on ‘Brother Sykes’ – 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.
This is Williamson’s eighth album since 2001’s wonderfully-named Non-Consensual Head Compression and, as well as being an obvious evolutionary step, it is a beautiful thing.
‘…when I compose I just sit down and write what I’d like to hear.’
Jenna Cave and Paul Weber’s Divergence Jazz Orchestra is one of Australia’s keepers of the big band flame. More power to them.
And now we have their (astonishing) debut, The Opening Statement.
John Hardaker interviews Mace Francis and Johannes Luebbers of the Listen / Hear Collective.
Such is the range and span of colours and shifting scenes across Short Stories. That all of this can be expressed through the limited means of a jazz guitar trio – to all intents and purposes acoustic – is not only a measure of Panucci, Boneham and Waples’ creative mastery, but also of their vision.
Sean Coffin’s tenor tone and approach fits the music perfectly. In his sound there are distinct echoes and cries from jazz history – the blues is prominent if abstracted – yet the same imagination that elevates his arrangements carries through to surprise us in his solos. Funky as fuck in ‘Booga Dunny’ (get it? ‘I’m a funny cat’, says SC), a soul-jazz boogaloo, he also plays a ballad such as ‘Quiet Thoughts’ with great depth – the coda cadenza was a composition in itself. His horn can bite but it can also kiss.
The maker-or-breaker of course is in writing for the small ensemble. With such a limited musical palette of timbres and instrument capabilities, every decision has to count. Done badly, it can be turgid or insipid. To hit the sweet spot that is the intersection of composition, knowledge and vision, it helps to be a hell of a player, listener and thinker.
In the goldfish bowl of the Australian jazz scene this might be the sort of calculated risk that we need to see more of. All evolution needs diversity and the occasional short sharp shock to the status quo.
I once heard John Coltrane’s playing described as the sound of a ‘very large man crammed into a tiny room, shooting notes at the corners of that room.’ I have often though of that neat phrase when experiencing the playing of Sydney tenor colossus James Ryan…