Nathan Haines ‘Poets Embrace’ reprise

Nathan, Ben, & Steve

Last week saw the Nathan Haines Fourtet return to the CJC with an altered line-up.  Alain Koetsier the former drummer is now running a language school in China and Thomas Botting has packed up his bass and moved to Australia.   Above all we knew that this would also be the last time that we would see Nathan for while as he moves back to the UK in July.

In place of the departed musicians we heard Stephen Thomas on drums and Ben Turua on bass.    There had also been some changes made in the club configuration and it was surprising how the rearrangement of furniture subtly altered the sound.    The sight lines were also greatly improved for those standing along the bar and near to the entrance.     I have heard this material at four different gigs now, but for accessibility and quality of sound this gig worked the best for me.  It was great to be able to watch Kevin Field at work as the piano was no longer obscured by the bar.

Kevin Field

Those of us who have been listening to the ‘Poets Embrace’ album for months knew the material backwards, but with new personnel, such keen improvisers and an extremely enthusiastic audience we were always going to get something different.  We did.

I like every track on the album but if pushed I would single out ‘Ancestral Dance’ as a favourite.  The version on the night was blistering and it captured the drive and ethos of the band perfectly.   As Nathan mines deeper into this material he constantly finds new ideas and it has been a real privilege to watch this project grow from its inception to this final CJC gig three-quarters of a year later.

This album has achieved a rare feat in New Zealand.   It rose to number three on the best-selling album list and tracks from the album rocketed up the charts to unprecedented heights.  To those of us who have rated the album highly this has not been surprising, but here’s the interesting thing.  This is no-holds-barred model jazz of the sort that came out on the Impulse Label.

Younger listeners found this no barrier and embraced it whole heartedly, which was evidenced by the age of the audience at the gigs.   Nathan has always had a diverse following, but this journey took us to a new place in our Kiwi Jazz journey.  For that he deserves our deepest respect and we wish him the best as he returns to London.   This era that is so faithfully evoked was the high water-mark of analogue sound and the warmth and glow is evident in the recording (see earlier blogs on Jazz Local 32 for the methodology of ‘The Poets Embrace’ recording).

An undoubted highlight of the evening was the tenor battle between Nathan and Roger Manins.   It was our own version of the Sony Stitt and Gene Ammons tenor sessions.   The crowds whooped in delight as this full-throated exchange occurred.   It was a night never to be forgotten.

The clip I have included here was filmed in the weeks before Alain left for China and so Stephen is not yet in the band.  The lineup on the night was Nathan Haines (tenor sax), Kevin Field (piano), Ben Turua (bass), Stephen Thomas (drums) – guest Roger Manins (tenor sax).

Groove Jazz

El Hombre Pat Martino

'El Hombre' Pat Martino, Birdland NYC

I was eagerly looking through the information about the up and coming visit from Sonny Rollins when I saw in the fine-print a list of the musicians who would be touring with him.    The inclusion of groove guitarist Peter Bernstein pleased me greatly    I am a fan of Peter Bernstein with his rapid fire, deep groove, Grant Green style.    He plays a lot in New York clubs and  when I was there recently I had hoped to see him.     As it turned out I missed him by a week but my desire to hear a Chicago – Philly style guitar, drums and organ trio was certainly fulfilled.   I turned up at ‘Birdland’ on a hot Autumn evening to find Pat Martino was playing and I thought that I had won the lottery.     My wife was a little horrified when she saw the ‘B3’ on the stage and I am the first to admit that it is an acquired taste.  Pat ‘El Hombre’ Martino played deep in the pocket and with an intensity that I have seldom witnessed.    His ‘Blue on Green’ was pure bliss and I still get a lump in my throat when I think of it.   Pat is a guitar hero on many levels and he didn’t disappoint that night.    He played his bop infused groove lines as if he were flying free of the world,with his trio in lock step.

Organ-Guitar Jazz is full throated, raunchy and intensely bluesy.   This style is redolent of an era when Jazz was losing part of its black audience to R & B and starting to fight back.   This funky backstreets music reclaimed some of that turf and found a home on what was termed the ‘Chitlins Circuit’.     Richard Groove Homes, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Big John Patton. Shirley Scott and many others were associated with this style.     One of my favourites in this style was Gene Ammons (tenor sax) who liked to play the Chicago clubs when ever he could.    This was not often sadly because he was frequently in jail for narcotics violations.    His label Prestige indulged him and recored him frequently; knowing that he would be behind bars again before too long.     He is always associated with his ballad albums such as Gentle Jug (which his manager had insisted upon as a good career move), but I still like the badly recorded club dates such as the one where he is accompanied by Eddie Buster (B3) and Gerald Donavan (drums).  Those two are now long forgotten but didn’t they groove with ‘Jug’.    This is a happy music that sets the body swaying and I will often return to it after a period of listening to more cerebral offerings.   This is the intersection in my adolescent life where I discovered jazz and I have joyful memories of bunking off school and wearing out copies of an album called ‘The Chicago Sound’.

For this style of music look on You Tube for Pat Martino’s rendition of ‘Sunny’ with Joey DeFrancesco and prepare to be seriously ‘grooved’.