‘The Troubles’ – Review

This is part one of two posts on ‘The Troubles’; An interview with John Rae and Lucien Johnson to follow in a day.

When I received a brief email from Steve at Rattle Records informing me that he was sending me two very interesting disks I sensed that he was excited about what was on offer.  When the tightly wrapped package arrived I wrestled ‘The Troubles’ from its box.  Putting it straight on, I was stunned by what I heard and I played it through twice, letting the sound wash over me.  Steve was right; this was special.

Jazz is supposed to be fresh and to convey the ‘sound of surprise’ and this was bloody surprising.  It immediately put me in mind of ‘The Liberation Music Orchestra’ or even Charles Mingus in the various incarnations of those bands.  Having said that this is very much a New Zealand sound.

The Troubles is performed by a Nonet with the instrumentation hinting at the albums context.  Adding a texture to the music; its wild but perfectly placed brush strokes marking it apart.

There is a string section of violin, cello and viola (Tristan Carter, Andrew Filmer, Charley Davenport) which contrasts nicely with the winds and reeds.  Lucien Johnson plays tenor sax, soprano and flute – Nick Van Dijk doubles on trumpet and trombone while Daniel Yeabsley plays alto, baritone and clarinet.   Add to the above the insistent drumming and shouts of John Rae, the bass of Patrick Bleakley and especially the percussion of Anthony Donaldson and you have a band that is capable of much.

The band had been playing at ‘Happy’ (a Wellington Bar renowned for experimental music) for some time and for a number of reasons this proved to be serendipitous.  What came together during those months is perfectly captured here.  This was recorded on one particular night and due to the exceptional musicianship of the band, the skillful writing and connectedness of everyone involved (including the loyal audience) we have a very special album.

Against the odds New Zealand Jazz is rapidly becoming identifiable as a separate and interesting entity.  Perhaps a subset of the Australasian-Pacific Jazz sound.  On the best Kiwi albums and in the clubs I hear this certain something and I want to confront the musical establishment and say, “Are you freakin deaf…can’t you hear this”?    This thing is ours, it can be wonderful and it is certainly worthy of proper attention.  New Zealand music is very diverse and this is a healthy thing.   Original and exciting bands are continually being formed, but in order for this vibrancy and originality to flourish the music must be better supported.     Here is an album that exemplifies this diversity and it says something unique about us and our place in a sometimes troubled world .

Support the band, buy the album but above all relax and enjoy it.  I defy anyone to dislike this roller-coaster ride through the worlds troubled spots.  It is a journey undertaken with deep humanity but also with a liberal helping of humour throughout.   A warm echo derived from the cacophony about us and filtered through an anarchic but sharply focussed Kiwi lens.

Purchase from Marbecks, JB HiFi, Real Groovy, or leading record stores – otherwise purchase directly from Rattle Records.

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)

Alan Brown@CJC (KMC Live launch)- C3 organ/guitar/drums

Alan Brown & C3

When ever Alan Brown brings a band to the CJC, the club fills to capacity.  Alan is well-known, deeply respected and he swings like crazy.  The ‘KMC Live’ release was always going to be a significant musical occasion, but on this night the sparks of inspiration flew between the band members and we witnessed something transcendent .  This was an incendiary gig that lifted our spirits; causing us to tap our feet uncontrollably and for some, to dance with abandon in the flickering shadows.   Alan had arrived earlier in the day, because dragging a heavy C3 organ down into a basement presented challenges.   The patience of Job and the strength of Hercules are required.  These wonderful organs with their bass pedals, wood-paneled console and double keyboard have probably caused preachers to swear when moving then.   It would not surprise me if some elected to rebuild the church round the organ rather than drag it up front.  It is our gain entirely that Alan achieved the translocation.   Hearing the wonderful bluesy phrases flow effortlessly from his fingers as they flew over the keyboards and seeing his feet pedaling out compelling bass lines was a rare treat.

Josh Sorenson

Dixon Nacey is without a shadow of doubt one of the best guitarists in New Zealand and it is a joy to watch him solo and interact with the other musicians.  During solos he will often close his eyes while weighing up the next step and his facial expressions reveal his commitment to the process as he dives ever deeper into the tune.  It is also a revelation to watch him in call and response situations.    When he and Alan are batting each other ideas, this often turns into good-natured un-armed combat.    Dixon watches intently while waiting for a challenge.  Occasionally calling to the others as if to say, “do your worst”.  When a musical phrase is tossed into the air he will smile gleefully and pounce on it, turning it about until it is fashioned into a thing of his own.  Josh Sorenson proved to be the perfect groove drummer as he locked down the beat and pulled the unit together.    This type of drumming requires specialist skills and Josh most certainly possesses these.

Tonight was the launch of Alan’s album ‘Live at the KMC’.   This was recorded at the Kenneth Meyers Centre back in September 2010 and choice of venue was fortuitous.    The venue is of historic importance as it has nurtured radio and TV in its infancy.    It is now part of the Auckland University School of Music (Creative Arts Section).  An acoustic gem.  Alan had recorded this gig thinking only that it could prove useful as a private resource.   One listen convinced him that he needed to release the material at some future date.

The set list at the CJC gig (and on the album) was a mix of Alan’s original tunes with three standards thrown in.   The standards  were ‘Maiden Voyage‘(Herbie Hancock) and ‘All Blues‘ (Miles Davis) and ‘Chank’ (John Scofield) – all arranged by Alan.   The rest of Alan’s compositions were; ‘Mr Raven’ (from the Blue Train days), ‘Charlie’s Here’, ‘Shades of Blue’, ‘In Fluence’, ‘Slight Return’, ‘Inciteful’.    ‘Shades of Blue’ was the best known of the originals while Alan’s interpretation of ‘Maiden Voyage’ was delightfully brooding and moody.  It was a nice take on this well-loved tune.  If I had to choose which of the tunes I liked best however I would probably say ‘Inciteful’.   This was played in extended form and it teased every ounce of inventiveness and musicianship out of the band.

On this night the stream of ideas kept coming, as fresh musical vistas were revealed.   Each one holding us in suspense until the next gem appeared.  This was organ/guitar/drum music at its best; intelligent, highly charged and full of joyous abandon.  A groove jazz trio of the sort you might find in East Philly or Montreal had been formed on our own doorstep.  This gig took place at the Creative Jazz Club (CJC) in Auckland New Zealand on the 18th April 2012

Dixon Nacey

Craig Walters/Mike Booth Project @ the CJC in Auckland

Craig Walters

During Jazz Week it was appropriate that the Creative Jazz Club (CJC) featured a band that was in some ways a metaphor for the greater Auckland scene.   Jazz week is about Jazz in our neighborhoods but it also about how we connect to the wider Jazz community.

  The co-leader of this nights band, Craig Walters has lived in Australia since 1985.    Craig has an impressive background in Jazz, as he trained at the Berklee School of Music before going on the road as an in demand tenor player.  He has performed world-wide and with top rated acts.  Over the years he has earned a place as one of Australia’s foremost tenor players.   Australia claims him because he has lived and worked there for the last 27 years, but he was actually born in New Zealand.   

Mike Booth (trumpet player & co-leader) has a story that in some ways parallels Craig’s because he also travelled overseas and ended up working in the European Jazz scene for a decade or more.  Unlike Craig he returned to New Zealand a few years ago and since then he has been busy teaching, gigging and running a big band in Auckland.

The band was completed by a local rhythm section, Phil Broadhurst (piano), Oli Holland (bass) and Alain Koetsier (drums).   With this rhythm section in your corner the sound is going to be great and the band will back you up exactly when you want them to.  They are among our best.  As for Craig Walters and Mike Booth, they have known each other for years and this collaboration is merely an extension of their earlier projects.

Why do I consider this band to be a metaphor for the Auckland Jazz scene?  Craig Walters was born here and started playing tenor here.   I am fairly certain that there were no Jazz Schools in the city then and so he eventually ended up in the USA where he studied at the Berklee School of Music.   This is roughly the route that Mike Nock , Alan Broadbent and Matt Penman took (stellar musicians who left the Auckland scene to conquer the world).  This is what generally happens to our best and brightest but they do return.

The pianist Phil Broadhurst is a stalwart of the NZ scene but he was born in the UK and so his story is the reverse of the above.  Oli Holland is also overseas born, as he was an established bass player in Germany before migrating to NZ.  Lastly there is Alain Koetsier who is the youngest in the band.  This was his last gig in Auckland as he departs for foreign shores in two weeks.  Such is the ebb and flow of the New Zealand Jazz scene but in many ways this disruption brings benefits.  Almost all of the musicians that we lose to Australia or to the USA eventually return and they enrich us with what they bring back.  Now that we have two Jazz schools and a youthful vibrant Jazz scene in the city (and a great club), the future is promising.  I also have no doubt that the departing musicians take a special something with them which is Auckland.

Craig and Mikes band were great and as long as these ex-pat to local match ups keep occurring we will be just fine.

This gig occurred at the Creative Jazz Club (CJC)  in Auckland, New Zealand on the 11th April 2012.  Remember to keep visiting the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) pages during the next few months as there are a number of activities that will include us. These are; the Jazz week Blogathon, International Jazz day 30th April – Jazz heroes announcement, JJA Awards in June – Auckland Satellite party.

Alain Koetsier Band @ Finding Kiwi ‘Standards’

I have watched drummer Alain Koetsier perform over the last year and his credentials on the traps are unimpeachable.  Alain is a drummer with a modern feel and it is plain to see why so many of our top Jazz groups utilise him.  This was probably his first outing as leader and he had chosen wisely on two fronts.  His band mates were consummate professionals and their approach to the music was intuitive.  They interacted as if with one mind.  The second thing Alain did well was to select a set list of recent compositions by New Zealand Jazz Musicians.  I liked the concept.

People expect a band to play their own originals but when a set list focuses on a wider spectrum of Kiwi Jazz compositions it feels respectful.  It somehow lifts the tunes to another level of availability; a place of wider appreciation.  Doing this is a good start point in identifying our own ‘standards’ and some of the tunes played could well reach that bench mark.  As the scene continues to mature this will surely happen.

Alain & Dixon

Alain & Dixon

I was pleased to hear two tunes which had impressed me at recent gigs; ‘Dicey Moments’ by Oli Holland and the wonderful ‘Ancestral Dance’ by Nathan Haines.   Both of these new compositions are distinctive, clever and memorable.  Dixon Nacey compositions also catch the attention as he has a knack for locating the right hooks while providing a solid base for improvisation.The first set had contained ‘Bad Lamb’ (Dixon Nacey).    The tune had nice chordal voicings and the way it unfolded led us easily into the heart of the tune.

Another memorable number was ‘Tree Hugger’ by the Auckland-born bass player Matt Penman.   Matt has moved into the upper echelons of Jazz bass, occupying a respected place on the world scene.   Maybe he will return the compliment one day and acquaint North America with a few of the other compositions.

The gig was fun to experience and obviously fun to play as the musicians enjoyment of what they were doing was easy to discern.  Like many Jazz gigs there was a high degree of spontaneity and perhaps this came from being thrown in at the deep end.   Working musicians seldom have a lot of time to rehearse and when confronted by complex charts they appear to relish the prospect.

The musician that I was unfamiliar with was Pete France on tenor.   I know that he has played the CJC before and my friends tell me that they had hoped for his return one day.    His tone is rich and full and his improvised lines meaningful.   He is also relaxed on the bandstand and when you consider the calibre of his band mates this ease of manner speaks volumes.

Oli Holland

The band featured Oli Holland on bass.  His approach and focus drew you in inexorably as he demonstrated chops, impeccable timing and melodic invention.  His skills are considerable, as he can move from contrapuntal walking bass to melodic invention in an eye blink.   Oli gave his best, but then he always dies.

Pete France & Oli's hand

Lastly I come to Dixon Nacey.  His playing is widely appreciated throughout the NZ Jazz scene. As good as he is, he always strives to do better.   His compositions sing to us and his chordal work and rapidly executed lines astound.    It is good to be in a town where this man is playing and long may it continue.

Well done Alain – more please.

Final Score 2011

A personal view on the best of the best Jazz albums of 2011.

(1) My pick for best album of the year is – ‘Undeniable’Pat Martino Quartet – Live at Blues Alley *****. This is as close to a perfect album as it is possible to get and the move from ‘Blue Note’ to the ‘High Note’ label has worked well for Pat. Because it is a live recording and because there is a magical interplay between the band members and the audience the band drops deeper into the groove than ever. I love Jazz guitar and I love Pat Martino for his warm groove vibe. He is always superb but on this album he has reached new heights.

The trade mark sound is still there but the musical ideas appear fresh and exciting. While every track is near perfect, the last track ‘Side Effect’ is simply astonishing. After two listens I realised that the tune was based upon the changes to Cal Massey’s ‘These are Soulful Days’. Lee Morgan Played this tune and for a while it dropped out of the repertoire. It later appeared on a Joey DeFrancesco album on which Pat was the guest artist. It hardly seems possible to improve upon that groove Jazz classic but Pat has done so. Late last year I heard this band play in Birdland and during the break I spoke to Pat. For months ‘These are Soulful Days’ had been stuck in my brain and I could not recall who had recorded it. Thinking it was Grant Green or Wes Montgomery I asked him. ‘Oh I think it cropped up on a Joey D’ album’, he said. Then it all came back to me – it was Pat on guitar on that CD. I felt embarrassed and said, ‘you were on guitar I recall’. He smiled and told me that he had been working on a new version with a changed head. Now I realise that this was the tune Pat spoke of and that is the icing on the cake for me.

It is not only Pats extraordinary soloing but his comping that commands attention here. When the others are soloing he appears to comp a walking bass line in unison with the foot pedal bass line of Tony Monaco’s fiery B3. To me this comping feels as solid as Freddie Greens. The other band members are Tony Monaco (B3), Eric Alexander (ts), Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums). Tony Monaco just gets better and better and my friend B3 player Michel Benebig regards him as being up there with the all time greats. Eric Alexander is also superb here. He has had a long tenure with Pat and Tony and he is the perfect fit for this music. Lastly there is Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. His credentials are second to none and because he is such a versatile drummer he was the perfect choice. His drumming is responsive and inventive and it may be his inclusion that lifts the album to perfection.

(2) My pick of first equal for the best New Zealand Jazz Album of the year is Alan Brown’s – Between The Spaces. **** For a review of this album see my earlier post. I play this album every week and my enjoyment has not diminished over the months of listening. I have purchased a number of copies to give to family as Christmas presents. Support New Zealand Jazz and purchase a few copies for presents now. There are copies available from JB Hi Fi in Queen Street. Other than that order from Ode Records online. The recipients will love you for it and you will put a groove into Christmas that can never be erased.

(3) The other pick for the best New Zealand Jazz album of the year (first equal) is Tom Dennison’s –Zoo. **** This album works on so many levels and every New Zealand Jazz lover should rush out and buy a copy. For more information read my review in an earlier post in this blog. I especially enjoyed writing that review and even though I may have resorted to hyperbole it was justified. The CD launch of ‘Zoo‘ is to be held at the CJC on Wednesday 25th January 2012. Again I would urge you to rush out to JB Hi Fi and grab a few copies as gifts. You can also purchase from Rattle Records online or download. Your Christmas holidays would be the poorer without these two albums and so if you want the love and admiration of your most difficult relatives – buy New Zealand Jazz as gifts.

(4) Best Jazz Club of the Year; no contest – the CJC. Thanks Roger, Caro and Ben for the music and the place to enjoy it in.

(5) Best New Zealand Record label – Rattle Records. Keep doing what you do Steve you are growing our music in the best possible way. You have the touch and the vision.

(6) Best World Music/Jazz album – Natalia Mann’s – Pacif.ist. This is also recorded by Rattle Records and it is an extraordinary and exotic journey to embark on. I will be doing a review of this fabulous album shortly. One rainy night I turned up to the launch of this album and was entranced from the first chord. Natalia Mann plays harp and on this album she is accompanied by 10 musicians (mostly Turkish musicians playing traditional instruments). Her husband is the drummer and the array of Turkish percussion instruments at his command is impressive.

(7) Best Jazz House Party of the year was when Roger Manins rocked Mt Wellington to its core with the help of Michel & Shem Benebig (B3 and voice) – plus a large and very enthusiastic horn section. It took me nearly a month to get ‘Every Day I Sing The Blues’ out of my head. I am not complaining though.

(8) Best Jazz anecdote of the year is from Peter Kings new biography on living the Jazz life. Peter is an alto player and he was playing at one of the better London clubs in the early 60’s when a very drunken Peter O’Toole sauntered over during a break and plonked himself down at the drum kit. The drummer yelled “Hey get off now” to which O’Toole starchily informed him that he was Peter O’Toole the actor. The drummer fired back immediately, “I don’t care if you’re Lawrence of Arabia, you can get off those fucking drums immediately”.

Lastly I must thank the musicians, many of whom have become close friends. Jazz musicians are the unsung heroes of music because they reach beyond the ordinary every time they play. They do this for the sake of creating something magical and best of all we get to participate in that magic. None gets rich or even earn a basic living from their playing but they do it anyhow. When walking a tightrope, backwards steps are not an option.

Thanks to all who read this blog which has been running now for around ten months. I have had over 6000 hits during that time and that is what keeps the momentum. The site has followers from many countries and that is satisfying, as it promotes New Zealand Jazz beyond these shores. Keep visiting the site, make comments and forgive my occasional typos. This blog is about promoting and analyzing the music we all love – Jazz and improvised music in all its forms.

These are soulful days – Pat Martino in 2009.               

Yours in the Music and have a happy and safe Festive Season.

John Fenton – Jazz Local 32.

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