Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton 126Dan Bolton is an Australian born, New York based musician, at present touring New Zealand. His first show was at the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) in Auckland. While singer, songwriters who accompany themselves on piano, are a firmly established tradition in Jazz, we see them on tour very rarely. Many Jazz vocalists (like Ella Fitzgerald) could accompany themselves well, but few choose to do so. A number of notable musicians mastered this skill, notably Nat Cole, Ray Charles, and Shirley Horn. Doing two jobs simultaneously is always harder than doing one and especially where vocals and piano are concerned. The energies and postures require careful coordination and I suspect that this is harder than accompanying yourself on guitar.Dan Bolton 125Bolton is unusual in that he composes tunes which feel modern, but in a style reminiscent of the Great American Songbook; many of his tunes, are not dissimilar from those which came out of Tin Pan Alley, having the vibe of Irving Berlin or Cole Porter. The melodies are catchy in a time honoured way and the lyrics often biting; sometimes capturing our post-millennial angst. Many of Bolton’s tunes centre on the age-old themes of love and loss, others sarcastically critique modern American life. All maintain their sense of originality, in spite of the above comparisons.Dan Bolton 123Travelling with Bolton is the perennially popular drummer Mark Lockett. Lockett, like Bolton, lives in New York, but for several months of each year, he travels as band-leader, (or as hired gun as in this case). Lockett was born in New Zealand and he always gets a welcome reception when he makes it back. Watch out on gig noticeboards for him. He has another tour coming up shortly and this time with an organ trio. On tenor saxophone and flute was Auckland’s Roger Manins, his swoon-worthy ballad chops manifesting in their full glory. Mostyn Cole featured on upright bass, a regular at the CJC and an able musician. We heard some tantalising snippets of arco bass from him – more of that, please.

Dan Bolton (USA) (compositions, vocals, piano), Mark Lockett (USA) (drums), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone, flute), Mostyn Cole (upright bass). CJC (Creative Jazz Club), basement, Albion Hotel, downtown Auckland, 10th August 2016.Dan Bolton 122

 

 

Mark Lockett Quartet @ CJC

Mark Lockett #1 2015 086Mark Lockett is a New York based drummer who visits Australasia once a year. Each time he returns he brings with him a piece of his adopted city. He is an original  drummer comfortable in diverse situations; a benign but strong presence in any lineup. His artistic approach under-pinned by an easy confidence and this enables him to interact well and to read every nuance. His wide open ears, communicating the pulse and possibilities of the life he lives as a working musician in a big metropolis. There is also a humour he radiates, which peppers his comments and drumming like aromatic seasoning. A Mark Lockett gig is always original and always enjoyable.

It is less than a month since Ornette Coleman’s passing and if ever there was an appropriate night to celebrate his life, this was it. While not an exclusively Ornette Coleman night, his compositions were well represented; every number played had Ornette’s fingerprints on it. The band came together at short notice and as is often the case in improvised music, happenstance served us well. Roger Manins, Callum Passells and Mostyn Cole are no strangers to the freer musical styles. With Locket propelling them they soared. We heard tunes by Coleman, Ellington, Monk, Foster & Lockett.Mark Lockett 2015 087 The music of Ornette Coleman while not without constraints frees the artists from many of the hard-wired rules. It doesn’t sound at all out-of-place now but I can remember the storm that surrounded its arrival. A treat for me was the groups rendition of ‘Congeniality’ from the seminal ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’ album. The controversy surrounding this material is long behind us and every improvising musician has a little of Ornette in them whether they acknowledge it or not.Mark Lockett 2015 088Lockett often forms trios or ensembles that have no chordal instruments. While the musicians played ‘inside’ and ‘out’ they also attempted something we seldom hear in New Zealand. The opening number of the first set was Shiny Stockings (Frank Foster) and they played this in the style of the Mulligan piano-less quartets. Bass, Alto and Tenor in counterpoint and working within the changes. This was nice hear. I have an appetite for more of this.

The band was great and they reacted to each other as if they had been playing as an entity for many years. There was a lot of Charlie Haden in Mostyn Cole’s bass lines and in his warm fat sound. He is an engaging bass player and perfectly fitted for this freer approach. Rogers Manins and Callum Passells are always in lockstep and above all they are open to adventurous explorations. Both are superbly intelligent free-players. Watching Lockett I was again drawn to his precision. I have discussed this with him before and his control of the sticks is especially fascinating. After the gig I teased this theme out further, his hand positions and the intense locomotive propulsion that he generates. At times musical and at times like a freight train rolling over you.Mark Lockett 2015 089“Playing like that (fast and furious) is meat and potatoes in New York”, he said. He was once told that he could get better control if he held his sticks further down than usual. Because of that and because of his melodic approach, he is very interesting to watch. Somehow the sound is cleaner and with musical drumming like this who needs a chordal instrument. I can’t wait until his next visit.

Mark Locket CJC Quartet: Mark Locket (drums, leader), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Callum Passells (alto saxophone), Mostyn Cole (upright bass).

CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland,  New Zealand, 16th July 2015.

Mark Lockett Trio @ CJC Winter 2014

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Mark Lockett lives in New York these days but he manages to visit Auckland every so often.   This year, as he did in 2012 when he released ‘Sneaking out after midnight’, he appeared with a trio.  Lockett is an engaging personality and his often quirky good humour spills into his playing.  He is probably the most unusual drummer I have seen.  One manifestation of this is the way he holds his sticks which is sometimes more than a third of the way down.   It’s as if he puts his entire body into the task in hand, partly lowering himself over the kit and listening intently to each sound and sensing each player; feeling for the spaces in between.

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There is an apparent deliberation that accompanies each beat or flurry, holding back for a micro second , then dropping the stick.   What is more interesting is his ability to convey the maximum of effect when playing quietly.  He isn’t a loud drummer but he conveys a world of sound.  Reminding us as he uses elbows, hand palms, rims and stands, that the drum kit is a subtle and incredibly musical instrument in the right hands.  His are the right hands.  Lockett’s compositions are also quirky and there is always the hint of a delightful joke in the offing.   These jokes stretch beyond the humorous titles, unfolding as musical stories with clever narrative lines.  His communication skills are such that the audiences follow with delight.  The humour is gentle but deeply imbedded and perhaps this is the best hook of all.  This tour was appropriately titled, ‘Flying by the seat of my pants’.IMG_1865 - Version 2

There are definite risks with trios like this, as they tempt saxophonists to self indulgently noodle once freed from chordal constraints.   Manins was perfect with this trio and used the opportunity to build upon the existing narratives.   At times playing outside but never once disconnected from the bass in drums.  He clearly took his lead from Lockett.  He is known for his intuitive reading of varying bandstand situations, a particular strength of his.  IMG_1867 - Version 2

The bass player Umar Zakaria had never played at the CJC before and in fact when I saw his name on the web site I thought that he had come from New York with Lockett.   When I spoke to him it surprised me to hear a Kiwi accent.   Zakaria has been attending the School of Music in Wellington and I believe that he is doing his honours at present.  My belief that he was an experienced offshore musician was not dispelled until I spoke with him after the gig.  His solos were interesting and he ably supported the others.  This was a good night of music from a solid band, that entertained without taking itself too seriously. 

Who: Mark Lockett Trio – ‘By the seat of my pants tour’.  Mark Lockett (drums and compositions), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Umar Zakaria (upright bass).

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

 

 

Paul Van Ross – Album Release

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On Wednesday 27th March several visitors arrived in town from Melbourne Australia.  Visitors but not strangers, because saxophone player Paul Van Ross has played in New Zealand four or five times previously and drummer Mark Lockett is an expat New Zealander, originally from Wellington.

These are very friendly guys.  Actually I find most Jazz musicians unfailingly cheerful and friendly.  It is unlikely that this good humour arises from job security or because they have just managed to upgrade the Porsche .  I stick cameras in their faces, ask searching questions during set breaks and pin them down for set lists when they are suffering from jet lag.   Instead being told to clear off they indulge me.  This goodwill must be pumped through the air conditioning unit of the CJC (Creative Jazz Club).  It is a place like ‘Cheers’ where everyone has a smile and ‘everybody knows your name’.

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One of those who indulges me is Steve Garden of Rattle records.  A few weeks ago I received a tidy package of CD’s from him and among them was ‘The Buck Stops Here‘ led by Paul Van Ross.  I had a lot of material to write-up at the time and I was working on the ‘Jazz Month’ program with the Jazz Journalists Association.  I played my way slowly through the pile of releases as time allowed.  It was not until I had received the CJC newsletter that I realised that Paul Van Ross would be doing an album release there in three days.   I sorted through the CD’s and put it out to listen to but it was not until the day before the gig that it finally reached my Hi Fi.   It was a really great album and I played it through three times.

How had a missed this I thought.  This should have been one of the first things that I put on.  Apart from a John Zorn obsession, I also suffer from an excessive liking for B3 combos.  This album featured B3, guitar, drums and saxophone.  I listened over and again while the textures and compositions reeled me further in.  This is a very good example of the ‘new sound’ in organ/guitar/saxophone/drums.

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Make no mistake, I love ‘chitlin circuit’ groove Jazz of the sort that Brother Jack, Joey ‘D’, Pat Martino, Wes and Grant Green created.  My friend Michel Benebig is a B3 master in this field and he can groove you to the depths of your soul.   That music will roll you out of bed and have you dancing like a fool before you gain your sea legs.

There is however another type of B3 sound and that reaches for new horizons.  Jamie Saft (Zorn’s Dreamers), Tom Watson (Manu Katche’s new album) and Dr Lonnie Smith (Jungle Soul album),  come to mind.    The music still has a deep groove but there are no locked in drums and this subtle loosening up of the vibe makes space for a particular type of guitar work and gives a horn some room for exploration.  This is a sound that absorbs influences from a diverse Jazz palette while still retaining a solid groove context.  The Paul Van Ross Trio (and quartet) are of this latter kind.  Their music draws on a wide spectrum of post and pre millennial Jazz; not just tugging at the heart and feet, but engaging the intellect as well.

Paul Van Ross is an exciting tenor player and I can’t help wondering if he studied under George Garzone.   There is something different about tenor players who have studied under Garzone and Paul fits that bill.  His rapid fire lines and fluidity never obscure the musical ideas that flow from his horn.  On ballads he could wring a tear from a walnut and when playing uptempo he navigates the terrain with ease.  His compositions are engaging.

The CJC launch gig employed a smaller lineup than on the album.   Organist Alan Brown subbed for Kim Kelaart on the New Zealand leg of the tour and he needs no introduction to New Zealand audiences.  Alan is another musician who takes the groove genre to new and exciting places.  His keyboard skills are legendary.   Choosing him was a sensible choice and while his style is a little different to Kelaart’s, it afforded Ross and Lockett opportunities to stretch out in different ways.  Mark Lockett is a delight as he imparts humour into everything he does.   His drumming is quirky in the best possible way and he is the drummer of choice for many bands.  Like Paul Van Ross and Alan Brown he has also recorded as leader.

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The first track on the album is the title track ‘The Buck Stops Here”.  It was the first number up on the night (all of the material has been written by Ross).  On this track in particular Lockett’s contribution was noteworthy.  A solid New Orleans beat is laid down while edgy post-bop lines blow over that; the organ under Alan’s hands comps insistently in the background and this gave the tune a great feel.  I saw a ‘second line’ parade in San Francisco a few months ago and this particular drum beat tells that kind of story.  A story about a beat that bounced between the Americas and Africa until it became pure voodoo.  I like everything on this album and so choosing video clips was hard.   In the end I have opted for ‘The Buck Stops Here’ (filmed by Jenny Sol).   Other standout tunes from the album are ‘Swami in the House’ and the beautiful ballad “Uncle DJ’.  A number performed on the night but which is not on the album is ‘Break a Tune’ (filmed by John Fenton)

I must also mention the guitarist Hugh Stuckey who knows when to shine and when to merge into the mix.  His lines are clean and impressive, with an approach to melody that is modern.  This is the direction that Rosenwinkel and Moreno mapped out and it sits well with this lineup.   A guest guitarist Craig Fermanis appears on track one only.

You can buy the album now from ‘Rattle‘ at http://www.rattle.co.nz        I recommend it highly.

Who: Paul Van Ross trio; Paul Van Ross – tenor sax, Alan Brown – C3 hammond organ, Mark Lockett – drums ( add Hugh Stuckey and Craig Fermanis – album)

Where: The CJC (Creative Jazz Club) Auckland.

What: Album Release by ‘Rattle‘.

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Mark Lockett Trio – album launch @ CJC

Alex Boneham and Mark Lockett

Drummer led bands have never been commonplace and drummer led trio’s even less so.  Just because the leader is a drummer does not mean any more or less than it would if the leader was a bass player or a saxophonist.  A leader is there to impart a creative vision and this trio rose to the task.

On Wednesday the 4th of July the Rattle Records/ ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’ launch tour arrived at the CJC in Auckland.   The prior and subsequent tweets or Facebook posts have pointed to the success of the gigs, which have been well received throughout New Zealand.  To read my earlier review see below ‘Mark Lockett – Sneaking Out After Midnight’ from this blog site.

Alex Boneham

The band that toured New Zealand may not have featured New Yorker’s, Joel Frahm (sax) or Orlando Le Fleming (bass) but we did extremely well with their replacements.  Mark had wryly commented that the former were unable to tour ‘for tax reasons’.    The Australian Alex Boneham replaced Orlando Le Fleming and his work is already well-known to the Auckland Jazz community.    Alex has previously toured here with the Steve Barry trio and I doubt that any of us will ever forget the telepathic interplay between Steve Barry (piano), Alex Boneham (bass) and Tim Firth (drums).   This is an in-demand bass player who recently won the ‘Best young Australian musician of the year award’.  He is both attentive and inventive and what you get is skillful interplay and adventurous improvisation.

The third trio member was Australian alto player Julian Wilson, who has worked with Mark Lockett for many years.   He acquitted himself well.

Julien Wilson

What particularly struck me was just how musical Mark’s drumming was and when he and Alex fell into lockstep it was riveting.   To purchase copy of ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’ contact Rattle Records Ltd  (link).

I have streamed one track from the album titled ‘Mr Pickles’.  Mr Pickles is the story of Mark Lockett’s cat and an unfortunate neighbour – a hapless man who thought that he could outsmart a cat.   Being a great respecter of cats and their place in the Jazz story I could not help but include this.  This is as good a cat story as you will hear.

Mark Lockett – ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’

Some weeks ago I received Rattle Records latest release.  It was Mark Lockett’s ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’.   

It is a while since Mark left Wellington and he has obviously achieved much since then.   He is an educator, an innovator and a drummer with great chops.   When you look at who he has played with in the last decade and who his own teachers have been, the narrative falls into place.   This is an album that could not have been made by a lessor musician.

Mark is joined by two fine New York musicians; Joel Frahm (sax) and Orlando le Fleming (bass).   Joel Frahm has been around for a while and his album with Bill Charlap is one that immediately comes to mind.   He has been very much in demand around New York.    Orlando le Fleming (who was born in the UK) is equally impressive having also played with Bill Charlap and an impossibly long list of jazz notables.    These three were never going to be anything less than great when they joined forces.

It’s a nicely presented album with great artwork and even though cover art shouldn’t matter – actually it does.  Rattle always tries to present a complete package.

Good albums strive to break free of formulaic constraints and when a musical story is told in a fresh way this is achieved.   This is an album with an open, joyful and honest sound.   It is also Mark’s fourth album, which has allowed him to push harder at the musical boundaries.   His writing skills and his vision have made this a worthwhile journey.  

The Interview:

 

Q. Apart from the obvious subdivisions of genre do you have a view on what if anything makes NZ drummers so diverse in sound?

A. One of the many great things about being a musician in NZ is that you have to find your own voice and because there’s less competition musicians don’t have to perform to a certain technical level as to the all the other guys working on the same street as a musician in Melbourne or NY for that matter. Musicians in NZ have an opportunity like almost nowhere else in the world to find their own voice without being inhibited and from this a beautiful raw energy often emerges.

Q. Many drummers are writing now and in fact some of the most innovative compositions around are coming from the likes of John Hollenbeck, Matt Wilson, Eric Harland and Marilyn Mazur,who took the baton from Paul Motian and Jack DeJohnette. Why do you think this is as a drummer/composer?

A. I don’t often like compositions written by drummers and I think this is because they lack harmonic direction having said that I believe that more drummers are having lead their own bands these days to remain busy and employed and I don’t think this is a bad thing. Playing standards is great and I love doing it but when you play and tour a lot you can’t help but start looking for other musical vehicles from which to improvise.

Q. I have known about Joel Frahm for some time as he brought out an album with Bill Charlap (they are old friends). Orlando Le Fleming is an exciting bass player who has often worked with the amazing Lage Lund and Will Vincent among others. How did the collaboration come about?

A. A good friend of mine Aaron Choulai (piano player) got a chance to record with Tim Ries (sax player at the time with the rolling stones) in NYC some years back I first met Joel through that connection down at smalls jazz club. We bumped into each other several times over the years and I’ve always dug his playing. Another friend of mine happened to have Joel’s number so I called him up and he was really into it. Orlando was recommended to me by another great friend of mine and my current drum teacher Ari Hoenig.

Q. How was it working with these New Yorker’s.

A. Working with Joel and Orlando was the most amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.  These cats are true professionals in every sense of the word and two of the nicest, normal and most down to earth people one could wish for.

Q. How are things going in Australia for you?

A. I live in Melbourne and things are going great I’m very busy at present playing in several Peoples projects and planning my tour to NZ to promote the new cd dates are 3 July Wgtn Havana, 4th July Auck CJC and 5th July ChCh NMC at the conservatorium.

Q. Working without a chordal instrument brings different challenges and rewards. What are your feelings about working and recording with a sax, drum & bass trio.

A. I love this combination because it allows for a lot of musical freedom. It’s hard to find guitarists and piano players who are really skilled in comping.

Q. Is there anything that you would like to add about the album?

A. This album is my fourth release and I’m so excited about it, I think because it was a lot of fun to make and I grew up listening to these master musicians recorded with my hero’s eg Bill Stewart, Brian Blade etc I mean I use to sit in my flat in Wgtn in the 90’s and dream of playing with these cats and now a dream come true.

Thanks man we look forward to seeing you on your tour of NZ.    

Aucklander’s note; Mark will appear at the CJC 5th July

W: www.marklockett.com.au

E: mark@marklockett.com.au