Counterpoint in music is a lovely thing which seems to satisfy something in the listener. The intermeshing of disparate melodic lines to make a loosely woven rope of music – one with knots of harmony and dissonance detailing its length – has, since the Greeks, then Bach all the way through to Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro and even Ornette Coleman/Charlie Haden, always been a thrill that seems to hold some sort of underlying truth.

Maybe counterpoint is a symbol for the intermeshing of personalities that has always been a human ideal. Especially in Western culture, where the cult of the individual has been raised to the level of worship, the pleasure of intertwining with another is all too rare. Sometimes it seems to only exist in love, and in music.

In 1991, five leading lights of Australian Jazz performed a handful of gigs at South Melbourne Venue, The Limerick Arms. When the question arose as to who should be the leader, they all pointed at one another. Seeing the humour in this, they called the outfit The Hunters & Pointers.hunters and pointers

Recently unearthed, the tapes of those gigs – originally nicely recorded by Phil Georges in 1991 and polished digitally in 2014 by Hadyn Buxton – have been edited and released on CD as The Hunters & Pointers.

From the first few bars, the intermeshing of personalities is there. Trumpeter John Hoffman and alto Graeme Lyall start weaving lines around each other until Tony Gould’s piano joins them to bring in ‘Just Friends’. Ben Robertson’s bass and Tony Floyd’s drums play lovely and loose around Gould’s spiky solo.

The band rapport during Lyall’s solo and Hoffman’s relaxed answer to it brings to mind a recurring thought ­– that all jazz should be recorded live. It is ridiculous I know, but there often seems to be much more of a sense of the moment and the heady vibe of openended-ness than in many studio recordings.

The counterpoint pops up again during Lyall’s solo in ‘The Way You Look Tonight’; Gould talking back (and talking Bach) to his fleet bop lines. Gould’s sly comping under Robertson’s bass solo takes the music far away from the song  to areas of freedom and poetry. Throughout The Hunters & Pointers there is this feeling that there is all the time in the world, to do whatever we want with the music.

The tunes take their time to go where they will – ‘Just Friends’ is 18:23, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ (a lovely ballad reading built architecturally from Gould’s hymnal intro) is 12:10; Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’ is 22.49.

‘Little Sunflower’ is the monolithic centre of The Hunters & Pointers, and not only for it’s size and scope. The simple 1967 Hubbard melody (with it’s lovely major lift) is the perfect bare bone frame for these five brilliant players to feed and flesh. Through Lyall’s eastern tinged exploration, via Gould’s quote-flecked meditations, on to John Hoffman’s teasing Hubbardisms and out through a surreal conversation between Robertson and guest drummer George Polyhronakos, ‘Little Sunflower’ is improvised music at its most cinematic and sumptuous.

All the time in the world, to do whatever we want with the music. Few players – though brilliant on paper – could make something this good out of such freedom. Chops alone can’t do it – in fact chops often work in the opposite way. It is the subsuming of the ego and the meshing of consciousnesses that will get the players, and we the fortunate audience, there. And, here, The Hunters & Pointers do it every time.

And if that is all a little mung-beans and spacey for you, you can at least enjoy the very funny joke that Graeme Lyall tells at the end of The Hunters & Pointers – a joke involving a bear, a hunter, some heavy weapons and some even heavier sex.

 

The Hunters & Pointers is available from https://www.whichwaymusic.com

 

Published April 2104 on australianjazz.net

 

 

 

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