CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians, Post Bop

Jamie Oehlers NZ quartet@CJC

There are good gigs, bad gigs, predictable gigs and everything in between. Mostly we appreciate what is before us but just occasionally, we attend a gig that is every kind of wonderful. This was it.

Jamie Oehlers has the sort of reputation that scares aspiring tenor players and creates life-long fans. This man is a monster on the tenor saxophone and no amount of scrambling for adjectives on my part is ever going to capture the intensity of his performance. Luckily I filmed much of the gig and so I will put up a number of cuts on You Tube over the coming weeks. This gig won’t be forgotten as it fizzed and washed over us like a blissful tsunami of sound.

Typical of many Australasian musicians Jamie Oehlers is self-effacing, and quietly humorous, but his down to earth persona remains intact only until he puts the horn in his mouth. Then we see confidence, elegance, fire-breathing and effortless virtuosity of a sort that almost defies belief. He is one of those musicians who reaches beyond the known, bringing the rhythm section and the audience along with him. His solos have an almost mystical coherence; as if guided by a universal logic that he is able to share with the audience.

Those who saw the performance at the CJC on the 19th September 2012 will understand exactly what I am saying.

As marvellous as Jamie was, his local rhythm section was there for him every inch of the way. Not for the first time I marvelled as Kevin Field (piano) responded to every challenge, managing to inject a sense of originality and invention into a number of almost unassailable standards. Kevin stands out as a pianist as he understands perfectly which chords to accent, when to lay out and when to work harder behind the soloist. He is exactly the right pianist to play behind a talented visitor.

Oli Holland was so good during this gig that I embarrassed him with a bear hug afterwards. He could have been Reggie Garrison at one point as the urgent stabbing notes from his bass propelled the others on. Listen to the first clip below and particularly where Kevin is soloing. This unit was never less than in perfect lockstep.

Frank Gibson on drums was equally marvellous. You never know how drummers will respond to high-octane material like this but he responded by reaching deep within and capturing every nuance of the set. I have never heard him perform better.

The first set began with the standard ‘On a Clear Day’ (Lane), ‘Alina’ AKA ‘Variation 11 from Suspended Night’ (Tomasz Stanko) [one of my favourite tunes], ‘Aisha’ (John Coltrane), ‘Take the Coltrane'( Ellington-Coltrane) , Portrait in Black and White ( Jobim) and more.

Near the end of the second set the band decided to play John Coltrane’s ‘Resolution’ from ‘A Love Supreme’ (1962). ‘A Love Supreme’ is hardly ever played and more is the pity. This avoidance relates to the holy grail status of ‘A Love Supreme’ among post Coltrane saxophonists. My view is that we should honour it and especially in this week. John Coltrane was born on September 23rd. It is a shame not to have all four movements performed together though; ‘Resolution’ is after all only a part of a mystical four piece puzzle which makes perfect sense when heard in its entirety.

Jamie stated the theme over and again, but each time working in subtle re-harmonisations and embarking upon brief angular explorations. We knew intuitively that we would end up in a place of almost unbearable intensity and we were on the edges of our seats in expectation. This was not a gate to be rushed and although we understood that, the anticipation was palpable. Tension and release is at the very essence of Jazz and Jamie achieve this end by stalking his prey in measured steps like a confident hunter.

‘Resolution’ is an Everest of a tune utilising Coltrane’s new-found ideas which were somewhere between hard bop and free. Jamie interpreted intelligently without trying to out do Coltrane. He made it his ‘Resolution’ as well. Kevin field was the same, as he took a more oblique approach than McCoy Tyner. This was a perfect homage without being a slavish imitation.

At the end of the gig we received an additional treat when Jamie asked Roger Manins to play. The best moment was when they played ‘On Green Dolphin Street‘ (Washington). With these two masters working the changes and probing every hidden corner of the melody, it reminded us that standards interpreted with integrity can sound as fresh as at first hearing.

Jamie Oehlers lives in Australia where he runs a Jazz School. He has so many awards that storage must be problem (including being judged winner of the ‘World Saxophone Competition’ in Montreux by Charles Lloyd and Bruce Lundvall of Blue Note). He has put out 10 albums as leader as well as being sideman for the whose who of the Jazz world.

I ran into Jazz guitarist Dixon Nacey as I was leaving and he summed it up nicely. “Man I have just received a series of Jazz upper-cuts”.

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, New Zealand Jazz Gigs

The Silhouette of Mr Pink @ CJC

On the 25th July 2012 the Christchurch band ‘The Silhouette of Mr Pink ‘ fronted the CJC.   I had heard Roger Manins speak enthusiastically about the ‘New Music Collective’ and of Tamara Smith, but I had not yet encountered her music (I don’t think that Tamara or the band have recorded although they featured on Colette Jansen’s ‘Jazz Footprints’ program earlier in the year).

It is becoming commonplace for small groups to omit chordal instruments and this group was essentially a flute led trio/quartet.   The variety of instrumental configurations popping up around the country tells me that New Zealand Jazz audiences are increasingly open to adventurous and quirky Jazz.

Tamara is a real presence on stage and her personality and chops leave you in no doubt that she could play solo flute and still hold the attention of an audience.  

The band opened the first set as a trio, with Tamara on C & Alto flutes, Andrew Keegan on drums and Mike Story on bass.  Tamara’s compositions were reworked for the gig and they emanated from a long sojourn in Paris when she was younger.  The compositions sounded fresh and in many ways unexpected as they tallied perfectly with the stories that Tamara told.   Her musical and verbal vignettes spoke of exotic locations and they reminded me of haiku.  Perfectly contained miniatures – pebbles of sound hitting a pond and spreading like ripples.  It was up to us to interpret and we did; this drew the audience nicely into the creative process.

As the evening progressed the fourth member of the band Chris Burke (tenor sax) joined in.  In keeping with the smaller group he tended to favour unison lines unless either he or Tamara were soloing.

The track that I have put up “Cheeky Monkey” was composed by Tamara and it gives a good account of the group’s dynamics.   It begins with her playing unaccompanied (although you would hardly know that, so full is the sound).   Many of the modern flute techniques can be heard such as her singing in parallel harmony and in producing a multitude of extended flute techniques too numerous to mention.  The multi-phonic effects added real depth the sound.  

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Beyond category, CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs

Rebecca Melrose band /New Collective Experiment@CJC

Wednesday 18th July was a double bill and the first up was ‘The New Collective Experiment’ – Adam Larson (alto), Ross Larson (electric bass), Frank Conway (drums).   The band had stated their intention from the first few notes and having marked out their wide open territory they dug deep.   The act was billed as ‘creating music out of the moment’ and that is exactly what they did.   The saxophonist spun out a kaleidoscope of images while the bass and drums responded.  The strength of the Alto brought it to the forefront and while the interplay was a little less even during the longest pieces, the horn held the focus.   There was one number at the end of the first set in which Dixon Nacey was invited onto the bandstand.   Having Dixon on the bandstand will ultra enhance any performance.

The second act on the billing was the Rebecca Melrose band (an octet).   This was her first CJC gig as leader.   Rebecca (vocals, leader) gives Jazz numbers a hint of soul.  What quickly becomes evident though is her preparedness to confront more challenging Jazz material unflinchingly.   Like a number of young singers she can scat with ease and it is during these moments that her inventiveness comes to the fore.  I was intrigued by the choice of material which ranged from the easy-going to the braver forays. A case in point was the wonderful ‘Zhivago’ by Kurt Rosenwinkel.    She had wisely chosen to do this number as a duo with Dixon Nacey.

If you can’t get Kurt Rosenwinkel to fly in then go straight to Dixon.   My god he was wonderful and his fans in the audience were delighted to hear him eating up the changes of this deceptively complex song.  He knew just where to place those chords and when to back off.   Rebecca knew that she had a unique situation on her hands and she responded extremely well.    This is the clip that I have put up (especially after a number of people in the audience emailed me their wish lists).  The sound in the clip is a little guitar heavy but that is the fault of my HD Video equipment.  It was more balanced in reality.  This is a new standard for those with the chops to take it on.  I really liked the lyrics but had never heard them before – I learned that Rebecca had penned them and that all other compositions were hers.

The octet created a nice rounded sound and when they hit the sweet spot it was a joy to listen to them.   I have heard the Bass Player Eamon Edmunson-Wells and the drummer Jared Desvaux de Marigny before and they both impress.   Jared appears capable of fitting into many diverse situations and he managed this one with consummate ease.   Liz Stokes on trumpet is also a frequent performer at the CJC.   The remaining band members were: Ben Devery (piano), Manaf Ibrahim (guitar), Scott Thomas (tenor sax).  The venue was the Creative Jazz Club of Aotearoa (CJC)

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, New Zealand Jazz Gigs, Post Millenium

The Chelsea Prastiti Septet

Chelsea

There are a surprising number of good Jazz musicians living in New Zealand and that is why the CJC is able to provide a varied and interesting programme at the club.  With Roger Manins as programme director the quality of the music is consistently high.  I may have come to expect that, but I can still be pleasantly surprised.

Chelsea Prastiti is studying Jazz at the University of Auckland and I have heard her sing once or twice before.   I knew that she was good but what took me by surprise was just how good.   This was not your routine standards programme but fresh and original Jazz singing at the highest level.   It was the sort of programme that a Sheila Jordan or a Norma Winstone might have embarked upon and in spite of the risks it was perfectly executed.

Matt Steele

Matt Steele is a pianist I enjoy greatly and he certainly justified his place in the band on this night.  Matt is in his third year and each time I see him play he gets better and better. His extended solo on ‘Bells’ was extraordinary and I cursed the gods for allowing my HD video tape to run out just before that.

Callum Passells was also in great form and he showed us again why he is so well-regarded as a musician.  His alto needed little coaxing as he worked the changes and the ideas flowed in happy succession.  Any band with Callum in can count itself lucky.

The band members were; Chelsea Prastiti (leader, vocals, arranger, composer), Callum Passells (alto sax), Matt Steele (piano), Elizabeth Stokes (Trumpet, Flugal), Asher Truppman Lattie (tenor sax), Eamon Edmunson-Wells (bass), Jared Desvaux de Marigny (drums).

Chelsea had arranged the numbers in the set and five of the songs were originals composed by her.  I will mention three numbers in particular as the contrast between these illustrates how well thought-out the programme was.  Second in the set was ‘Bells’ ( C Prastiti) and it was mind-blowing.   The band blew like crazy and each band member seemed to urge the others to greater heights.  Chelsea, Matt and Callum excelled themselves .   This is one of Chelsea’s compositions and it had all of the elements of great Jazz contained within its structure.   A tight arrangement, harmonic inventiveness, room for hard blowing and a structure that lent itself to out-improvisation.  I was standing near to Caroline (who teaches her at the University) and after the number we looked at each other in disbelief.   Even in the subdued lighting I could see tears in her eyes.

Callum Passells

The fourth number was a skillful arrangement of Maurice Ravel‘s.  The airy – ‘La Vallee Des Cloches’.   This was a fully arranged piece and with vocalese in the mix it was the perfect counterweight to what had preceded it.   Drums, bass, piano, voice, alto sax, tenor sax and fugal horn in perfect concert.

It was the last tune that had us all wishing that the music would never stop.  The composition was once again by Chelsea and called ‘Santa Muerte’ (the Mexican ‘Saint Death‘).    It  immediately brought to mind the madness and the wild beauty that is Mexico.    A hint of mariachi and a lot of jazz chops were on display.    I have included that as a You Tube Clip.

That a student so perfectly executed such difficult and exciting material is breathtaking – more please Chelsea and soon.

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Jazz Journalists Association, Post Millenium

Dan Kennedy Quintet @ CJC – JJA Jazz Week Blogathon entry

Dan Kennedy

Greetings to the world Jazz community on USA Jazz week from Auckland New Zealand,

This is snapshot of a gig held at the CJC Jazz club in Auckland just over a week ago

I have known Dan Kennedy for some time now and I have always enjoyed his propulsive energetic drumming.    He has played at the CJC on a number of occasions and most often as drummer for the late night jam sessions.  Dan is popular on the New Zealand scene and he has played beside some prestigious visiting artists and top flight locals.   On this night he brought his own quintet to the CJC for a gig, where they entertained the audience with a mix of originals and lessor known but intriguing Jazz tunes by artists like Chris Potter and Dave Douglas.

I like to see a quintet playing well-arranged heads and this band had put together a number of well crafted vehicles.   There were two numbers composed by Dan (leader and drummer), but the majority of the originals were composed and arranged by Finn Scholes (trumpet).   This was a varied and original program and it created nice contrasts.    They are a relatively young band with the oldest member being Cam Allen at 32 years.

Cam and Finn
Finn Scholes & Andy Smith

Cam Allen (Tenor) is an interesting musician, having played in New York and at other offshore locations.    His maturity of style was evident from the start and like many of our good tenor men he does not hold back during solos.   He can excoriate the audience or woo them with a set of ballad phrases and he is obviously a good reader as his playing on the head and out-chorus is always tight.

Andy Smith (guitar) has experienced a steady rise in popularity during the last year and it is no wonder.    His sound is pleasing and often rock inflected.    While the lines are pure jazz he uses the vocabulary of his day and this is a common trend with many younger guitarists.    Guitarists like Lage Lund or Mike Moreno are 100% Jazz but they are not afraid of taking a different route to reach their destination.    Andy’s tenure in the Alan Brown band has done him no harm at all and a good way to sample his playing is to locate a copy of Alan’s ‘Between the Spaces Album’ album.  Read my review of this album).  https://jon4jaz.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/alan-brown-between-the-spaces-cjc/

I knew who Finn Scholes (trumpet) was, but I had not previously heard him play.  I am pleased that this omission has been remedied.  He has a commanding presence on the band-stand and he can throw in the odd valve slur and muted growl when required.   I hope that he comes down to club again as I am keen to hear more of him.

The electric bass was played by Cass Mitchell and she showed her chops and more importantly her good taste as she played through the sets.   While she did not do too many solo’s, she never-the-less delivered the bass lines like a veteran.   Electric bass players are often tempted to use ‘loud’ as their default volume level but Cass stayed exactly where she should be in the mix.   At times it was hard to believe that she was not playing an upright bass so smooth were her lines.

Dan told the obligatory funny stories from the bandstand and his account of how he came to write ‘The Bouncer’ was a classic.    “I often struggle to write tunes quickly” said Dan, “but after being beaten up by a night club bouncer for no good reason I managed to write this peaceful ballad in no time flat, go figure”.

Cass Mitchel

I also liked ‘Awakening’ by Andy, ‘Pleasure Arp’ by Finn (“I made him change the title just before the gig”, explained Dan, “because the original sounded too bloody soppy”).  The one genuine standard was ‘Oliloqui Valley’ by Herbie Hancock.  They certainly did this tune justice and it fitted in mid-set as if it had always belonged there.   Tune placement is important if the flow of a gig is to be maintained.   It was Finn Scholes tune “Fast Swing’ that had me on the edge of my seat.   To say that they stretched out and blew hard would be an understatement.    Dan is soon to head to Australia and we wish him well (a little begrudgingly).    We wish he would stay, but that is how it works between us and Australia.   We loan them some of our best musicians and they do well there; only to return home and dazzle us at regular intervals.    The stolen generation I call them. but they invariably make us proud.

The Dan Kennedy Band are: Dan Kennedy (drums), Finn Scholes (trumpet), Cam Allen (tenor saxophone), Andy Smith (guitar), Cass Mitchell (electric bass).    The gig took place at the CJC Jazz club on Wednesday 4th April 2012.  To connect with the CJC gigs guide  http://www.creativejazzclub.co.nz/

Important Note:  This post is to feed into the Jazz Journalists Association 2012 Awards program.   Auckland is now part of a world-wide ‘blogathon’ occurring this week.   The program kick’s off today because it is the start of USA Mayoral designated Jazz Week.   Please visit the website of the JJA Awards Page and view the ongoing activities.    On the UNESCO designated World Jazz Day (which is the 30th April), we will be announcing the Jazz Heroes candidates from around the world.

NZ will be featured and I can’t praise the JJA highly enough for making a real effort to include Auckland and New Zealand in its scheduled events.    As a professional member I find the organisation to be helpful and incredibly supportive of what we do.    This is just the beginning Jazzers, as the world-wide outreach (connecting us to New York and them-to-us) can only get better as technology assists us in reducing the tyranny of distance.

The judging panel has also been meeting via a closed group FB page and the nominees for best artists are now posted on the Awards Page.    Along with other professional members I will be part of the final judging panel that determines the category winners.   That will be announced at a party which is to be held at a top venue in New York.    The good news for us is that Auckland Jazz fans will be participating through a Satellite Party.

That will be held in June and the details will be circulated through the CJC Jazz Club and the Jazz Journalists Association Awards page.  If you look through the Jazz Photography page you will notice a pic of our own Thomas Botting glancing lovingly at the neck of his bass.  I have also submitted a short You Tube doco about 3 nights at the CJC Jazz club.     I will post it at the end of this blog but do visit the JJA site over the next few months:

.  Jazz Journalists Association Announces Nominees for 16th Annual JJA Jazz Awards (theurbanflux.com)