CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Guitar, Straight ahead

Nick Granville

NickThe last time Nick Granville played in Auckland was 2014.  A year prior to that he released his Rattle Jazz album ‘Refractions’ here  At that time the CJC was located in an old downtown basement venue and that feels like a lifetime ago. Wellington is his home base and Wellington keeps Granville busy. He teaches, he gigs about town, he backs visiting artists, he plays in shows, he records, he tours and he is the featured guitarist in the Rodger Fox Big Band. The last time I saw him play was in Wellington, but that was a few years ago. Much water has passed under the bridge since then and his reputation has meantime grown apace. I have also kept an eye on his teaching clips, and his ongoing evolution as a musician is evident in these.  Almost everything Granville plays is coloured by the blues in some way; that is his thing. On a mid-winter night, it is my thing as well.Nick (1)With the exception of ‘Alone Together’ by Schwartz/Dietz, all compositions were Grenville’s.  Some were from his Rattle Album, such as Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs or Blues For Les, while others were much newer. The compositions were all ear-grabbing and most appeared to reference geographical locations or old TV programs. ‘Funky New Orleans Groove Thing’ was certainly true to label; a rhythm-driven groove piece that generated white heat. With Stephen Thomas on the job, the New Orleans beat never sounded better. Thomas is an exceptional drummer.Nick (2)A tune that I have heard Granville play previously is ‘Somewhere You’ve Been’. The title is a clever play on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’. The tune, although not a contrafact of Footprints is close enough to bring it to mind, It is nicely constructed and a good vehicle for a band to play off. For this gig Granville had wisely engaged old friends; Roger Manins, Oli Holland and Steven Thomas. Together on the bandstand, they represented genuine firepower and everyone dug deep when it came to delivering solos

Footnote: If things go according to plan, Granville will soon be off to the Monterey Jazz Festival with the Rodger Fox Big Band, followed by a recording session in a famous LA recording studio.

Nick Granville (guitar, compositions), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Olivier Holland (bass), Stephen Thomas (drums). The gig took place at the Thirsty Dog K’Road for the CJC Creative Jazz Club, 28th June 2017.

 

 

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CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Post Bop

Nick Granville (with Dixon Nacey)

 

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Nick Granville’s return to the CJC was long overdue and the fact that he’d invited local favourite Dixon Nacey to join him made this an extra welcome return.  Granville is one of the busiest and most versatile guitarists in New Zealand.  Although a Jazz guitarist, he is just as likely to appear with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (the recent Dr Who tour), on TV, with visiting pop idols or touring beside visiting jazz royalty like Joey Defrancesco.   He’s a prolific recording artist, widely travelled and always in demand.  Dixon Nacey is also extremely well-known.  He has been absent from the club recently; touring the Pacific rim and gaining new fans wherever he goes.  Dixon is a real crowd pleaser.

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It is not often that we get two guitars in a quartet gig at the CJC and when the guitarists are Granville and Nacey it is a twelve stringed celebration.  When two guitarists play together, each needs hyper awareness of what the other is about.  Jazz guitar collaborations tend to fall into two camps; either they work extremely well or the musicians crowd into the same space.  These men are masters of their instruments and it was evident from the start that they knew instinctively when to play, comp or lay out.  The cross talk and the support was there without compromising the others space.

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Although there was an upbeat Scofield number and a very engaging Pat Metheny number, the gig gave a distinct nod to the traditional.  It was certainly not the material, as there were no standards; it was the approach.  Most of the compositions were contemporary originals but both guitarists bop roots were on show.  There is appropriateness to that when you consider the bench marks.  To my ears the twin guitar gold standard occurred in 1974 with Joe Pass and Herb Ellis on their ‘Seven to Eleven’ (Jake Hanna and Ray Brown rounded out that quartet).

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Granville is an Ibanez artist and Nacey a Godin artist.  In juxtaposition, under the lights, the gleaming instruments glowed as if in a beauty contest.  A preening mass of highly polished wood tones.   These instruments are things of great beauty and to see them and hear them together is a treat.   In the hands of these two guitarists even more so.  There were a number of Granville’s compositions played during the night but the second up; ‘Somewhere I’ve been’  (which is Granville’s reharmonisation of Shorter’s ‘Footsteps’) burned and crackled with unimaginable energy.   This set us up well for the evening, as we progressed through further compositions by Granville, Nacey, Samsom, plus a Scofield and a Metheny number.   I managed to capture Metheny’s  ‘Question & Answer’ and I have posted it.   This clip speaks well of the musicianship and the genuine interaction between the two guitarists.  IMG_3533 - Version 2

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On bass was Oli Holland and he is in perpetual good form.  With his Doctorate now completed we can expect to see more of him on the band stand.  Ron Samsom on drums played with fiery enthusiasm.  It is always a pleasure to hear Samsom and especially to hear his compositions.  That said, the icing on the cake was catching a photograph of that fleeting signature snarl.  This illusive manifestation of ‘drum face’ occurs all too rarely and only when Samsom digs deep.   I am a great believer in drum face as it often presages rhythmic riches.

Who: Nick Granville (guitar), Dixon Nacey (guitar), Oli Holland (bass), Ron Samsom (drums)

Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland, New Zealand, 12th November 2014

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Straight ahead

The Nick Granville Group @ CJC

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On Wednesday the 21st of August ‘Rattle’ records launched Nick Granville’s ‘Refractions’ album.  Nick Granville needs no introduction to Wellington audiences, being a professional musician who works extensively throughout that city.  While he is not as well-known in Auckland, that is rapidly changing, as he has played a number of well received gigs here over the last year.  CJC audiences now look forward to his return.

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He is increasingly featured in the award-winning Roger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra and his recorded output as leader and sideman is growing by the year.  This latest album is definitely his best to date and there is every expectation that this upwards career trajectory will continue.  With this album his guitar chops are very much on display but it is the engaging warmth and unmistakable integrity that draws you into the project.  All of the numbers on the album are originals and all are either blues based or have a distinct blues feel.  Nick attributes this to the strong Scofield influence that has shaped his progress over the years.

There were mostly numbers from the current album featured at the CJC launch,  but we also heard a few updated older compositions.  As I am familiar with that material it gave some interesting points of comparison.  The stand out tune from that earlier period was ‘Somewhere You’ve Been’ which is a well crafted reharmonisation of the standard ‘Footsteps’.

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This album has a lot of strong points and compositionally it is a tour de force.   It pays a subtle but heart-felt homage to John Scofield without being slavishly imitative or needing to play Sco tunes.  Strong material like this just begs to played by the best musicians available and Nick has pulled this off.  Much of the material was composed while completing  his Masters at the Auckland University Jazz School, and this enabled him to utilise faculty members for the album.   The three who joined him on the album are Roger Manins (tenor sax), Oli Holland (bass) and Ron Samson (drums).   You would be hard put to find better musicians anywhere and they had obviously warmed to the task in hand.

A really good album is one that manages to sound familiar, yet original and Nick Granville has achieved this rare feat.

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Roger Manins has a busy schedule teaching, co-managing the CJC and gigging around New Zealand and Australia.   There is nothing that he can’t tackle as he is a very strong reader and a fearless improviser.  His storytelling ability and improvisational inventiveness mark him out.  Whether delivering a breathy ballad, where each gentle rasp of air counts,  or a fast burner where the furies rain down, he’s a phenomena.

Oli Holland had barely returned from a holiday in Germany, but he showed no sign of jet lag on the band stand.  He and Nick go back a way and so it was not surprising that he is on the album.  Oli is one of the strongest bass players in New Zealand.  At times he surprised as he delivered the sort of raunchy biting grooves that you would expect of an electric bass.  Mostly though we heard his deeply resonant fluid lines weaving skilfully throughout the mix.  photo copy 6 - Version 2

I always enjoy Ron Samsom’s drumming but he really stands out on this album.   When you listen to ‘Gloves off’ in particular you will hear what a multi faceted Jazz drummer can do.  This hard-driving funky tune is my personal favourite.  It has a punch to rival Jack Johnson’s and an edgy groove that delights.  It is one of the tracks that I return to again and again.  Throughout this album Ron Samsom is marvellous.

The other strength is the quality of the recording and this is largely down to ‘Rattle’s’ Steve Garden.  Every detail from the cover art to the sound quality is meticulously attended to.  When it comes to mixing and mastering Steve has a special touch and the results here attest to that.

Nick Granville has pulled one out of the bag here and I strongly advise people to grab a copy.

What: Nick Granville Band.  Nick Granville (guitar, leader, compositions), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone). Oli Holland (bass), Ron Samson (drums). Released by Rattle.

Where: the CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Wednesday 21st August 2013

New Zealand Jazz Gigs, Post Millenium

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