Phil Sandford reviews Kinetic Jazz Orchestra at 505

Kinetic Jazz Orchestra at 505 | picture by Saha Jones

Kinetic Jazz Orchestra at 505
13 February 2012

Review by Phil Sandford

Kinetic Jazz Orchestra at 505 | picture by Saha Jones
Kinetic Jazz Orchestra at 505 | picture by Saha Jones

The 18-piece Kinetic Jazz Orchestra, now in its third year, featured original compositions by band members and charts by Gil Evans when it returned to Sydney’s Venue 505 in February.

The first set opened with Mike Kenny’s ’15’, which uses various 5/4 time feels and provided an appropriate vehicle for his solo. The band premiered Tim Clarkson’s rhythmic ‘Red Wine and Excel’, and Gai Bryant contributed two excellent charts, the intriguing ‘Sandfly’, and a rumba inspired by her recent trip to Cuba, ‘Chicken for Fish’.

Don Reid’s ‘Adagio for New York City’ is a beautiful piece, skilfully orchestrated, and featured fine solos from Ben Hauptman, Reid and Bill Risby.

Apart from original compositions, the set also included two freely improvised pieces conducted by pianist Roger Dean.

The second set opened with a quartet tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, ‘Strange Meadow Lark’, featuring Bill Risby and Reid.

The KJO have acquired five charts by Gil Evans, the composer-arranger who transformed big band writing in a series of albums in the late 1950s and 1960s

Evans expanded the orchestral colours available in the earlier big bands by his voicings and by using instruments like tuba, bassoon and flute. The KJO have been able to incorporate these instruments by some doubling, and together with Lilli Pearse on French horn and Ed Goyer on vibes this gives the band a rich palette to draw on.

On the haunting ‘Las Vegas Tango’, Melissa Kenny produced one of the solos of the night, moving from a contemplative opening to a powerful climax. ‘St Louis Blues’ featured Reid on alto, ably filling the shoes of Cannonball Adderley on the 1958 original recording.

Two of the charts have no solos and rely on the beauty of Evans’ intricate arrangements. In ‘Bilbao Song’ Evans transforms Brecht and Weill’s 1929 beer hall classic into a mysterious, brooding composition. Rogers and Hart’s ‘Wait Till You See Her’ is clothed in a Spanish-tinged arrangement that becomes, like much of Evan’s work, a recomposition.

‘Sister Sadie’, a rollicking Evans treatment of Horace Silver’s classic, found trumpeter Chris Ellis in fine form, followed by exciting exchanges between Ben Hauptman and Tim Clarkson, and then the trombones plus French horn and tuba.

Curtis Fuller’s up-tempo ‘A La Mode’ first appeared on Art Blakey’s 1961 album ‘Jazz Messengers’. The KJO version, arranged by Reid, produced some sparkling solos to bring the evening to a driving close.


Reed section – Don Reid, Tim Clarkson, Gai Bryant, Jason Morphett, Scott Simpkins
Trumpets – Mike Kenny, Chris Ellis, Andrew Hamblin, Lee McIver
Trombones – Melissa Kenny, Frank Dasent
Bass trombone and tuba – Lee Tuckwell
French horn – Lilli Pearse
Rhythm – Bill Risby, Ben Hauptmann, Hugh Frazer, Alex Masso, Ed Goyer

Video – a 2012 version of ‘Sister Sadie’ from 505: