Oli Holland’s Shortland Street Gig

Oli Holland - Roger Manins

I recently received an invitation to Jazz Bassist Olivier Hollands DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) recital.  It was titled ‘Dicey Moments’.  The gig was held in the Kenneth Myers centre at the top of Shortland Street.   This ornate crenellated building has a solid place in the history of New Zealand Music as it was formerly the home of the old Shortland Street TV studios. In its time the studio had hosted various radio orchestras and a few Jazz programs had emanated from there.  Stephen Small

When an experienced musician and gifted educator like Oli is performing a Doctorate recital it is bound to be an extraordinary gig.  Just playing a few standards would never cut it as the judging panel would certainly be looking for something unique and innovative.  In my view the performance easily met the required standard and all those who attended (mainly musicians) were deeply impressed.  Oli had written a number of complex charts for the recital and these conveyed a profound understanding of how improvised music can work.  While they were undoubtedly a challenge to play, they were still incredibly accessible to the listener.  The tunes flowed as fresh as a mountain stream and better yet they provided wonderful vehicles for the musicians to interpret and blow over.  Ron Samsom

I assume that the brief would be to choose band mates with considerable experience, solid reading skills and depth.  Band mates who would augment the vision, excel, but never overpower the lead instrument or the music.  These musicians were among the best on offer and they understood very well that this was about the music.  Oli remained firmly in control while encouraging the musicians and loosening the reigns when required; this is what a good leader does.

Oli had split the recital into two district halves; so to achieve a chiaroscuro effect and the appropriate contrast in styles, he had chosen two different bands.  One was a straight ahead jazz unit with Roger Manins on tenor, Kevin Field on piano and Ron Samsom on drums (Oli on upright bass).    The second unit was a fusion band with Dr Stephen Small keys, Nick Granville solid body guitar and Stephen Thomas drums.  Once again Oli played an upright bass, which worked exceptionally well, as the slap and bite provided a real contrast to the non acoustic instruments.  In the manner of all good leaders he joked with the audience.   “I used to agonise about the tune titles” he said, “but one day I had the profound realisation that it doesn’t matter what you name a tune. The next tune title has nothing what-so-ever to do with the music”.

The musicians gave their best and I have seldom heard any of them play better. The fusion half had the audience gasping in delight, as Nick Granville’s guitar, soared around Stephen Smalls fusion keyboard flurries.  The success of this recital is a tribute to the musicians but above all it is a tribute to Oli Holland.  His bass lines whether soloing or underpinning his charts worked perfectly.  Dr Oli it is then.

Nick & Oli

Nick Granville & Oli Holland

Phil Broadhurst Quartet – CJC ‘Delayed Reaction’ launch

This was a special night because the band was simply superb and it was a special night because the music paid tribute to Michel Petrucciani.   Phil Broadhurst the leader of the quartet needs no introduction to New Zealand musicians as he has been the familiar face of Auckland Jazz forever. Whether playing as resident pianist in the London Bar ,accompanying visiting musicians or performing his role as senior tutor at the Massey University School of Jazz, Phil has been at the epicentre of the New Zealand Jazz scene.   He is a gifted artist and a prime enabler.

Wednesday was the official launch of the ‘Delayed Reaction’ CD which marked a milestone in what has been a long and interesting journey.   Not only for Phil, but also for those of us devoted to the music of Michel Petrucciani and who now get to share in the journey.   Phil has probably studied Petrucciani’s body of work more extensively than any other and this music is the evidence.

The quartet is: Phil Broadhurst (piano, leader, arr), Roger Manins (tenor sax), Olivier Holland (bass),  Alain Koetsier (drums).  – *guest Mike Booth (flugal horn)

The first set opened with ‘Brazilian like‘, a well-known Petrucciani composition.   This medium tempo number paid tribute to the original but Phil and Roger gave it a slightly more bluesy feel which added interesting dimensions to the tune.   When I listened to that particular track on the album, I realised that Phil had achieved a rare thing.   The voicing and percussive attack were unmistakably Petrucciani, but in managing to add some of the feel and spaciousness of the New Zealand musical landscape he made ‘Brazilian Like‘ ours as well.

Next was the title tune ‘Delayed Reaction'(Broadhurst).  The number built-in intensity without losing any of its beauty and the quartet were obviously focused on treating this original with the same respect as the Petrucciani compositions.   Throughout the two sets there was a perfect juxtaposition between Petrucciani compositions and Broadhurst originals.  Phil had reworked many of the Petrucciani tunes and the result was to create a very satisfying melange.    Other Petrucciani tunes played were; ‘Guadeloupe‘, and the wonderful ‘Looking up‘ – a tune brim full of exuberance and always conjuring up Michel Petrucciani’s infectious good humour which he maintained against all odds.  He would have liked what this band offered up.

Of the Broadhurst originals I particularly liked ‘Oranje‘ (so titled because it was the birthplace of M.P.) and the lovely trio piece titled ‘Matai Bay‘.   During this last evocative number the considerable skills of Olivier Holland (b) and  Alain Koetsier (d) were particularly in evidence.   On the rest of the numbers Roger Manins (ts) shone with his story-telling bluesy intensity.   His performances are consistent in this regard and it is my observation that any group he plays in, is lifted up a notch.

We also heard a few standards and the rendition of ‘You Walked Out of a Dream‘ was fabulous.  Phil increasingly threw challenges at the others and they responded in ways that had us on the edge of our seats.  Roger soon exploded into his solo and the exultant soulful wailing as he seemed to depart from the upper register, had everyone spellbound.   Mike Booths (fh) contribution was on ‘If I Should Lose you‘ and this was also well executed.

A few years ago my partner Darien and I were traveling through the ‘Loire Valley’ France and I spotted a road sign indicating that we were close to ‘Blois’ a town famous for its castles, château and its Houdini association.   It was not those things that drew me to stay there but its association with Michel Petrucciani.     He wrote a wonderful suite about the place; one section was titled ‘Night Sun in Blois‘.   Sitting on the ramparts of that ancient and stunningly beautiful city at dusk I could hear that piano piece echoing in my head as the sun filtered through the now dark mass of the surrounding  forest.    The Loire river was a shinning golden reflection way below us and I wondered if Petrucciani had sat on this very spot when he was inspired to write that tune.

That powerful memory had faded with time but it was sharply brought back to me as I listened to this tribute and I thank the quartet for that.

The album ‘Delayed Reaction’ is on ‘Independent Artists’, a New Zealand label associated with ‘Rattle’ records.

Chateau by night near Blois

Tricolour's above Blois