Australian and Oceania based bands, CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Post Bop, Review

Mike Nock – albums reviewed

photo - Version 2

Mike Nock: Hear & Know / Kindred

Mike Nock is always capable of surprising and this has long been his hallmark.  A restless innovator and improviser who never settles on his laurels, Nock is surpassing himself yet again.  ‘Hear and Know’ was recorded in 2011 following his aptly named and deeply satisfying ‘Accumulation of Subtleties’ album.

On ‘Hear & Know’ he is again accompanied by brothers Ben Waples (Bass) & James Waples (drums).  There is an unmistakable synergy between these three and so adding Karl Laskowski (tenor sax) and Ken Allars (trumpet) had its risks.  While there is a different dynamic and altered textural qualities, the magic of intimacy is maintained.   It carries over much of the subtle interplay of the earlier album but creates a different range of moods as well.

I was always impressed by the subtle and profound sub-divisions of mood in the ancient Japanese Haiku.  The almost untranslatable ‘wabi-sabi’ are the moods invoked when we can almost touch something profound, sense it and appreciate the mood, but know that it will be forever illusive.  A further subdivision is ‘yugen’, which is the sense of mystery which underpins profound moments.  To define them more accurately is to lose the moment.    Mike Nock has achieved this for me compositionally and through his recording.   The moods are profound invoking deep and somehow unnamable emotions.

I felt this most strongly on the beautifully named and wonderfully crafted ‘The Sibylline Fragrance’ and later while listening to ‘After Satie’.   In the former piece there was an obvious reference to memory and our sense of smell, which is closely aligned with that.  Beyond that was something else, a sense of the history of this music.  Touching briefly on the past but rooted firmly in the now.   When music achieves this it is especially satisfying.   I have seen the trio performing and I have seen Ken Allars with the wonderful Jazzgroove  Mothership Orchestra.  Karl Laskowski was not previously known to me.   All of these musicians must feel pleased with this album.

‘Kindred’ is the more recent album and one with a pared back line up.  Featuring just Mike Nock on piano and drummer Lorenz Pike, this album seems denser in texture and more introspective.  Lorenz Pike is an interesting drummer and well-chosen; he is obviously colourist in tendency and that is the only choice for this music.  Once again Mike Nock has made a virtue out of contrast.  First impressions are often deceptive though and there is a degree of space and subtlety if we listen.  The stories unfolding are at times free and open but there is always an underlying thread.  The titles also fascinate me as they refer (as with the previous album) to a mixture of things past (references to the classical world), nature untamed and various private worlds.  I am a strong believer that improvised music benefits from narratives, not to define, but to augment the journey.

Mike has created subtle narratives out of the whole, which sit in the consciousness like Haiku.  There is something special about these two albums and I am certain that only Mike Nock could tell these particular stories.

What: Mike Nock – ‘Hear & Know’ and ‘Kindred’ albums FWM Records or visit http://www.mikenock.com

Where: You be able to hear Mike Nock in Auckland on Tuesday 23rd July 2013 at the CJC (Creative Jazz Club).

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CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Jazz Journalists Association

JJA Jazz Awards Satellite Party in Auckland

Press release: Wed 6th June 2012

Creative Jazz Cub & Auckland Jazz Orchestra presents the

JJA Jazz Awards Satellite Party

The 16th Annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards is an international black tie event held at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York on Wednesday 20th June and features hundreds of musicians, jazz journalists, educators and industry associates.

Auckland musician/saxophonist Roger Manins has been awarded a Jazz Hero Award by JJA, so to celebrate and honour New Zealand’s jazz heroes, Auckland’s Creative Jazz Club (CJC) will be hosting the world’s first 2012 Awards Satellite Party at the Britomart’s Basement Bar also on Wednesday 20th June. The Awards will feature music by the Auckland Jazz Orchestra (AJO) and as New Zealand will be acknowledged at the New York Awards event, willing musicians and Jazz fans should arrive early for photographs – to be posted on the Jazz Journalists Associations Awards official web sites. Don’t miss one of the biggest events on the Jazz calendar!

Wednesday 20 June – Basement Bar, AUCKLAND

Home of the Creative Jazz Club, 1885, Galway St Central, BRITOMART

8pm, Tickets GA $10, CJC members & students $7, student members $5

http://www.jjajazzawards.org,  www.rogermanins.com,  www.creativejazzclub.co.nz

CJC contacts – caroline@creativejazzclub.co.nz    roger@creativejazzclub.co.nz   John Fenton blogsite – Jazz Local 32   http://www.jon4jaz.wordpress.com

Publicity – Leesa Tilley / publicity-machine@clear.net.nz / phone 09 3766 868

The Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) honours excellence in jazz music, recordings, presentation and journalism. The 2012 Jazz Awards has 39 categories of excellence including Lifetime Achievement and Best of the Year Awards for musicians, presenters, recordings, photos, journalists, publications, blogs and websites. A star-studded coterie of musicians, journalists and music-world movers and shakers will be honoured in jazz’s only independent, international, culture-and-community-wide awards celebration.

Creative Jazz Club (CJC) was set up two years ago by musicians Carolina Moon, Roger Manins and broadcaster Mark Robinson. Webmaster Ben McNichol and journalist John Fenton complete the team. Now a world-class jazz club, CJC fosters and promotes the development of Auckland’s creative jazz scene by providing musicians with a dedicated performance space, nurturing emerging artists, and the programming of innovative local, national and international talent in its weekly Wednesday club night. Vocalist and composer Carolina Moon – who is currently touring her medieval world music fusion Mother Tongue in-between teaching jazz vocals at the University of Auckland – said “I was motivated to start CJC primarily because there was nowhere for us to play our music, and I thought well there must be other people in the same boat too. When we first opened, one of NZ’s landmark jazz musicians said to me – ‘now I have something to practice for’ – and gee I just wanted to cry.  So we started out at Cafe 121, Ponsonby Rd and over that first year we saw the creative scene really start to grow as it provided bands with an outlet for their creative projects – AND an audience which wants to listen and be part of it.”

Roger Manins won the Australian National Jazz Awards for saxophone in 2002 and this month, will receive a JJA Jazz Hero Award as international recognition of his outstanding musicianship and services to the community and education. Roger was born in Waiuku and currently teaches at the University of Auckland between touring nationally and internationally with various groups such as the Roger Manins Trio/Quartet, Hip Flask, Carolina Moon, Resonator, Manins Muller featuring Mike Nock plus a series of Trans-Tasman collaborations. Roger has released 3 CDs – Hip Flask, Trio and Latitude – and is recorded on more than 30 jazz albums with some of Australasia’s leading artists.

an outstandingly gifted musician with a warmly passionate sound, remarkable instrumental ability and total
musical integrity” – Mike Nock

one of the best newly issued hard bop recordings I’ve heard in quite some time. Manins sounds incredible throughout, but is particularly exceptional on Monk’s Well You Needn’t. Manins et al. aren’t merely recreating—they’re creating new music by taking Hard Bop elements to new places” – Slim’s Spins, Cadence Magazine, USA (March 2012)

http://www.jjajazzawards.org http://www.rogermanins.com http://www.creativejazzclub.co.nz CJC contacts – caroline@creativejazzclub.co.nz / roger@creativejazzclub.co.nz

John Fenton blogsite – Jazz Local 32 – http://www.jon4jaz.wordpress.com (Jazz Journalists Association).

Publicity – Leesa Tilley / publicity-machine@clear.net.nz / phone 09 3766 868

Jazz Journalists Association, Review, World Jazz Day/Month

Auckland Jazz Hero – Roger Manins – World Jazz Day 30th April

Auckland Celebrates World Jazz Day

 The 30th of April 2012 has recently been designated World Jazz Day by UNESCO. This significant recognition of our music is great and we will be celebrating this in Auckland along with the worldwide Jazz Community.

The Jazz Journalists Association is actively celebrating this world event and as part of their programme, members have been asked to nominate a Local Jazz Hero. To follow events go to www.jjajazzawards.org/.  Here in Auckland, New Zealand we have nominated Saxophonist, Jazz educator Roger Manins as our first Jazz Hero. Roger is also the programme director and co-founder of the not-for-profit ‘CJC ‘Creative Jazz Club of Aotearoa’ (along with his wife Carolina Moon and friend Ben McNicoll).

Roger has been nominated for a number of reasons. He is certainly one of New Zealand’s (and indeed Australasia’s) best tenor players and as such he is an inspiration to up and coming Jazz Musicians. Of equal importance though is his role as an educator and enabler. Roger lived and worked extensively in Australia for 10 years (he also lived in New York for 2 years), and even though he returned to NZ in 2004 he is still very much in demand across the Tasman, gigging and touring at regular intervals. 

Roger teaches at the Auckland University School Of Music Jazz Programme. Anyone who listens to Roger will quickly identify him as a person with killer chops, but he also has the ability to tell a compelling story on his horn.

“He is an outstandingly gifted musician with a warmly passionate sound, remarkable instrumental ability and total musical integrity”. Mike Nock

This story telling in almost any given context draws listeners to him again and again – a skill that was very evident in the likes of Lester Young or Dexter Gordon, but which is not always evident in modern players. Roger can play convincingly in any Jazz genre from free through post bop to mainstream traditional.

Roger is often generous with his time when it comes to nurturing up-and-comers. He will encourage and push those who he thinks need that, while gently insisting that they meet the required standard. With lots of younger players coming out of the two local Jazz Schools, it is essential that they get this real-world feedback in a way that keeps them challenged but not discouraged.

Having a world-class venue is part of this mix and the CJC is just that. Its vision is to stimulate and encourage the development of excellence in the creative improvised / jazz scene, and as programme director, Roger ensures that the diversity of the music scene is represented. The gigs are varied every week and feature prominent ex-pat Kiwis and international artists as well as national and local talents. It is Roger’s connections with the wider scene and the esteem in which musicians hold him that helps to make this happen.

Finally, I want to mention his very Kiwi sense of humour, which is evident both on and off the bandstand. He often slips in sly jokes or asides when introducing acts and his You Tube videos on ‘How to Play Smooth Jazz’ are simply hilarious. These have a cult following in NZ and Australia and the tongue in cheek delivery is so convincing that pupils of smooth jazz sometimes contact him to seek instruction without realising that it is all a delicious joke.

Roger is in demand in both Australia and New Zealand as a tenor player, multi reeds and winds player. He has recorded on many albums as an essential sideman and also as leader. He is married to fellow musician Carolina Moon (Manins) and has a daughter Milli.

His discography and website is: www.rogermanins.com

Selected Discography

Personal Recordings

Trio – Rattle Records 2010

Latitude – Roger Manins featuring Bernie McGann / Rufus Records (Aus) 2010

Roger Manins – Hip Flask Jazzgroove (Aus) 2002 / Ode Records (NZ) 2005

Recordings as Sideman

Andrew Dickerson Quintet – Weaver of Dreams

Resonator – Reuben Bradley

Carolina Moon – Mother Tongue

Phil Broadhurst – Delayed Reaction

Tom Dennison – Zoo

Solar – Bernie McGann Quintet featuring Roger Manins

James Muller Quartet -Thrum

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra with Florian Ross – Dreamwheel Ashley Turner – Beautiful Open Spaces

Mike Nock’s Big Small Band – Live

Carolina Moon – East of the Sun

Andrew Atwill – 3 Sides of the Same Coin

Leonie Cohen Plus – Jerusalem

Simon Sweeney – Emerald CityBlues

Vaughn Roberts – Grrreat Stuff

Paul Dyne – Shelter of the Ti Tree

Jann Rutherford – The Scented Garden

Julie Mason – 12 O’ Clock Tales

Steve Hunter – Condition Human

Karen Hunter- Rubble

D Dub- Awake at Dawn

Trans Tasman – a journey into New Zealand music compilation CD

Pending Release, Manins/Muller/Nock/Bradley

John Fenton

Jazz Journalists Association  /  Jazz Local 32 (Blog)

Avant-garde, CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, New Zealand Jazz Gigs, Review

‘Seven’ – Tim Hopkins Trio

Interaction - Tim & Dixon

I purchased a copy of ‘Seven’ from Rattle Records not long after it was completed.   The cover art portrayed black sand, which is strange to those unfamiliar with it.   For those who have not encountered it before, black sand can also be surprising.  Subtle light-shifts can throw up a myriad of purple and blue hues, and the textures revealed by the drift patterns are in constant flux.   ‘Seven’ reflects Tim Hopkins’ music in much the same way.

Tim Hopkins is well-known to those us who have followed the New Zealand Jazz diaspora.   He has recorded extensively as a sideman with the likes of Mike Nock (and many others) and he has recorded a significant number of albums as leader.  Tim lived in Sydney for many years but he eventually returned to New Zealand where he is now based.  He teaches and performs in the capital city.  His long experience as a tenor player has taught him to throw caution to the wind.   He is adept at developing free-flowing Post Bop lines, but he is not limited by that.  While quite capable of playing sweet and low he does not invite complacency, as he can just as suddenly deliver a scalding declamation.   His style is to conduct an honest conversation with the audience and few punches are pulled.  This is not to say that he is too serious for he has a highly developed sense of humour which he uses to advantage.

Tim started the gig by explaining some of the concepts behind the ‘Seven’ band.   “Someone is missing from this band” he said gesturing behind him and I initially thought that he was referring to Richard Nunns (who had appeared on a few tracks of the album).  Tim meanwhile continued to explain, “He wasn’t invited, (pausing) it is the bass player”.   A bass player is the compass and when a band plays adventurous and complex music the lack of a bass places a heavier burden on the remaining musicians.  These guys were fully aware of the job in hand.   It is often the case that an experienced leader will develop an uncanny knack for selecting just the right sidemen and this was evident here.

Dixon Nacey is not only a versatile and superb guitarist but he is a musical free spirit.   His eyes light up when he is thrown a challenge and he soon throws a challenge back.    This guy is one of our finest musicians and the younger guitarists watch his every move.    I suspect that a lot of the weight fell to Dixon in this gig, but you wouldn’t have known it to see him smiling as he dared Tim or John to answer his challenges.    This was call and response at its best.

Dixon Nacey

The drummer was also perfect for the role.  It was the first time that I had seen John Rae on traps and I hope that it will not be the last.  He is unlike many of the drummers we see, as his approach is loose and organic.  If he wants to up the ante he will suddenly shout at the others; exhorting them to give even more.  He is also far from a locked-in drummer as he will punctuate and change the groove at will.  I really liked this approach as it was the ideal foil to Tim and Dixon.

I also sensed that the band was unafraid of being overt and about confronting the political realities of our times.  This flowed through the music and I loved that about them.

At the beginning of the second set Tim was about to introduce the number when he looked into the audience and said, “Can someone bring a bouncer and throw out that old man talking in the front row”. The talking continued and Tim said in a slightly menacing northern Irish accent, “old man – go home to your wife – go home to your children”.   A short silence followed and then “Dad shut up”.   The smiling offender was Tony Hopkins his father.   Tony is much-loved on the Auckland scene for his skillful drumming.    I saw him when I was young and I would like to acknowledge his influence on my generation and beyond.

Another good example of Tim not taking himself too seriously was the introduction to ‘23rd century love song‘.   He explained that this was the result of endless navel gazing and that the market he was aiming for was probably chemistry professors.

While aspects of the gig were challenging, the night has left me with a lot to think about.   Music should occasionally challenge us and it should make us think.   I find myself going back to the album to re-examine a track or a phrase and this is a good thing. The communication is still happening.  John Rae

The numbers that have stuck with me are ‘Road From Perdition’, ‘All Blacks & Blues’ and the lovely ‘The Sleeping Giants’.   for a copy of this go directly to Rattle Records at http://www.rattle.co.nz – failing that try ‘Real Groovy’ ‘JB HiFi’ or ‘Marbecks’.

The Jam: After the gig there was a jam session and it quickly morphed into a mammoth affair.    Drummers, saxophonists, guitarists and singers crowded the band stand while fours and honks were traded to the delight of the audience.  I don’t think that I could name everyone who played but I will try: Roger Manins(ts), Tim Hopkins(ts), Noel Clayton(g), Aron Ottignon(p), Matt Steele(p) Tyson Smith(g), Dan Kennedy(d), Tony Hopkins(d), Tim ?(d), a young drummer (?), Dixon Nacey(g), Callum Passells(as), Holly Smith(v).    Roger played a lovely breathy Ben Webster sounding ‘Sunny Side if The Street’, Holly sung a fabulous bluesy ‘Summertime’ while Tony played just like he always does.  Sitting just a fraction behind the beat and in perfect time.

Post Millenium, Review

Zoo: Tom Dennison

‘Zoo’ is bassist Tom Dennison’s first album as leader and it is a thing of beauty. This is a concept album and such albums focus around a theme. The very best of them stimulate the imaginings as well; leading the listener into subtle dreamscapes that can shift and change endlessly. ‘Zoo’ does that.

Five of the seven tracks are named after animals, but we get no sense that these are the anthropomorphic playthings of humans. The Stingray, Owl, Llama, Cat and Antelope all gain distinct lives of their own; that not withstanding the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The first thing that the purchaser will notice is the exceptional art-work & design (by Caravan + Vivienne Frances Long). While the album can be purchased as a download, it would be a shame to miss out on the 3-fold cover or the best fidelity option. Every part of this album belongs together and perhaps that is its genius.

Once again the Auckland Jazz scene has surpassed itself and with these musicians it is hardly surprising. I know and admire most of the band members and Tom could hardly have picked better. There are a number of firsts as far as I can see and this being Toms debut album, the most obvious one. I have seen Tom Dennison play around town, but the first time I saw him was at an ‘Alan Broadbent‘ concert in the Auckland town hall. When the trio played ‘My Foolish heart‘ I could imagine Scotty La Faro nodding in approval – so perfectly did Tom execute the piece. He also played with pianist Mike Nock and not long after that went to New York to study with Larry Grenadier and the equally renowned Kiwi Bass player Matt Penman. It was after this sabbatical that he returned home to work on the ‘Zoo’ album and the results of his efforts are available for all Jazz lovers to enjoy. With chops and writing skills like this he was never going to disappoint.

I am pleased that the album features the New Zealand born but Sydney based pianist Steven Barry on piano. He is an astonishing musician and to have him recorded this well is pure bliss. While comparisons are often odious I cannot help but place him stylistically somewhere between Steve Kuhn and Brad Mehldau. When he played at the CJC a few months ago he floored us all. Those that knew him nodded with an “I told you so” look – while those who were less familiar became fans for life. This guy can breathe new life into any old warhorse and his own compositions amaze. He is a shaman of the keyboard and a perfect foil for the other players. He demonstrates this time and again as the album unfolds.

We also get to hear him in trio format on the final track. ‘The secret life of Islands‘ is intensely beautiful and it leaves you wanting more. This is the perfect bookend to the album. Introducing a song about an Island rounds off the ‘Zoo’ concept perfectly and gives it another Kiwi reference point. In my view the song could not have been written by anyone other than a Kiwi.

Also appearing is the gifted and much admired guitarist Peter Koopman Jr. Peter is both tasteful and innovative on this album and his long intelligent probing lines mark him out as a born improviser. His maturity as a player is more than evident here. Sadly for us he is to depart for Sydney in a week and that is Australia’s gain.

The veteran of the lineup is Roger Manins and he always pleases. We have come to expect Roger to play like there is no tomorrow and to play what is appropriate to whatever lineup he is in. On this recording he gives us his best and that is most evident on the ballad (track 5). Any song called the ‘The cat’ was always going to work for me and I was especially pleased with this composition. Roger plays this so convincingly that it sounds like a much-loved and familiar tune. That is also due to the skill of the writing.

The drummer Alex Freer is the remaining quintet member. I have not seen him play live, but he is like his band-mates, perfectly suited to the job in hand. I realise now that Alex, Tom, Peter and Steven have played together for a long time, because You Tube clips show them performing in their mid teens.

This album is New Zealand’s own version of ‘Empyrean Isles‘ and like Herbie’s album I am hoping that a ‘part two’ will be recorded someday . Perhaps featuring a rare and secretive pelagic bird like the New Zealand Storm Petrel?. Those particular birds were hidden in plain view and lived a secret life on nearby islands for 100 years. This album has been discovered from the moment of its inception and it will hopefully suffer no such fate.

Once again thanks to Rattle Records’ and to Steve Garden for recording this so beautifully. Order from http://www.rattlejazz.com

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians

Resonator; Reuben Bradley

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.

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

When the constellations align – Mike Nock @ CJC

Experiencing a Mike Nock band playing in an intimate club setting is quite different from catching his act in a large concert hall.    In one sense it doesn’t matter, as this cat can whip up a whirlwind of energy in any space, but seeing Mike in a small intimate club is as cool as it gets.  The immediacy of being up-close to a band like this is electrifying.

I had arrived early with a friend, but the club was already at near capacity and there were no available seats.  We were happy to stand as no one wanted to miss this night.    I leaned against the side of a leather couch crammed full of people while up front Roger adjusted his mouthpiece and Ron positioned his kit.  Then we saw Mike and Brett and the lighting was lowered.     As the band began to play it was obvious that they would not need any warming up because they were clearly as up for the gig as we were.    The opening number ‘Hop Skip & Jump’ was up-tempo and Roger just tore it up from the start.   To those who of us who love Mike Nock compositions this music was somehow familiar, but this was also the ‘sound of surprise’.

I am convinced that we could not have seen better in any New York club and in down town Auckland we soaked up the groove feeling lucky to be alive.  In the soft lighting  you could almost see the sparks of energy flying between the band members and the washes of blissful sound permeated every corner of the room.    This was seriously good shit.

Next up was ‘Komodo Dragon‘, a moody number that developed from a beguiling tune into an altogether more profound entity.  The placement of chords under Mikes hands is always a revelation as he knows how to mine an idea for deeper and infinitely subtler meanings.   His chords were sometimes bluesy, but then he would toss in an oblique voicing as if to bring about a subtle shift in the cosmos he was conjuring.   It was like watching an onion being peeled by a master chief.

I was also pleased to see Ron Samson (d) using a mix of mallets, sticks and brushes, as the sound palate that night demanded a more textural approach.   Like all good drummers he knew when to blend into the mix, as a loud overly showy drummer would have been out-of-place.  Roger Manins (ts) is simply a phenomenon and we are extremely lucky to have him resident in Auckland.   He lifted the intensity on ‘Komodo Dragon‘ to such a fever pitch that I actually stopped breathing at some points as the tension was building so much.    Roger is the master of tension and release and he can nimbly shift into double time and then some.        Brett Hirst (b) has been playing with Mike for years and it shows.   He is a terrific bass player and his solos and note placement that night were magical.     The band members were all great soloists but what is better they were able to act as a perfect ensemble.

The second number of the second set was a tune called ‘Homage’ and it began with a familiar chord progression (probably based on the changes of ‘All blues’).   Where it went next is hard to adequately describe, but this was one of the highlights of the evening for me.    Mike developed the theme quickly and as he did so he showed every ounce of his mastery on the key board.  He was tossing in fourths while his right hand darted over the keyboard.   I was immediately put in mind of the middle movement of ‘A Love Supreme‘.   The band was so deep in the groove on this number that the music reached heights beyond the sum of its parts.    To hear Roger playing with such strength and in such an ecstatic state was to be reminded of how Coltrane-like he can be.  As Roger played, Mike continued to ramp up the groove with his Tyner like chords and an overlay of chromaticism.  The band was apiece on this and it was a perfect moment – fresh ecstatic music that paid homage without actually being captured by the past it referenced.

Afterwards I had the chance to speak to Mike about his music and about the scene.   Mike is an easy-going cat off the band stand and he comes across as somewhat of a Jazz philosopher.   He has also retained a very Kiwi sense of humour which delighted me.    As soon as he has made a successful album Mike seems to reach beyond that for the next idea; never one to settle back and rest on his laurels.   Already knowing the answer, I asked him if he was still restlessly reaching beyond the now for newer musical ideas, or would he relax a bit?   He told me that it was his nature to search for a deeper meaning in the music and that he could not do otherwise.  “Some younger musicians than me sound a lot older than I do as they have settled into a safe fixed in time style.  That is not where I ever want to be”.   I told him how much I enjoyed the ECM ‘Ondas‘ label and he observed wryly , ” yeah man, everyone loves it…. now.  Is it even still in print?”.   He said that Manfred Eicher often told him how much he loved that album but as was often the case, it was way ahead of its time.    We also discussed his writing on the recent ‘Meeting of the waters‘ album which is a favourite of mine.   He told me that he felt good about that album but that distribution had been a problem (when was that not the case with Jazz).   Mike has hopes of bringing his ‘Accumulation of Subtleties‘ trio here soon and I would urge fans to grab a copy of that double album.

We talked briefly about the Auckland Jazz scene of our youth and he told me how pleased he was that Caroline, Roger ,Ben and Mike were now running the CJC.    He also said that he was grooved by the young cats wearing ‘pork pie’ hats, but that when he had gone to buy one had found that his head was too small.    “Age will do that” he said.   I quickly jumped in with information from a new longitudinal study which showed that humans actually reach their greatest analytical potential between the ages of 62 and 70 years of age.    He looked at me dismayed and said, “man you could have extended the time frame by a few years.  I am past 70”.

The set list was ‘Hop Skip Jump’, Komodo Dragon’, Gospel Dog’, ‘Joy Remembered’, ‘Transitions’- 2nd set – ‘Afternoon in Paris’, ‘Homage’, ‘Speak to the Golden Child’, ‘Triflin’ Jon’.