It is well-known on the New Zealand Jazz scene that Resonator won this years ‘Jazz Tui’ award. As this is drummer Reuben Bradley’s first album that is no mean feat. The band played at the CJC earlier in the week as part of their Australasian tour and pulled a good audience for the gig.
The band we saw on Wednesday did not have the full complement of band members present on the album, as the pianist Miles Crayford who had played piano, Fender Rhodes & synth had been replaced by guitarist Tyson Smith. Also absent were guest artists Tom Callwood (arco bass), James Illingworth (synth) and Kirsten Te Rito (vocals).
This was a paired down hard-driving unit and they took the high energy, high volume route. The band was: Reuben Bradley (drums, percussion), Mostyn Cole (electric bass), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone) Tyson Smith (guitar). It was also obvious that this was a drummers band because Reuben seemed to direct all aspects of the music; the band taking their cues from the complex rhythms he was laying down. I had heard much about his ascendancy as a drummer and his chops were certainly evident at this gig. He was also an engaging presence as he bantered with the audience. Jazz musicians are capable of delivering knock out one liners, self-deprecating asides and sly insider jokes from the bandstand. I am happy to see that tradition continue at the CJC.
While most of the pieces swiftly morphed into full-on blowing numbers there was one ballad. In situations like this a band could not do better than call on Roger Manins to execute the key lines and he delivered in spades. Reuben introduced the number by saying, ” I had always wanted to write a dark evil sounding ballad because I figured that there was a real market for this”. This number ‘Search in progress’ gave us an insight into the subtler aspects of the band’s repertoire.
Every Kiwi (and offshore) Jazz fan should contact ‘Rattle Records’ http://www.rattlejaz.com and purchase the ‘Resonator’ album. It can also be purchased at ‘Marbecks Records’, ‘Slow Boat Records’ and ‘Parsons Records & Books’ and is available as a download on iTunes. ‘Rattle Records Ltd.’ are to be congratulated for their burgeoning catalogue of top quality NZ Jazz and I urge all Jazz lovers to support this label. It must be pleasing to the band that Mike Nock has praised the group. He saw this album as being ample evidence that “The new generation of New Zealand Jazz musicians have moved up several notches”.
After the gig I sought out Mostyn Cole the bass player to apologise for wrongly naming him as the bassist at the previous weeks gig. I could not find him but the guitarist Tyson Smith said, “It doesn’t matter man because I am credited as being in the band but I was not on the album we are touring to promote and so it all equals out”. That caused me to recall Roger Manins tongue in cheek announcement the previous week. “We believe in truth in advertising tonight and this is one of the rare examples where the people on the album are actually the people performing on the promotional tour, Get a signed copy of the CD now as this may never happen again”. Jazz humour is the best.
In an already crowded field of great contemporary Jazz pianists, the Italian Enrico Pieranunzi is a stand out. He is regarded as one of the best Jazz pianists in Europe (and beyond) and his career has been on a steady upwards trajectory for decades. American and UK reviewers have mentioned him in the same breath as Evans and Jarrett, but his stylistic range probably encompasses a broader scope than either of the above. He is an adventurous musician who will frequently take himself outside of his comfort zone and then return effortlessly to the achingly beautiful melodic tunes that are his mainstay. His long-standing trio with Marc Johnson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) is well-known, but a number of other trio, duo and quartet configurations work equally well. Like many great musicians he has an uncanny knack for locating top quality sidemen and he gives them ample room to breathe on their own. While I love his trio work with Baron and Johnson – who wouldn’t like those two – my personal favourite is the ‘Live in Paris’ trio. That all European trio comprises of Andre Ceccarelli (drums) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass); who are simply astonishing on this recording. The three work as if with one mind as they stretch time and rework standards and Pieranunzi tunes in ways that defy belief.
When Pieranunzi first became known outside of Italy his playing was often described as Evans influenced and at the time that seemed a fair assessment. After listening to his considerable discography I am not so sure, as some of his early work gives a nod to McCoy Tyner and even Hancock. There is little of Evans in his early recordings with Chet Baker or Art Farmer and by the time he had recorded his first album with Charlie Haden he was uniquely Pieranunzi. His energy and innovation seem boundless and for the last decade and a half he has been recording in a variety of settings. His recent ‘Domenico Scarlatti‘ album is a case in point. He plays the baroque master with fluency and yet with a subtle improvisational edge. He manages to make the rendition sound both ultra modern and yet true to the traditional improvisational mores of the day. Only a very skilled Jazz musician could pull this off so well.
If I were to recommend albums I would have to start with the magnificent double album ‘Live in Paris’ (Pieranunzi, Hein Van de Geyn, Andre Ceccarelli) – Challenge label. Also the double album ‘Live in Japan‘ or ‘Ballads‘ (Pieranunzi, Marc Johnson, Joey Baron) – Camjazz. Other gems are his recent duo album with Marc Johnson and ‘Alone Together’ , a quartet with the stellar line up of Philip Catherine (g), Hein Van de Geyn (b) Joe La Barbera (d) – Challenge. Two recent albums where he is not the leader are also well worth the effort; ‘Oslo‘ with Terje Gewelt, Anders Kjellberg – Resonant Music and ‘The Kingdom (where nobody dies)‘ Mads Vinding (b), Alex Riel (d). They can be purchased on iTunes for around $18 each if you are impatient to own copies. Amazon also holds a good range of Pieranunzi albums but when they occasionally run out of stock the second-hand albums often fetch huge prices until a reprinting of new stock occurs. These are popular albums.