Review: Phil Treloar & James McLean – Dispositions live

Maybe I shouldn’t have read that thread on this person’s Facebook page, where some stranger to me repeated the old clich about jazz and democracy – was it Max Roach, who said “Jazz is a purely democratic music. It’s collective creativity where somebody introduces something and we all get a chance to say something about it?”

On the tram, going to Northcote, this is what I’m thinking – and a relevant debate, on which part of jazz is more prevalent in this scenario: the collective or the individual. Is jazz liberal or communist? Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis. Hegel and the marxist theory of collective improvisation. Or does jazz fall into another kind of dialectics? Is it Socratic? Does playing jazz mean that each player asks questions, seeking an answer that will come through this process?

Neither Marx, nor Socrates. As far as wise men go, Phil Treloar is the musical equivalent of David Carradine in Kung Fu; he’s a philosopher who can give a beating. He’s also nowhere to be seen. Ten minutes into the concert, he’s hidden behind his massive marimba, sitting on the floor – meditating? – while James McLean and Sam Pankhurst create a soundscape, a haze of interweaving ideas. Scott McConnachie’s sax steadily blows through this cloud, dispersing it, leading the way, like a foghorn guides the ships through the fog. Phil Treloar takes it from there, his playing a way to clarify things, put them in order and into perspective. We’re no longer at sea; he has taken us all by the hand and led us through the woods, on a path that only he knows, as the trio of drums, bass and sax are setting the pace for all of us to follow. We’re trekking in an uncharted territory, through the wilderness, going from one element to the other: we’re facing fire and ashes and we see a Phoenix rising from a blue flame. Next thing we know, we’re back to Earth. The cymbals and marimba are singing its song, while Scott McConnachie on the soprano echoes our need for air. We’re flying; We’re not flying; We’re navigating through the scenery, going from branch to branch, from rock to rock, from hilltop to hiltop; we breathe; enlightenment awaits down the road.

The piece is called Prashantarutasagaravati – it is the name of a goddess, leading through a path of enlightenment. It is part of a new ambitious project of Phil Treloar, based on his Buddhist belief.

Apparently, it was recorded and will be released soon. I don’t understand how this is even possible.