SAM ANNING QUARTET at Bennetts Lane

GIG REVIEW: Sam Anning’s penultimate farewell gig before going to New York, NY.

Sam Anning

Sam Anning, bass
Eugene Ball, trumpet
Andrea Keller, piano
Rajiv Jayaweera, drums

SAM Anning is now in New York, studying for a Master’s at the Manhattan School of Music. Now that he’s gone, we can talk about him. Not that there’s much to say that’s negative about the lad, except that he was perhaps a spruiking a little loudly on behalf of _motion when he filled in for Nick Abbey at Bennetts Lane in July. Sam will be missed, not only because he was playing with some 50 bands (I heard that from reviewer and radio personality Jessica Nicholas), but also because he’s a top bloke. We wish him well and hope he does return, even when he is famous.

Sam Anning
Sam Anning

It was a lovely way for Anning to leave Bennetts. The previous night he had had another farewell of sorts — lots of fun I’m told — with Allan Browne‘s Monday nights mob. This time we heard Anning’s music and some of his favourites by others, beginning with the thoughtful Little Bay (Sean Wayland) and then a moving, slow ballad From The Cloud, written by Anning in response to Iceland’s volcanic eruption and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill — a darker cloud. Eugene Ball was in fine form in this piece and all night.

Next came Coltrane’s Countdown — energetic, bustling and bristling — and Neil Young’s Tell Me Why, which Anning first heard on the Live at Massey Hall album. The first set closed with Swinging From A Hills Hoist, which Anning wrote when he could not sleep on a flight back from New York. I loved Ball’s twisting and bending horn and his shimmering vibrato on the last note.

Keller and Ball
Keller and Ball

Set two began with Abba, the “second debut” of a tune Anning confessed to have pinched or borrowed from a couple of sources — one may have been Aaron Choulai’s Silverland. Keller opened this piece with a jaunty little melody. It was great to hear her at the piano. The standard You Go To My Head was next, with what Ball described as “the silly changes”. Fantastic horn and bass in this.

Eugene Ball
Eugene Ball

Raj Jayaweeera
Raj Jayaweeera

Then Anning expressed the bassist’s lament of “never doing your own gig” with his composition I Am the Madam and the Whore, loosely based on the style of Ornette Coleman, with melody dictating harmony. (I think that’s what Sam said.) Ball played some whip-cracking notes which kicked up sharply, and worked the valves beautifully for some irridescent shimmer. Jayaweera displayed the talent and subtlety that is sometimes overshadowed when he’s hidden in larger ensembles. I don’t know whether the madam or the whore won, but this piece ended in a reflective, ruminative passage.

Keller and Ball
Keller and Ball

Anning’s tribute to the cloudy skies of Melbourne came in Overcastaway, which he kicked off robustly. Keller and Anning were great together in this piece, which was followed by the closing Or Not, which was inspired by Ornette Coleman. Ball began with some rasping pedal notes — lovely — and produced some wild squeals from the horn as Keller proceeded to fragment the universe with the keyboard.

Sam Anning had another gig on the Friday at Uptown Jazz Cafe — that was the final one. Hope it went well.

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