GIG: Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre, Friday, Oct. 29, 8pm
Mike Nock piano, Karl Laskowski tenor sax, Ben Waples acoustic bass, James Waples drums, Phil Slater trumpet
AFTER the vibrant, energetic opening piece, Hop, Skip, Jump, Mike Nock told the audience, “This is jazz. It may seem to be arranged, but things happen. It’s spontaneous. So it’s always going to be new to us.” But this ensemble — yet another group for the irrepressible Nock — was so tight it was hard to believe they had not rehearsed a set script for weeks. Nock can immediately take a piece to a higher level and he did so here, with sweeping vistas and ringing chords to hang suspended.
Slow News Day — was this inspired by the decline of newspapers? — opened with resonant, slow, sustained piano with plenty of space. The mood was wistful, with Phil Slater adding dimension to the sound. Horn notes bent as sax and trumpet interleaved before a fiery Slater solo with sizzling vibrato slowing to a stately finish. James Waples added drama, Ben Waples contributed a strong but melodic solo over Nock’s sensitive chiming chords. Nock lyrically returned the piece to the ensemble and the wistfulness returned.
This post is burbling on and ought to be more concise. After Satie, a tribute to French composer and pianist Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (1866 – 1925) wandered through harmonies, with the horns playing tag and catching each other in a meadow of lush lyricism. The beat built before the horns swept serenity and splendour into the sky. Nock closed with a rainbow.
Well that may have been a bit over the top, but that was the highly subjective imagery that came to mind.
In Speak to the Golden Child, deep chords established a grounding that was picked up by bass and drums. This was rhythm driven. Horns built the intensity, piano built the sense of swing and sax drove that further before Slater entered the fray. He was really into it, notes screaming and flaring and squealing out of the trumpet bell. Great instrument. Great player. Nock’s contribution was light but emphatic, his notes touching the top of the swing and dancing along it. Then he was bolder, and the drums seemed to take just a little while to jell, but then it worked. The horns finished it.
Mike Nock knows, as Megg from Bennetts Lane once commented, how to work an audience. He starts with pieces that are accessible, winning hearts and minds before stretching them a little. Choices was the final piece of the set and it took us into that glorious territory that can really be enjoyed if you let go, as if on a rollercoaster. Sax and trumpet opened a dialogue early, the piano attempted to calm, but the horns burst out in rapid fire. There were delightfully robust harmonies in a horn duel, then drum attacks and a dull rumble from piano and bass. It was fragmentary music, with sharp bursts and changing patterns. Eventually the piano lightened proceedings and the horns delicately followed. Melody crept in and the horns echoed it.
Wangaratta Jazz was launched with finesse and verve.
Pictures? Well, the powers that be have banned picture taking in the arts centre venues, though I noticed that was honoured largely in the breach for this concert. I am disappointed that those of us who have silent cameras and do not move about are not given some licence to take a few shots, because this is history. As a reviewer, I also like to look through images to as an aid to my failing memory. Well, we’ll work on that issue.