Tiro Earshift Records (ear009)
review by John Hardaker
A dubby fanfare from Jeremy Rose and Nick Garbett and we are off into the new Vampires album, Tiro – into that unique Vampires place where Ornette Coleman jams at Black Ark, while New York traffic snarls by outside and Bondi surf laps at our (tapping) toes.
The said dubby fanfare introduces Rose’s ‘Mandala’, an upbeat slice of reggae-jazz that is reminiscent of the UP vibe of their last (wonderful) album, Garfish.
But that vibe is a touch misleading – overall Tiro is more blues, more downbeat and definitely (maybe not but maybe because of the blues) more truly beautiful (define that!) than Garfish. It is a leap, horizontally and vertically, from that 2012 album; the band and the compositions widening and deepening as any great band does as it evolves.
Garbett’s ‘Palau’ follows – a churchy NOLA blues that reminds us why we love the Vampires so much – as with Ornette, the piano-less, astringent sound reveals such poetry: funny how less voices make for more poetry. We fill in the gaps from our own experience and it hits us in the gut.
Rose’s ‘Pseudoscience’ is the most Ornette-y track here – over an Alex Boneham ostinato, Rose and Garbett weave and duck and feint and jab almost telepathically. The later track, ‘Colombiana’ also kicks nicely over Boneham’s Fender bass with Garbett’s heavily reverbed solo recalling the lightning sparkle and shimmer of electric Miles. Drummer/percussionist Alex Masso jumps right out at you here, snapping shots and accents all around the frantic funk of the two-horn melody.
The blue mood returns for Rose’s ‘Beautiful Decay’ before the first of two ingenious remixes in collaboration with Paul Bromley at Brisbane’s Tanuki Lounge Studios, ‘Tiro-Tanuki remix’ – 0:49 of the title track tipped at a surreal angle. The second remix is ‘Mandala-Tanuki remix’, a beautifully reverb-heavy dub take on the opening track in 1:27. The remixes are a nice touch and, as well as reminding us of the roots of The Vampires’ music, serve to lighten the mood with some fun and spacey atmosphere.
There is a liner note from Nick Garbett for Tiro‘s final track ‘Brother Sykes’, a dedication to a friend lost at sea, the brother of the title. ‘Brother Sykes’ – maybe because it is suffused with such emotive rawness – is the standout here: building from a muffled drumbeat – a muted but merciless hammer of grief – the twinned clarinet-trumpet melody winds its sorrow around its own heart, squeezing it and then stopping when it hurts too bad to trickle away on a limpid melodic downcurve. Then it starts again…
The band play around each other here, as if conversing, exchanging their grief – the feeling is one of a wake, funereal and puffed-out. It is a nod to the complete musicianship of Alex Boneham that the bass dominates here, expressing so much in answer to the gray-blues and watery mauves thrown at him by Rose and Garbett. All seems to happen underwater, beneath a heavy lid of mortality.
‘Brother Sykes’ finishes in an unresolved cadence, unsatisfying, hanging there – just as their good friend’s life and possibility was cut too short. It is a remarkable piece of music and a true expression of what great music can be – sadly overlooked in too many jazz releases in favour of clever-clever – a mirror on life, and us, and our path through it all.
‘Brother Sykes’ is a remarkable piece of music on a remarkable album – ‘Tiro’ is The Vampires fourth and doubtless best. It will be exciting to see where Rose, Garbett, Boneham and Masso go next. Long may they run.
Jeremy Rose: Alto, tenor, soprano saxes, clarinet
Nick Garbett: Trumpet, flugelhorn
Alex Boneham: Acoustic and electric bass
Alex Masso: Drums and percussion
Tiro is out on Earshift Records – www.earshift.com
The Vampires website – www.thevampires.com.au
Photo of the band by the inimitable Karen Staeins
Wangaratta Jazz Festival – Saturday November 2nd at 8:00 pm
WPAC Memorial Hall