Their latest album, ‘Confluence’, is made up of two long improvisations – the 40-minute ‘Stream’ and the 24- minute ‘Flow’. The titles are fitting, as this music has much in common with the nature of both water and of electricity: rushing between banks, bubbling over rapids, coming to rest calm and lake-serene, sparking, ever moving to a point of resolution or rest.
Shannon Barnett writes brilliantly for jazz – there is challenge, rhythmically and melodically, but there is also space enough to move around in.
And that from anguish to giddy silliness, and everything in between is the scope of [A]part. It is a massive piece in every way: challenging to the ear and the mind, highly original (as we know Kirkwood to always be), often cerebral and abstract, all the time threatening to be too much to take in in one sitting. But what saves it from possible overwhelm is that Kirkwood never loses the emotional thread in the music; it is human music and it consistently makes you feel. Sometimes, as with all valid contemporary art, those feelings can be baffling or even plain uncomfortable, but you do feel them deeply.
Playing with the Vampires on this album has pulled some startling performances out of Loueke and, in kind, the band rise to his fire one catches oneself thinking they sound the best they ever have; then you realise the Vampires always sound this good.
I love guitar, it has the ability to convey an incredibly rich range of textures and sounds, and has a history of amazing players. However, when I choose collaborators, it is often based on the individual: Lionel Loueke and Kurt Rosenwinkel are both unique voices on their instruments, and aesthetically, I felt they were a great match for the respective projects I was working with.
To listen to Daniel Susnjar’s ‘Moth To A Flame’ one would expect these eight densely arranged, complex and exceptionally recorded pieces to have taken a year or two to get to this level. In fact, the album was done and dusted (bar a little extra later dusting in WA and Miami) in 24 short hours.
The Twentieth Century Dog is big on rhythm too – with two drummers and a percussionist, as well as having a bass-player as leader, it is inevitable that there will be grooves of all flavours, and rhythm games running through the music like pulsing veins. Funk, Afro-beat, jazz: all booty-shaking but mind-bending at the same time.
The band needs to be extraordinary to navigate Sugg’s remarkable compositions and bring them to vivid life – each tune is completely owned by the ensemble; the ensemble playing and solos leap from the speakers with a rush of blood and fire.
The band has ruled the roost at Balmain’s Unity Hall Hotel forever and Walkin’ Shoes – Dan Barnett’s seventh album – captures all the life and spark of those great gigs and of vocalist/trombonist Barnett’s larger-than-life musical personality.
James Carter plays the sax as if his survival depends on taming this shiny, golden reed instrument that possesses this mystical, divine energy that he tries to put to good use for the 55 minutes of each set.