Melbourne International Jazz Festival Club Sessions at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club:
10.30pm Monday 3 June 2013 — David Ades & Friends
8pm Tuesday 4 June 2013 — Open Loose
10.30pm Tuesday 4 June 2013 — Snarky Puppy
On 26 August last year, musicians gathered at Uptown Jazz Cafe in a benefit concert for saxophonist David Ades, who was in Germany receiving treatment for cancer. On 3 November, Ades came on stage at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre to drive one of the 2012 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival‘s highlights. Ades was on fire as he joined Julien Wilson on tenor, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Danny Fischer on drums to launch his album A Glorious Certainty, which was recorded in Brooklyn in 2011. (See Ausjazz review: Musical conversations say it all.)
The MIJF club session on 3 June gave Ades an opportunity to revisit the album with his friends from Open Loose, with whom he recorded it — Tony Malaby on tenor, Mark Helias on contra bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Ades did not waste the opportunity, leading us through the album songs with amazing energy. After a blistering opening (was it La Ripaille?), highlights included mingling alto and tenor in Melissa (dedicated to artist Melissa Thompson, Ades’s wife until her death in 2005), the resplendently spiky Dreaming In Colour and the minimalist textures of This Land, which again featured some beautiful reed work, with alto and tenor independent yet unified, and a great bass solo. The closing Philstream (for Phil Treloar) produced more entanglements of the saxes, some plaintive vibrato, bird-like cries and a deep drone from Helias’s bow.
In the smaller room at Bennetts the following night, Open Loose played while David Ades watched. As expected, the music was much different, though not that similar to the Mark Helias material aired at The Forum Upstairs on Sunday 2 June with the Monash Art Ensemble (Ausjazz review: Band on the run). I felt a strong groove from the trio as I burrowed through the throng to catch a glimpse of the players. Just ahead, off-duty drummer Ronny Ferella was moving to the vibe, which was surprisingly gentle, yet totally involving.
Rather than epic complexity and frequent change, this outing was a celebration of texture and timbre, with each instrument given the time and space to drift in and out of our collective consciousness. This was music to luxuriate in, to sink into and move with, to give in to and absorb utterly. Open Loose took us places that were visceral yet not driven into us. By contrast with the Ades gig the previous night, Tony Malaby was much more prominent, exploring the range of the tenor — especially the lower registers. Cleaver also showed a lot more of his capabilities, with some killer solos that were nevertheless far more expressive than mere crash ‘n’ bash. Helias contributed arresting strength and also explored the deepest of depths. I did not want this gig to end.
It did, of course, and I had to decide whether to go next door for the second sell-out Snarky Puppy gig of the night or stay for some hard core straight ahead jazz from Sean Wayland on piano, Brett Hirst on bass, Kneebody’s Nate Wood on drums and James Muller unexpectedly on guitar. From comments later, staying put would have been a pretty good choice, but I had to find out what all the fuss was about. What was Snarky Puppy up to that had sold out The Forum downstairs as well as two unscheduled club gigs?
I’m not sure that I have an adequate answer, but it’s fair to say the larger room (Jazz Lab) was full of young people who probably would have been happier jettisoning the chairs so they could move more readily to the raw funk, soul and jazz of Snarky Puppy. There was a rock feel to this gig, and the smiling faces and energy in the band and crowd guaranteed success from the start. The musicians in this collective (not all came on tour from the US) are talented. The band is practised, knows what it’s about and how to woo a crowd. At one point the audience was enthusiastically participating in two-part harmonies and just bursting to get involved. There was a nice, long interchange between the percussionist, Nate Werth, and drummer, Robert “Sput” Searight.
It was like being at a “jazz” party and surely that’s no bad thing.
I left before vocalist Alison Wedding joined the band, but I’m certain she won the hearts of patrons with ease.
It was late, I was tired, and this music lacked the tension, dissonance and unexpectedness that make much improvised music so engrossing. That said, it was great to see this venue packed with young fans of live music.
The Wayland gig was still going, but the doorway seemed too crowded, so I headed for the train.