Review: Sydney Jazz Trio, 6 September 2011

The Gods Café, Australian National University, Tuesday 6 September, 2011
Review by Arne Sjostedt

Photo by Brian Stewart at Cyberhalides Jazz

The Sydney Jazz Trio at The Gods, ANU, Canberra, ACT | photo courtesy Brian Stewart

The Gods Café in Canberra has been host to some amazing jazz performances this year. The Sydney Jazz Trio’s turn was no different. So much so that it seemed necessary to compose a few thoughts.

Like going on a sailing journey into the night – there were ports to see and opportunities to view the stars, both from the calm vantage of open clear water, and smack bang in the middle of a hailstorm of ideas.

The trio, Paul Cutlan, Steve Brien and Steve Arié, have many years experience in jazz circles. Warming up into a couple of derivations of jazz standards, they showed they know just how to take you left of the circumference and sail there. Playing variations of straight jazz and be bop, the trio locked in by about the fourth piece and lost control of their dome.

Blisteringly good, Cutlan held the improvisations together with deep, smooth melody lines against Brien’s guitar. Swapping mainly between alto saxophone and bass clarinet, both were heroes. Though for mine, the evening proved what a star the clarinet can be. In Cutlan’s hands its rich, haunting movements, smooth melodies, winter colour and spring time sunsets ran smooth.

Behind it all, a tonally engaging Arié delivered a creative rhythmic and musical foundation, though some of the audience may have been a little shocked by the density of his jazz scat and more discordant string slapping antics. Definitely brought a sense of fun to his solos.

On guitar, Brien was clever and sounded like years of practice had made him an egoless participant in the motion of each tune. He stepped up and led a number of tracks, and left my head noodling lazily over modal structures for hours after.

Other significant moments during the second set came from numbers composed by various band members, namely the delicate and moving ‘Longing Time’ by Arié.  I also found myself deeply interested in ‘Beryl’, by Brien – a rousing jazz blues tune.

These men don’t play together all that often. Let’s hope that changes – because the world needs more momentous moments of rhythmic and golden joy. I left with my pockets overflowing.

Arne Sjostedt writes music reviews and arts/music features for The Canberra Times.

Big thanks to Cyberhalides Jazz for continuing to photograph gigs in Canberra. See more images on the cyberhalides jazz website >>>>

See the Sydney Jazz Trio on the web

This gig is part of the Jazz at The Gods series arranged by Geoff Page.