a modernist movement in perpetual progress.Hardbopmobile MONK 11-3-2014 069Ted Gioia pointed out in his book ‘The Jazz Standards’, that only two composers of pure Jazz standards remain in ascendency.  One of these is Monk whose stock has risen steadily for many decades now. The other (and that has occurred more recently) is Billy Strayhorn. Both of these composers had an astonishing modernity about them. In spite of some beguiling melodies, neither offered the listener simplicity. What you get with Monk is often jagged and quirky compositions, but for all that his hooks snag deep. Listening to Monk you hear the sounds of New York. The broken lines andHardbopmobile MONK 11-3-2014 066 startling dissonance are echoes of traffic and street life. Very human sounds and offered from his unique vantage point. In spite of the difficulties life threw at him the music is somehow tender.  Monks was essentially a humanist voice.

Frank Gibson, Neil Watson, Roger Manins, Caro Manins and Rui Inaba gave us an enjoyable evening. At times boisterous and loud, but occasionally gently reflective (e.g.Ruby my dear). I was delighted to hear ‘Ask me now’ as it is all too often ignored by modern Monk interpreters.

Gibson has a driving incessant beat that never flags and this spurs on Watson who loves nothing better than asymmetric lines and chords that drop like IED’s. He told me that he finds Monk liberating. Roger Manins and Rui Inaba were the newer band members. Inaba kept the pulse secure while Manins adopted his usual approach which is always dangerousHardbopmobile MONK 11-3-2014 067 and wild.

Monk has been interpreted by vocalists before and most notably by Carmen McCray.  The last time anyone sung Monk at the CJC was Susan Gai-Dowling and that was three years ago. Hearing Carolina Moon (Manins) doing these interpretations I wonder that it is not done more often. Moon has re-written the Monk arrangements, adding vocal lines. Her ‘Carolina Moon’ (Monk/Moon arr.) is irresistible.  When this was composed in 1924, composers Burke & Davis must have hoped for a hit.  It rose in the charts twice and never more so than when Connie Francis sang it in 1958. I bet that they never saw Monk coming though. Turning the song on its head (no pun intended)and giving it that crazed bebop makeover.  Hardbopmobile MONK 11-3-2014 061

There was also a marvellous interpretation of ‘Epistrophy’. This also featured Moon who had cleverly added some slow rap into the mix. During her preparation for the gig she listened to a famous live performance of Monk doing ‘Epistrophy’. Her attention was immediately drawn to a number of irritating audience members, talking loudly through the solo. She then transcribed the banter and it is now integrated into the tune. This is not only clever but it is fitting and cathartic. Monk would have loved to see these talkative ghosts exorcised. Gibson asking Moon to join the band was inspired. More please.

Who: Hardbopmobile – Frank Gibson (drums), Neil Watson (guitar), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Rui Inaba (bass), – guest Carolina Moon (vocals)

Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland, New Zealand 25th March 2015.

Beyond category, Fusion & World, vocal

Acapollinations/Carolina Moon @ CJC

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One of the strengths of the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) is its varied program.   Sixty years ago improvised music meant only one thing to the western world.  Mainstream Jazz.  From the late fifties onwards the music drew from an ever-widening array of influences, experiments with unusual and exotic instruments occurred, not always successful as the attempts were often self-conscious.  At worst they felt like a size twelve-foot being jammed into a size six shoe, at best they tantalised, leaving us wanting more.   Among the best of these explorations were Jimmy Giuffre’s.   A Texas tenor man with open ears and an innate ability to double on reeds and winds.  By the sixties his folk tinged Jazz with Jim Hall and Bill Crow (Train and the River) was considered mainstream.  By then Giuffre had moved on to explore open skies atonal explorations with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow and to dabble in the ‘third stream’.   The third stream referenced modern classical music as it sought to make a hybrid of the two forms.  Attempts to bring in the exotic sounds of the Mediterranean, in spite of Django, were slower coming.   The exotic of the sixties was more likely Cuban influenced Jazz or the music of Tom Jobim.   Both wonderful, but unmistakably music rooted in the Americas, in spite of their ancient African influences.

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Post millennium, there are interesting and innovative Jazz Projects proliferating across the globe.  ECM in particular has long been adept at broadening Jazz tastes and over the last two decades it is repeatedly voted as the best-loved Jazz Label.  Not once has it compromised its mission.  Not once has it tried to travel down the populist route.  It survives in a space where the iconic Jazz labels disappear, engulfed by amoral corporate machines or buried in an increasingly harsh market place.   One ECM album in particular comes to mind, a wonderful collaboration between premier Italian Jazz trumpeter Paulo Fresu and a traditional Corsican mens choir, ‘Mystico Mediterraneo’.   This acapella song form is combined with improvisation much like Caroline’s and Tui’s projects.  Improvising around ancient forms and bringing back deeply evocative all but forgotten songs.  This feels natural in 2014 and this brings me to the original point.   Jazz now coexists comfortably around a variety of genres, from deep Americana (Bill Frisell), to Middle Eastern music (Dhafer Youssef).  The self-consciousness is gone and the younger audiences in particular are more open.  This feels right in a globalised world and from an ethnomusicological view-point, it helps catalogue musics that are fast fading from thecollective memory.

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The ‘Acapollination’ project illustrates the above points perfectly.   This acapella group, four women (two established Jazz vocalists), explore the harmonies and rhythms of Bulgarian folk music.   I knew little of Bulgarian music but was keen to learn.  What I now know is that there is an ancient tradition of folk singing and that the style is quite distinct.  Differing markedly from other European or Slavonic music.  When Bulgaria became communist the authorities appropriated these folk songs and under their guiding hand they morphed in propaganda tools.  Complex meters became the norm, no longer left in the sole hands of peasants who had preserved them by oral tradition.  In some cases purged of unwelcome minority ethnic influences.  It is to the credit of Ron Samsom and the Auckland University Jazz School that this project was accepted.  There are many improvising traditions in the world, some new, some ancient.  When they meet new horizons open before us.  IMG_0940 - Version 2

The second set was Carolina Moons Mother Tongue.  This project has been around for a few years and has travelled extensively.  There have been a few changes to the original line-up but the core performers remain.  Wherever the Mother Tongue project has appeared it’s received to wide acclaim.  Once again this is an ancient music, a hybrid form emerging from multiple sources in medieval Sephardic Spain.  Not only are the melodies of the Jewish Diaspora heard, but the songs of the Moors and the other races surrounding them.  This truly exotic and rich music just begs for modern interpretation and Carolina Moon has achieved that exceptionally well.   Her voice is wonderful and her arrangements perfect.  I have heard this group many times, but at each listening I gain new insights, fresh enjoyments.  They are evolving with time and different facets emerge or fade as they progress.   Nigel Gavin is always extraordinary but Roger Manins intense short modal improvisations on Bass Clarinet, Flute or Soprano saxophone make this special.   Carolina Moon, Roger Manins, Kevin Field, Ron Samsom and Nigel Gavin are the original members.  Cameron McArthur is a newer addition.  This is a cohesive working group and long may they remain so.  IMG_0959 - Version 2

What: Acapollinations – Tui Mamaki (leader, voice), Chelsea Prastiti (voice), Carolina Moon (voice), Siobhan Grace (voice).  acapollinations@gmail.com

What: Mother Tongue Project – Carolina Moon -Manins – (Leader, arranger, vocals, bells), Kevin Field (piano), Roger Manins (winds and reeds), Nigel Gavin (guitars), Cameron McArthur (bass), Ron Samsom (drums)   http://www.moonmusic.com

Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland New Zealand, 28th May 2014    www.creativejazzclub.co.nz