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”.

Review, USA and Beyond

‘Old Wine New Bottles’ out of copyright reissues

I have for some time been delighting in the re-issues of classic Jazz albums. Many I had missed purchasing first time out on CD or else I only possessed a worn out LP version. These are generally produced in the EU and most often in Spain. In the early days, the re-mastering could be dire, but in recent years many high quality re-issues have appeared. Lonehill, Gambit, Essential Jazz Classics and Poll Winners Records would top the list as they are readily available and at very good prices in New Zealand. Besides the competitive pricing, the CD will often include new out-takes or hard to source out-of-print albums by the same artist.

A good example of this is the ‘Poll Winners 27220’, which is the seminal recording of the George Russell classic; ‘New York, New York’ (1959). It is pure joy from start to finnish and why wouldn’t it be, as it features John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Bill Evans, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Cleveland, Phil Woods, Hal McKusick, Barry Galbraith, Milt Hinton, Max Roach and John Hendricks. In addition to the above embarrassment of riches the marvelous Russell- Schuller ‘All about Rosie’ (plus alternate) is included. This last offering features the famous and astonishing solo by Bill Evans. Another good example is the latest Essential Jazz Classics ‘Boss Tenor’ by Gene Ammons which includes the hard to locate ‘Angel Eyes’ album as a bonus.

There are some traps for the unwary as some of the albums have already been released in recent times but with different cover art. This can result is duplicates being purchased unwittingly. In this matter I am a repeat offender and my friends (or Real Groovy Records) benefit from my mistakes. My ‘Curtis Counce Complete Studio Recordings’ on Gambit are a work of art in all respects except one. The album is beautifully re-mastered and has a great cover photo by ‘William Claxton. What is missing however is the cheeky art work that accompanied, ‘You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce’ and the ‘Landslide’ artwork. For completists among us this can sometimes be overcome by downloading the original artwork from an online source or begging a friend to copy it for you. I will attempt to locate some good sites for the artwork deprived, but in the meantime you could try: birkajazz.com/archive/variousUS_3ihtm .

The story of music copyright is extremely complex and the underpinnings of international copyright law face ongoing challenges. I have come to realise that there is an age-divide in attitudes about intellectual property and the ‘peer to peer’ generation just see it differently from older generations. I am caught somewhat in the middle over this argument as I strongly believe in an artists right to be paid royalties. I am not so sanguine about the rip offs that often occurred when the big studios signed artists though. ‘Kind of Blue’ is still earning well but the studio allegedly paid the Davis band peanuts. BeBop musicians confronted these rip-offs by constantly re-harmonising famous tunes like Body and Soul (and sometimes made an anagram out of the original song title); this in order to obtain royalties from the new but somehow familiar tune. The reason was simple; it was not a breach of copyright to re-harmonise over a set of chord changes because you can’t copyright chord changes (but you can a tune). Once upon a time copyright expired in America after 50 years, but when Irving Berlin (then a nonagenarian) complained to Congress they extended the period. In Europe 50 years is still the point of expiry and that is why we have Lonehill and Gambit records. The frequent takeovers of once viable record labels by fat-cat money men has resulted in some classic albums being thrown into a dark vault and forgotten about. Without ‘Gambit’ and ‘Lonehill’ we would arguably never live long enough to purchase those recordings.