REVIEW: Stonnington Jazz 2012
Tim Davies Big Band, Chapel Off Chapel, May 23, 2012
From the outset it was always going to be a contest between stick and shutter, between the man at the drum kit and the finger on the camera button. For a long while I thought the lightning-fast hands of Tim Davies would win — that it might not be possible to catch those sticks in mid flight.
OK, so eventually I fluked a few shots. But a concert is about being there and hearing the music, not about recording moments in time to view later. One word sums up this outing at Chapel Off Chapel — big. It was a big band, making a big sound, led by a virtuosic showman who had a big personality and wielded his sticks like an army wields weapons. The Grammy-nominated film and television composer, arranger and band leader had a 19-piece band to deliver his onslaught, if you count vocalist Zac Teichmann, who also had a big sound.
Davies, who formed a big band in Melbourne before moving to Los Angeles in 1998, could have been channeling the flamboyant Gene Krupa in his solo during the opening swing favourite Sing, Sing, Sing made famous by Benny Goodman. Tony Hicks featured, as Davies put it, “on torture tube”.
I had to leave after the first set, but it was ringing in my ears all the way home. Davies peppered his pieces with stories, beginning with the excruciating tale behind his composition Black Nail, involving a finger in the door and the pulling out of the damaged nail.
Hicks on tenor sax again featured in Davies’ Elegy for My Unborn House, before Goon Juice, with Eugene Ball soloing on trumpet from the back of the band and Tim Wilson on alto sax from the front.
A highlight of the big band outing was the unexpected addition of vocalist Zac Teichmann, who has obviously worked with Davies previously. I would have been keen to hear more from Teichmann, but he sang only the one number, Board Game. I don’t know which gave a richer, more resonant sound, Stuart Byrne on baritone sax or Teichmann.
The first set closed with the Grammy-nominated Counting to Infinity, which Davies said was a trilogy in four movements. He said it had emerged from his “morning-mares” (as opposed to the night ones), which is what he enjoyed often because he had a rich wife who works for Sony, which allows him to sleep late.
The energy in this big band performance was amazing. These would have been difficult charts to master in the short rehearsal time available, so full marks to the band. It was exciting playing and full of verve.
Having said that, Davies style of big band music is not quite my ideal (and that’s immaterial except to me), so I’d rather hear Bennetts Lane Big Band or the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. But seeing and hearing Davies at the helm was an unforgettable experience. And it was fun trying to catch his sticks in mid air, occasionally.