Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival / Melbourne Jazz Cooperative double bill, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Sunday, May 1, 2011
Jonathan Dimond bass, percussion; Mastaneh Nazarian guitar; Adrian Sherriff Zendrum percussion controller
I was fascinated by what emerged from Jonathan Dimond‘s trio Loops, which is a Melbourne incarnation of the Brisbane ensemble of that name, which was formed in 1995 and included Ken Edie (drums), John Parker (drums), Jamie Clark (guitar) and John Rodgers (violin) as core members. Dimond is now senior lecturer and head of the music degree at Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE (NMIT) in Fairfield.
But I also felt ignorant and uninformed about what I was hearing. Granted, that says something about me, but on reflection I believe there could be some benefit from some simple and brief explanations of the musical forms an audience is about to hear. Dimond is highly qualified in classical trombone and contemporary improvisation, and has recently spent four years overseas. Of particular relevance to this performance, he has also undergone “vigorous training” in North Indian classical music in Pune, India.
Dimond’s website states that Loops compositions “act as vehicles for improvisation, framed by formal structures which take inspiration from Indian classical music (both Hindusthani and Carnatic), Western classical music, jazz and other world musics”. I would like to have hear him expand a little on that for the uninitiated.
The other fascinating part of Loops’s performance was Adrian Sherriff’s amazing facility on the Zendrum percussion controller, which looks a little like something from the set of Dr Who. As I understand it, he had it linked to drum kit and tabla sounds on his laptop, with the large “buttons” configured so that he could produce an array of sounds which belied the squat triangular instrument.
Loops opened with American sitarist Paul Livingstone’s Blessing, which he says is based on the raga from South India, Hamsadwani. Livingstone’s website says that the melody is played on a nine-string fretless guitar and bansuri (Indian flute) accompanied by a traditional South Indian rhythm section of mridangam (barrel drum), ghatum (clay pot), and moorsing (jews harp). The piece uses several Indian calculative rhythmic cadences called tehai and koravai, which are played in unison by the whole ensemble.
Adrian Sherriff was most impressive on the Zendrum in this piece.
Next, Loops played Blues Jog (Dimond) based on a raga and incorporating a “bluesy” approach, followed by Koraippu (Dimond), a fully composed piece beginning with a South Indian drum solo and adding a night-time raga from North India. This segued via a Zendrum solo into another Dimond original, GST. It was not especially taxing.
I think “jog” may be another term for raga, but that may be way off the mark.
The final Dimond piece, Ek Bisleri was in a scale with no third (he told us) and “in eleven”. The name is essentially “one mineral water”, which Dimond apparently believed he needed to have in India to avoid the local water.
I would like to hear this music again, but with some more understanding of what’s going on. The MJFF is meant to challenge us, and I like that, but I wanted to know more.
Mastaneh Nazarian guitar; Jonathan Dimond bass, percussion; Sam Leskovec drums
Nazarian’s Kafka Pony has, like Loops, had earlier incarnations — in Boston and Brisbane. Given Dimond’s time in Boston, perhaps they met there. With Sam Leskovec at the real drum kit, Kafka Pony opened with a Cecil McBee piece “with the same tempo as ‘Round Midnight“. But not before Nazarian told us that “political correctness is the thing for the next decade” and urged patrons to defy this by taking up smoking. Her sense of humour and personality were evident in this set, which proceeded with Waltz Schmaltz (there was a mention of goose fat here) and then “an arrangement of a controversial piece written in the late ’50s” which the audience members were urged to yell out if they could identify it.
I had to leave before the set ended, so cannot do it justice. After the sense of difference I had encountered from Loops, I think Kafka Pony seemed not as exotic and not so exciting. But I concede that the need to depart early and prepare for work next day was stopping me from being in the moment, which is not a good way to appreciate music, especially if it is subtle.