GIG — June 6, 2010
Sandy Evans, tenor and soprano saxophones
Brett Hirst, double bass
Toby Hall, drums
People say don’t open with an apology, so I’ll open with two. First, it seems a sorry state of affairs when Melbourne welcomes wonderful musicians from interstate with such small crowds. OK, it has been festival season in this town (Jazz Fringe, Melbourne International and Stonnington) over the past month or so, but surely we could have turned up in greater numbers to hear Sandy Evans and her trio on Sunday evening, cold and wet as it was.
The second sorry arises because Sandy’s trio began their second set with Bhairavi Tillana, by Sarangan Sriranganathan, which was influenced by the Carnatic Indian tradition commonly associated with the southern states of the subcontinent. In a discussion after the gig, I mentioned Ben Robertson‘s Indian-influenced bass solo, played over a drone, at NMIT during the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and how much I had enjoyed it. But when I had a look back at my blog of that concert, all I found was a few pics and a promise of more to come. So I apologise to any blog viewers who come across these unfinished posts — there are more than I care to count — because it is not good that I fail to return and deliver the promised material.
Anyway, it is interesting that various musicians in Australia are exploring the intricacies of the Carnatic tradition. The Australian Art Orchestra did so with Karaikudi R. Mani for Into The Fire with input from Adrian Sherriff, John Rodgers, Niko Schauble and Scott Tinkler. I notice that Marc Hannaford‘s trio is utilising some ideas from this classical tradition. Hearing Sandy’s trio reminded me of concerts I attended back in the late 1970s in Madras, as it was then known, and how much fun they were, with audience participation being integral and the musicians seemingly vying with the audience to enjoy the music most.
Listening to Bhairavi Tillana at Bennetts Lane, and also to Ben Robertson’s solo piece at NMIT, I found myself entering a kind of trance and feeling as if I could listen for hours and be absolutely absorbed by the intricate rhythmic and melodic patterns.
The first set opened with Hungry Head Shuffle, a piece that was written for Sandy’s suite When the Sky Cries Rainbows, but did not make it. Sunlight on Tears followed, also a “leftover” from the suite, and then Saha — a reflective ballad from the new “EP” The Edge of Pleasure. I will not try to wax lyrical on these pieces, except to say that I was quickly over the edge and into the pleasure from the start.
It is just great to hear Sandy play and there was a tremendous sense of camaraderie and fun in the trio, as well as exceptional musicianship from Brett Hirst and Toby Hall. I found the bass solos deeply satisfying, which may be a bit of a cliche, but I was reminded of Charlie Haden with a fair bit more oomph at times — that is, tuneful and unhurried, with the space that seems so vital.
The next piece was the lively Tom the Leprechaun and his Idiotical Frequencies (as named by Toby Hall’s son, Sampson, if i understand it correctly), followed by Sandy’s Mountview, also off the EP, to close the set.
Sandy paid tribute to Martin Jackson and Melbourne Jazz Cooperative before the second set opened with Bhairavi Tillana.
Sam Rivers’ piece Beatrice was followed by One For Harry (Evans) — a reference to an Indonesian bass player who once described his compatriots as great improvisers because they earned only a small amount of money each month — in which Toby Hall was armed with a whistle, umpire style, and blew one blast to tell the saxophonist (Sandy) to stop and two blasts (I learned this later) to signal the onset of a drum solo. It was great fun, as was the jaunty encore Circumbendibus Rapt (Evans/Hirst). But on the night I was most in the mood for the Indian-influenced piece and Saha.
It was, as Sandy Evans said, a small, but appreciative audience. It is to be hoped this trio does not think size matters and will return — perhaps at a time well after a spate of jazz festivals. Bring it on!