GEORGE GARZONE at Bennetts Lane

GIG: August 15, 2010

George Garzone, saxophone
Paul Grabowsky, piano
Phillip Rex, bass
Niko Schauble, drums

Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble
Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble

Courtesy of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, tenor saxophonist George Garzone passed through Melbourne, playing three gigs. This was the first. He played at Uptown Jazz Cafe on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, with Craig Simon on drums and Phillip Rex again on bass, and guests Stephen Magnusson on guitar and Scott Tinkler on trumpet.

Publicity material on Garzone mentions that in more than 35 years he has performed with artists such as Chick Corea, Ron Carter, George Russell Orchestra and John Patitucci. He leads one of the longest running groups in jazz history, The Fringe, which has a cult-like following in the US. His former students include Joshua Redman, Branford Marsalis, Teadross Avery and Australian saxophonists Julien Wilson and Jamie Oehlers.

Grabowsky and Garzone
Grabowsky and Garzone

Garzone & Rex
Garzone and Rex

There was a good crowd in the large room at Bennetts. The quartet opened in robust fashion with Like Someone In Love (Jimmy Van Heusen). I’m never comfortable with labels lest I am completely wrong, but this was upbeat hard bop, with heaps of energy from all, especially Grabowsky, Schauble and Garzone. There was some banter between Garzone and “my bodyguard” up the back (Scott Tinkler) before I Love You (Cole Porter), in which the sax and drums played off each other in a nice duel.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Grabowsky
Grabowsky

Next came Coltrane’s ballad Say It (Over and Over Again), which I really enjoyed because it gave us a chance to hear the grace and elegance to Garzone’s tenor rather than just its strength and his virtuosity. Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica followed, with a great bass solo from Rex, some angular “stick clicks” from Schauble (he is so expressive with dynamics), drama in Grabowsky’s spatially isolated chords and plenty of bounce and verve in his ensuing solo. The rhythm section took over before a great Garzone solo and then Schauble treated us to rapid runs and stops which grew gradually and organically into a solo and eventually into an end to the piece. Garzone seemed happy, reminding us that “I think about this guy (Grabowsky) all year” and “I rave about you guys in America, where taxes are high and jobs are none”.

George Garzone
George Garzone

George Garzone
George Garzone

A “blues” piece by Garzone, Hey Open Up, ended the set, exploding out of the blocks and setting our feet tapping with some rapid-fire contributions and Garzone over playing into the drums again. Top solos from Grabowsky and Garzone took us to the break.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Niko Schauble
Niko Schauble

Set two opened with free improvisation flowing into Equinox (John Coltrane), with long solos by Garzone and Grabowsky. By this time I was in the mood for whatever this band produced and it seemed as though every track was another highlight.

George Garzone
George Garzone

One of the standouts for me was next, Garzone’s ballad Alone, which he “wrote a long time ago when I was alone … I’m still alone”. This was beautiful and seemed to capture the “aloneness” of being alone so well. Towards the end there was a familiar melody, maybe Girl From Ipanema. Then came a return to the physicality, which Garzone seems to enjoy and to epitomise in his playing, in Have You Met Miss Jones (Richard Rodgers). He seems to feel the music in his body and it pours out with that forcefulness and power. Schauble added some explosive brilliance to this.

Grabowsky & Garzone
Grabowsky & Garzone

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Coltrane’s Theme For Ernie came next, a moving and slower piece. Then Garzone showed his appreciation to an enthusiastic audience” “I love coming here. No one really listens except you guys.” Yeah, I bet you tell that to all the audiences, George. His “tune I wrote for everyone”, Head Now, began with a frenzy and kept going, adding to that sense from the night that music is truly felt either in the bones and fibres of our being — muscular music — or in the emotions which it can awaken and which can plumb our depths if the moment is right.

I’m glad I’ve heard George Carzone and sorry I did not make it to either of the Uptown Jazz Cafe gigs. But I’m sure plenty did and were amply rewarded.

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