It was great, on May 28, to have bassist Howard Cairns — who has played with (among others) Yarra Yarra Jazz Band, Ross Hannaford, Allan Browne’s Red Onions and New Rascals, the Dancehall Racketeers, Michelle Nicole, Igor Oskolkov’s Gypsy Swing, Andy Cowan and the internationally acclaimed Way Out West, as well as touring widely in Australia, Europe and America — leading his group to play his material.
Grant, Simmons, Cairns
It was their first gig, enabled courtesy of Martin Jackson and Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, and the musicians and the relatively small audience had a great time. With Cairns in a chordless line-up were Mike Jordan (drums), Steve Grant (trumpet), Don Stewart (trombone) and Adam Simmons (woodwinds).
I had agreed beforehand to stay for only the first set, so I had to stick to that. Still, one set was far better than none, and the Cairns Quintet treated us to four pieces with the theme of trains, cars and travel. The Newell Waltz, which began after a little quiz about where that highway starts and finishes (Tocumwal and Goondiwindi were the answers), was subdued and moody. The Inland Road was more rugged, with a few moments when it definitely sounded as if the road surface had deteriorated and there were some sharp edges and potholes to negotiate.
In 500,000 miles (or should that be kilometres) the band put their foot down, giving us a souped up vision of scenery, and maybe a few road trains, flashing past. Top stuff. And, to end the first set, the quintet played Way Out West’s Footscray Station, which I would not have recognised. As Howard Cairns said, the quintet had its own take on the piece, which did sound quite different. The interplay between horns was a delight. A standout for me was Grant on cornet — he seemed to play with such ease and yet with so much emotion, feeling, call it what you will.
As usual at your average jazz gig, the lighting left some musicians in the dark, so Don Stewart on trombone was often hard to pick up in photographs, as was Mike Jordan on drums. But that’s a lament of the lens, so to speak, and in no way detracted from the music. Hope the Howard Cairns Quintet will be back soon